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Preterite vs. Imperfect:

Preterite vs. Imperfect

How to use the Preterite tense in Spanish

The preterite tense refers to a specific event(s) that took place in the past that is completed

If the event took place more than once, and it had a specific beginning and end.


Fui al cine anoche.

I went to the movies last night.

Caminé al parque, leí mi libro, y regresé a casa.

I walked to the park, read my book, and returned home.

Llamó a la emisora radio tres veces para tratar de ganar entradas para concierto.

He called the radio station three times to try to win concert tickets.

Helpful words and phrases to use with the Preterite

There are many helpful words and phrases that indicate a specific time frame.

Here is a list of them:

  • una vez – one time
  • ayer – yesterday
  • anteayer – the day before yesterday
  • ayer por la mañana – yesterday morning
  • anoche – last night
  • esta mañana – this morning
  • la semana pasada – last week
  • el año pasado – last year
  • ayer por la tarde – yesterday afternoon
  • hace (dos) años – (two) years ago
  • el (lunes) pasado – last Monday
  • durante (tres) siglos – for (three) centuries
  • el otro día – the other day
  • entonces – then
  • anteanoche – the night before last
  • ayer al mediodía – yesterday at noon
  • ayer por la noche – last night
  • esta tarde – this afternoon
  • el mes pasado – last month
  • en ese momento – at that moment
  • hoy por la mañana – this morning
  • hace dos días – (two) days ago
  • la semana pasada – last week
  • desde el primer momento – from the first moment

Preterite Verbs

Verbs that usually refer to a definite beginning and end include the following:

  • casarse – to get married
  • cumplir años – to turn a certain age
  • darse cuenta de – to realize
  • decidir – to decide
  • descubrir – to discover
  • graduarse – to graduate
  • llegar – to arrive
  • morir – to die
  • nacer – to be born
  • salir – to leave

How to know when to use the Preterite tense

The preterite tense can be quite complicated for a beginner learning Spanish. An easier way to learn the Preterite tense is to memorize the acronym: SIMBA.How to use the preterite

Single action


Main event

Beginning action



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