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Grammar - Learning to Conjugate in the Past Tense

This Spanish Medium Review quiz will start you on the road towards learning how to conjugate verbs in the past tense. Up until now you have only learned how to speak (and write) in Spanish in the present tense. The present tense means you can only talk about what is happening right now. However, everything does not happen right now.

Some things happen in the past (like this morning, yesterday, last week, last month, last year, etc.) and some things will happen in the future (like tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, etc.). To talk about past activities, you need to use the past tense of the verbs and to talk about future activities, you need to use the future tense of the verbs. The Spanish words for 'past, present' and 'future' are: pretérito, presente and futuro. Here in the Spanish Medium Review series you are going to learn how to conjugate verbs in the pretérito tense.

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As you may recall, when conjugating in the present tense you use the following verb endings: o, as, a, amos, áis, an for AR verbs, o, es, e, emos, éis, en for ER verbs and o, es, e, imos, ís, en for IR verbs. These endings were added to the base verb after dropping the AR, ER and IR endings. The same rule holds true when we work with the pretérito tense of the verbs. Let’s take a look at those endings.

PRESENTE TENSE ENDINGS PRETÉRITO TENSE ENDINGS
AR: o, as, a, amos, áis, an é, aste, ó, amos, asteis, aron
ER: o, es, e, emos, éis, en í, iste, ió, imos, isteis, ieron
IR: o, es, e, imos, ís, en í, iste, ió, imos, isteis, ieron

Did you notice that in the past [pretérito] tense both the ER and IR verbs get conjugated with the same endings? Now let’s look at three verbs in the past tense with their corresponding pronouns.

HABLAR (to speak)

SPANISH ENGLISH
yo hablé I spoke
tú hablaste you spoke (familiar)
usted habló you spoke (formal)
él habló he spoke
ella habló she spoke
nosotros / nosotras hablamos we spoke (same ending as present tense)
vosotros / vosotras hablasteís you spoke (plural/familiar)
ustedes hablaron you spoke (plural/formal)
ellos/ellas hablaron they spoke

COMER (to eat)

SPANISH ENGLISH
yo comí I ate
tú comiste you ate (familiar)
usted comió you ate (formal)
él comió he ate
ella comió she ate
nosotros / nosotras comimos we ate (same ending as present tense for an IR verb)
vosotros / vosotras comisteis you ate (plural/familiar)
ustedes comieron you ate (plural/formal)
ellos/ellas comieron they ate

ESCRIBIR (to write)

SPANISH ENGLISH
yo escribí I wrote
tú escribiste you wrote (familiar)
usted escribió you wrote (formal)
él escribió he wrote
ella escribió she wrote
nosotros / nosotras escribimos we wrote (same present tense ending used)
vosotros / vosotras escribisteis you wrote (plural/familiar)
ustedes escribieron you wrote (plural/formal)
ellos/ellas escribieron they wrote

Now it is your turn to conjugate in the past tense. The quiz contains ten sentences with a verb that has been shown in all capitalized letters. All the verbs used in this quiz will be regular verbs. From the answers provided, locate the correctly conjugated Spanish verb. Make certain you choice the correct tense and correct spelling!

