2 Vote

How does the preterit fit into the explanation below? or is it a category by it self? "The indicative (el indicativo) is one of three moods in Spanish, the other two being the subjunctive and the imperative."

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  • Posted Jan 28, 2013
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4 Vote

It really doesn't fit at all. The preterit is a tense, not a mood. Tense indicates the time frame - past, present, or future. Mood indicates "modality", or the specific use within a tense. Technically, each tense can be expressed with all three modalities or moods.

This link gives more info : moods

3 Vote

I agree with Noetol that tenses, which include preterito, are a determination of time. Moods (cases) are a separate entity even though they modify or enhance tenses. The fact that there may be an imperfect subjunctive, but not a preterite subjunctive doesn´t change this.

In the end this is interesting grammar stuff for discussion in the teachers´ lounge at university, but it´s not nearly as important as just knowing how and when to use each tense and case.

  • Thanks, julian! You are right. Application is much more important than esoteric grammar isses. - Noetol Jan 28, 2013 flag
2 Vote

Technically, each tense can be expressed with all three moods

Mostly correct. but not in each case. For instance, I think in the subjunctive (though it´s a mood where I¨m obviously often proven wrong) there is only one form of simple-past. There is an imperfect subjunctive, but not a preterite subjunctive (though somewhat counterintuitively and-or unexpectedly for we newbies, the imperfect subjunctive is formed from stems based on the preterite indicative. Que marvilloso!

But overall, your point is good. Preterite is a tense, which is chosen to express time.

Whereas the original poster´s other terms were all moods. It´s an apples-to-aardvarks comparison.

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  • Rog- as you point out, there is only one past tense subjunctive. It is formally listed as "el pretérito de subjuntivo". There are only six subjuctive forms (two are very rare), so obviously each tense can't have its own subjunctive form. In the senae o - Noetol Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • Continuing - in the sense of "tense" being past, present, or future, the statement is correct. - Noetol Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • Not to gum things up too much, but technically Spanish only has one past tense, but intwo "aspects". Check out the link in my second post for more on that. - Noetol Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • Interesting, Both of my texts call it the imperfect of subjunctive, and I can find no mention of the preterite subjunctive in either. Now I'm confused. - rogspax Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • It's just semantics. The RAE lists it as "el pretérito de subjuntivo", but that's just literally saying "past subjunctive". There is pnly one form, whatever it is called. - Noetol Jan 28, 2013 flag
2 Vote

Tenses are PART of moods - but they are different.

For example, the present indicative tense is part of the indicative mood. The present subjunctive is part of the subjunctive mood. The present imperative is part of the imperative mood.

The preterit tense (amé, amaste, amó, amamos, amaron) is part of the indicative mood.

There is no tense called the preterit in the subjunctive mood. The closest equivalent might be the present perfect subjunctive tense, AKA el preterito perfecto subjuntivo (haya amado, hayas amado etc.).

Neither is there a preterit tense in the imperative mood. The imperative mood just has one tense - the present imperative (ama, ame, amemos etc.)



  • That lines up with what I've been taught (or more accurately, am attempting to learn). Is there really that much variance in terms in Spanish? In German, I could put my hands on 8 texts, and they'd all agree on basic terms. - rogspax Jan 28, 2013 flag
2 Vote

Well, guys, I realIy think you are all saying the same things but using different words.

Yes, there are three moods in Spanish, and each mood has its own tenses, so Noetol is absolutely right in pointing out this difference.

My advise is, be careful with the "labels" of those tenses, because they may differ a lot depending on the source. For example, what you call "imperfect- preterit" in Spanish is called "pretérito imperfecto simple- pretérito perfecto simple". The word pretérito itself just means "past". Calling "pretérito perfecto" just "preterit" or even "saying" that the preterit is a tense must be understood like a shortage, because there are several preterit (past) tenses in Spanish.

Anyway, no matter how we call them, the important thing is knowing how to use them, I suppose.

1 Vote

The preterit is part of the indicative mood.


  • Sorry, this not true. - Noetol Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • if you take a look at this page http://www.spanishdict.com/conjugate/leer - gsdfsggs Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • you'll see that preterit is part of the indicative mood - gsdfsggs Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • By the way, the imperative mood only has 1 tense. - gsdfsggs Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • You are right that the imperative is only used in the present tense. But that does not mean one of these things is "part of" the other. Apples and oranges. Please see the link I posted in my second reply. - Noetol Jan 28, 2013 flag
1 Vote

Just to reiterate, a mood is a mood, a tense is a tense. They are different things. There is another thing called an "aspect" that also works into all of this.

Check out this thread for a discussion on this. mood

1 Vote

I hope more people chime in on this. I obviously can't convince you that moods and tenses are different things. A tense is a time frame. A mood is a modality. They are related, obviously. Perhaps we are having a semantics issue. There most certainly is a "pretérito de subjuntivo". In this sense, it just means "past subjunctive". Again, check out this thread tenses, moods, aspects

  • I'm not sure. To me, he obviously already understands that. It's just that neither of we other two have seen people or books talk about preterite subjunctive, but have seen imperfect subjunctive. - rogspax Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • Note, I freely admit I'm a beginner, and obviously, with my many questions here, no expert on the subjunctive (on the contrary), but, I can accurately report what both of my vastly different texts report, which is imperfect subjunctive. Confusing! - rogspax Jan 28, 2013 flag
1 Vote

This preterit tense - amé, amaste, amó, amamos, amaron etc., does not have a corresponding tense in the subjunctive mood. Nor does it exist in the imperative mood.

There are 3 past subjunctive tenses in spanish:

Imperfect: amara, amaras, amara, amaramos, amaran Present Perfect: Haya amado, hayas amado, haya amado, hayamos amado, hayan amado Past Perfect: hubiera amado, hubieras amado, hubiera amado, hubieramos amado, hubieran amado

Each of these have their own equivalent in the indicative mood:

Imperfect: amaba, amabas, amaba etc Present perfect: He amado, has amado etc. Past Perfect: Había amado, habías amado etc.

Therefore, when speaking of the preterit tense (amé, amaste etc.), it is safe to say that it is an indicative tense.



  • OK, further argument is just not going to be productive if you insist there is no difference between a mood and a tense. Hopefully someone else will chime in. - Noetol Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • Personally, I did not see him make that assertion anywhere. He seems to clearly understand that, and be saying that. - rogspax Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • Rog - he said "tenses are part of moods - they are not different". My point is that they are intrinsically different , but related, things. - Noetol Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • YES! Tenses and moods are intrinsically different but related things. - gsdfsggs Jan 28, 2013 flag
  • I absolutely agree with Rog here. Everybody is understanding these concepts in his own way. - cogumela Jan 28, 2013 flag
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