Two reasons why the indefinido is so awesome:

1) The pretérito indefinido allows us to talk about what we did in the past, which if you’re a beginner is such an exciting rite of passage into the Spanish-speaking world. Not longer are you confined to talk in the present tense … finally you can say yesterday I ate enchiladas for lunch.

2) The pretérito indefinido has an amazing diversity of verb forms. This might not sound so awesome but as you become more familiar with it, you will start to love the way it works. There are regular verbs, irregular verbs and irregular verbs that are ... well ... regular (more on this below). 

In this blog we look at a few common verbs and their pronunciation to help you along. If you’re keen to delve deeper into the pretérito indfinido then why not sign up to one of our Verb Workshops in the Summer Intensives? To nut out this tense (and others) try Verb Workshop Past and Verb Workshop Past PLUS.


Image by Penelope Ray

A note on pronunciation ...

Although pronunciation differs from country to country (and even town to town!), Spanish has two main variants: the Spanish that is spoken in Central and Northern Spain, known as Castilian in English (from Castile where the language was born), and the Spanish that is spoken in Southern Spain, the Canary Islands and Hispanic America, referred to in English as Atlantic Spanish.   

The audio that accompanies each verb may contain two versions of the pronunciation, Castilian Spanish and Atlantic Spanish, the difference being:

Castilian: the sound (soft) TH – used for Z before A, O, U and C before E, I (tha, tho, thu, the, thi – the TH sound is soft like in THING)
Atlantic: the sound S used for all the above (sa, so, su, se, si)

Verb forms and phrases with words that differ in pronunciation in this way are marked with an asterix (*).

A technical note for users of Safari

If you're a Safari user, you may have some trouble playing the audio as there is a problem with Soundcloud's compatibilty with Apple apps.

If you don't hear any audio, click into the timeline to start playback.

Verbos regulares

CENAR*

verb forms pronunciation

cené*

cenaste*

cenó*

cenamos*

cenasteis*

cenaron*

ce–

ce–nas–te

ce–

ce–na–mos

ce–nasteis

ce–na–ron

 

Anoche cené con Alberto y Juan en su casa* Last night I had dinner with Alberto and Juan at their place

 



COMER

verb forms pronunciation

comí

comiste

comió

comimos

comisteis

comieron

co–

co–mis–te

co–mió

co–mi–mos

co–mis–teis

co–mie–ron

 

Comimos demasiado en la fiesta del sábado We had too much to eat at the party on Saturday

 



SALIR

verb froms pronunciation

salí

saliste

salió

salimos

salisteis

salieron

sa–

sa–lis–te

sa–lió

sa–li–mos

sa–lis–teis

sa–lie–ron

 

¿A qué hora saliste del trabajo anoche? What time did you get out of work last night?

 

Note that SALIR is regular in el pretérito indefinido but irregular in the present tense (remember salgo..?) 

 



Verbos irregulares

ESTAR

verb forms pronunciation

estuve

estuviste

estuvo

estuvimos

estuvisteis

estuvieron

es–tu–ve

es–tu–vis–te

es–tu–vo

es–tu–vi–mos

es–tu–vis–teis

es–tu–vie–ron

 

Estuve en Costa Rica en septiembre del año pasado I was in Costa Rica in September last year


IR / SER

verb forms pronunciation

fui

fuiste

fue

fuimos

fuisteis

fueron

fui

fuis–te

fue

fui–mos

fuis–teis

fue–ron

Yes, that's right: IR and SER both have exactly the same forms in the pretérito indefinido!

Fui a la playa el año pasado I went to the beach last year
Fui profesor durante 10 años I was a teacher for 10 years

 



VER

verb forms pronunciation

vi 

viste

vio

vimos

visteis

vieron

vi 

vis–te

vio

vi–mos

vis–teis

vie–ron

 

¿Visteis alguna película en el festival de cine?* Did you guys see any films in the film festival?

 



TENER

verb forms pronunciation

tuve

tuviste

tuvo

tuvimos

tuvisteis

tuvieron

tu–ve

tu–vis–te

tu–vo

tu–vi–mos

tu–vis–teis

tu–vie–ron

 

Y luego el domingo tuve un dolor de cabeza tremendo* And then on Sunday I had the worst headache ever

 



HACER*

verb forms  pronunciation

hice*

hiciste*

hizo*

hicimos*

hicisteis*

hicieron*

hi–ce

hi–cis–te

hi–zo

hi–ci–mos

hi–cis–teis

hi–cie–ron

 

Hicieron espaguetis y luego de postre una tarta de queso ... mmm ¡qué rico!* They made spaguetti and then cheesecake for dessert... mmm so yummy!

 



Regular irregulars!

Even though so many of the verb forms for the pretérito indefinido are irregular, thankfully a lot of the irregular verbs follow patterns. 

For example, ESTAR and TENER both follow the same pattern (both have –uv– in the stem):

estuve
estuviste
estuvo
estuvimos
estuvisteis
estuvieron
tuve
tuviste
tuvo
tuvimos
tuvisteis
tuvieron

Other verbs that follow this same pattern are ANDAR and any other verb than ends in –TENER (OBTENER, MANTENER, CONTENER, etc.)

Another example are verbs that follow the same pattern as HACER, such as VENIR (both have –i– in the stem):

hice
hiciste
hizo
hicimos
hicisteis
hicieron
vine
viniste
vino
vinimos
vinisteis
vinieron

These are just a couple of examples to whet your appetite... there are many, many more! 

Learn more ... sign up to a Verb Workshop!

To discover the ins and outs of el indefinido in its entirety, sign up to Verb Workshop Past in the Summer Intensives to learn the forms, and sign up to Verb Workshop Past PLUS to learn its uses (along with the pretérito perfecto, and the pretérito imperfecto).

Happy studying!


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