The preterite tense - when to use it

An explanation of the uses of the preterite tense and how to conjugate it

The Spanish preterite tense is used to describe completed actions in the past. For example:

  • Fui al cine ayer (I went to the cinema yesterday).
  • Viajamos en tren (We travelled by train).
  • Mi hermana hizo sus deberes (My sister did her homework).

The preterite tense is used if the past action had a definite beginning and definite end and is often used with phrases that give a specific time frame, eg:

  • ayer (yesterday)
  • anteayer (the day before yesterday)
  • anoche (last night)
  • el año pasado (last year)
  • el mes pasado (last month)
  • la semana pasada (last week)
  • The preterite tense is NOT used to describe people in the past or to describe or set a scene.
  • It is NOT used to describe repeated or continuous actions in the past with no specific beginning or end.