Unit 8: Preterit (Part 2), “to be” verbs, present participle and progressive tenses

8.1 Irregular Verbs in the Preterit Tense: Part 1

Spanish has many irregular verb forms in the preterit. Memorizing these so that you can quickly recognize them will speed up the translation process.

Two verbs have identical irregular preterite forms.

ir ser
yo fui fui
fuiste fuiste
él, ella, Ud. fue fue
nosotros fuimos fuimos
vosotros fuisteis fuisteis
ellos, ellas, Uds. fueron fueron 

Context always clarifies the meaning. Fui con Uds. must mean “I went with you,” and not “I was with you,” because estar would be used in the latter case to express location. Los niños fueron buenos necessarily means “The children were good,” because the meaning with the verb ir does not make sense.

Some common irregular preterits may be grouped together by the similarities in their stem. Note that the endings (-e, -iste, -o, -imos,- isteis, -ieron) of all irregular preterits below and in following sections are identical to each other. They do not have accent marks.

estar tener andar (to walk)
yo estuve tuve  anduve
estuviste tuviste anduviste
él, ella, Ud. estuvo tuvo    anduvo
nosotros estuvimos tuvimos  anduvimos
vosotros estuvisteis  tuvisteis  anduvisteis
ellos, ellas, Uds. estuvieron tuvieron  anduvieron

Three irregular verbs that switch the vowel of their root to -i follow:

venir hacer querer
yo vine hice quise
viniste hiciste  quisiste
él, ella, Ud. vino hizo* quiso
nosotros vinimos hicimos quisimos
vosotros vinisteis hicisteis quisisteis
ellos, ellas, Uds. vinieron hicieron quisieron

*The third person singular of hacer must change the c to z to preserve the “soft” sound of the s.


Besides its meaning referring to worth of value (Vale mucho. [It’s worth a lot.]), valer is also used in the third person singular in various expressions, especially in Spain:

¿Vale? Is that all right? Okay?
Eso no vale. That’s no good.
Más vale así. It’s better that (this) way.
Más vale tarde que nunca. Better late than never.

Valer la pena is the most commonly used expression with the verb valer.

Esta película vale la pena. This film is worthwhile.
Valió la pena asistir. It was worthwhile to attend.



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