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  1. They CLEANED their bedrooms before going to bed.
    The Spanish verb for 'to clean' is limpiar. It is an AR verb. You have already been provided with the pronoun they. The first answer means we cleaned. That is not correct here. The second answer means you (plural familiar) cleaned. Again, this is not correct here. The last answer means you (singular familiar) cleaned. It is also not correct. The third answer means they cleaned. It shows the correct spelling and past tense conjugated form of the verb.
  2. Katelyn SWEPT the back porch.
    The Spanish verb for 'to sweep' is barrer. It is an ER verb. Now you need to determine the pronoun that can replace Katelyn. That would be she. The first answer means I sweep. It is the wrong pronoun and the wrong tense. The second answer means I swept. It is the right tense but the wrong pronoun. The third answer means she sweeps. It is the correct pronoun but the wrong verb tense. The last answer means she swept. It is the correct pronoun and conjugated verb tense.
  3. Donald ASSUMED that Richard had taken out the trash.
    The Spanish verb for 'to assume' is asumir. It is an IR verb. Now you need to determine the pronoun that can replace Donald. That would be he. The first answer means he assumes which would be correct if you were looking for the present tense. However, that is not the correct tense here. The third answer means you (singular familiar) assumed. That is also not correct. The last answer means I assumed. This, too, is not correct. The second answer means he assumed and it is the correct conjugated form and tense.
  4. We JUMPED off the roof into the hay pile.
    The Spanish verb for 'to jump' is saltar. It is an AR verb. You have already been provided with the pronoun. The first answer means you (plural familiar) jumped. That is not correct here. The second answer is misspelled as the ending is not for an AR verb. The last answer means they jumped. It does not have the correct pronoun. The third answer means we jumped. It is the correct conjugated form of the verb and the tense. Notice that it is the same ending as in the present tense with the pronoun for we.
  5. I SOLD my first novel to a publishing company!
    The Spanish verb for 'to sell' is vender. It is an ER verb. You have already been provided with the pronoun. The second answer means I sell. It is not the correct tense. The third answer means he/she/you (singular formal)/it sold so it is not the correct pronoun. The last answer is a misspelled word. The first answer means I sold. It is the correct conjugated form and tense.
  6. You SWAM across the river? ('You' refers to the singular familiar.)
    The Spanish verb for 'to swim' is nadar. It is an AR verb. You have already been provided with the pronoun. The first answer is misspelled. Remember that in the past tense for the AR verbs, he/she/it ends with 'ó' and not 'ió'. This now tells you that the last answer can be eliminated. The third answer means you (plural familiar) swam but that is not the correct pronoun here. The second answer means you (singular familiar) swam so it shows the correct conjugated form and tense.
  7. The dogs LICKED their bowls completely clean.
    The Spanish verb for 'to lick' is lamer. It is an ER verb. Now you need to determine the pronoun that can replace the dogs. That would be they. The first answer means you (singular familiar) licked. It does not show the correct conjugated form. The second answer means you (plural familiar) licked. Again, it is not the correct conjugated form. The third answer has wrongly conjugated the verb as an AR verb. The last answer means they licked and is the correct conjugated form and tense.
  8. The TV station TRANSMITTED an emergency warning signal.
    The Spanish verb for 'to transmit' is transmitir. It is an IR verb. Now you need to determine the pronoun that can replace the TV station. That would be it (lo) (direct object pronoun). The first answer means I transmit. It is the wrong pronoun and wrong tense. The second answer means I transmitted. Again, it is the wrong pronoun but the correct tense. The last answer means they transmitted. This, too, is the wrong pronoun. The third answer means it transmitted and is the correct conjugated form and tense.
  9. The quizzes DRILLED Spanish vocabulary words into their heads.
    The Spanish verb for 'to drill' is taladrar. It is an AR verb. Now you need to determine the pronoun that can replace the quizzes. That would be they. The second answer means he/she/it drilled. That is not the correct pronoun form. The third answer is misspelled as 'ió' is not an AR past tense ending. The last answer means we drilled. Again, that is not the correct pronoun. The first answer means they drilled and it is the correct conjugated form and tense.
  10. You ADMITTED to cheating on the Geography test. ('You' refers to the plural familiar.)
    The Spanish verb for 'to admit' is admitir. It is an IR verb. You have already been provided with the pronoun. The first answer means you (formal) admitted. It is not the correct pronoun form you are looking for in this sentence. The third answer means they admitted. This, too, is not the correct pronoun form. The last answer means you (singular familiar) admitted, but that is not the correct pronoun form to use here. The second answer means you (plural familiar) admitted and that is the correct conjugated form and tense.

Author: Christine G. Broome

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