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Could someone please explain to me the difference between pretérito indefinido and that other pretérito form?

  • Posted Jan 23, 2010
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Yes, I think it is difficult to understand the names of the tenses and keep straight which label belongs to which tense because different books seem to use different labels.

However, I think I know these two. A native or someone more experienced in the language will correct me,

Both are past tenses, but oddly enough, the pretértio indefinido, nothwithstanding the "indefinido" description, is used to express some action that happened once and completed definitely in the past with no continuing action carrying into the present.

It expresses something definitely past, which gives one pause as to why it is labeled by grammarians at "indefinido". You would use it, as one case, whenever you mention some specific time in the past that the action once took place.

Two examples: Llegaron antes medianoche. Llegó último.

Here is a Spanish language explanation of its use from Escuolai Internacional


1.- Se utiliza para expresar una acción pasada y terminada en el tiempo; suelen utilizarse las siguientes expresiones temporales: ayer, el año pasado, el fin de semana pasado, el viernes pasado...

'Ayer estuve en el cine' 'El verano pasado estuve en México'

2.- Cuando se habla de un momento o fecha determinada: suelen utilizarse las siguientes expresiones temporales: hace un año/un mes/ dos semanas, el día 2 de febrero,...

'Hace un año estuve en México' 'El día 21 de octubre estuvimos en México'

3.- Biografía:

'Nací en Madrid, estudié en Salamanca...'

On the other hand, if you did something every night in the past such as always arriving before midnight, you would not use that "indefinido" but rather the "imperfecto".

To replay the examples I used above with this tense: Mía hija llegaba siempre antes medionoche. Llegaba cada vez último.

Or if you did something many times over in the past ...(in English we might say: I used to spend summers at the beach), you would also use the other pretérito..the imperfecto.

One interesting thing I learned from a course called "Tell Me More" was this:

• The verb of the subordinate clause will be in the imperfect indicative (imperfecto de indicativo) or subjunctive if the verb of the main clause is o in the past simple o in the imperfect o in the past perfect

Examples: Entendí que tenías razón.

By the way, if you type either word into a search engine you will also most likely get much better help than I have given you here. For example: Pretértio-Imperfecto

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How do you say you studied in regular preterit form?

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How do you say you studied in regular preterit form?

"Regular" preterite form?? What is the irregular preterite form?

Since there are four ways to say "you" I will just give you a link to the conjugated verb.

estudiar conjugated

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