Spanish Grammar

Indicative past tenses in Spanish

Indicative past tenses in Spanish is one of the steps that you will need to climb if you want to reach the intermediate level (B1). You will need to master the contrast of all the tenses that allow you to speak about the past, properly.

How can you express past actions? What about descriptions in the past? Do habits work with the same tenses?

Pretérito indefinido in Spanish

Also known as pretérito perfecto simple is mostly used as the past simple in English. Using it, we can express finished past actions at a specific moment in the past. It’s very used in narrative when we enumerate series of events.

Regarding its constructions, students often struggle to form it. There are tons of irregular verbs to learn, with changes, not only in their roots but also in their endings.

Let’s see the regular verbs:

simple past in Spanish

And now some examples of irregular verbs:

Simple past irregular verbs in Spanish

Finally, here you can find some sentences with the pretérito indefinido.

For example: Ayer fui a la oficina a las ocho. Trabajé todo el día y cené en casa. Me acosté pronto.


Pretérito imperfecto in Spanish

This is the other side of the past simple in English. The imperfect tense in other of the indicative past tenses in Spanish that is used to describe and to express past habits, among other uses. It’s form is very easy to learn and there are only few irregular verbs. Let’s see the regular form: 

pretérito imperfecto verbos regulares in Spanish

And now, the irregular forms:

pretérito imperfecto irregular verbs in Spanish

For example: Cuando era un niño, hacía deporte a diario. Recuerdo cómo jugábamos al fútbol. Era una época feliz.

Pretérito perfecto in Spanish

We also call it pretérito perfecto compuesto. This is one of the indicative past tenses in Spanish that has an equivalent in English: the present perfect. Their uses are similar to English. Expressing experiences in somebody’s life and past actions in a non-finished period of time are their most common uses. The form is quite easy. You just need to know el presente de indicativo of the verb haber and the participle of the main verb. Here you have:

Present perfect in Spanish (pretérito perfecto)

How can you put it in practice? Let’s have a look:

Hoy he estudiado todo el día para el examen DELE. Nunca he hecho este examen y por eso me he sentido un poco nervioso.

Pretérito pluscuamperfecto in Spanish

We’re going to finish with the strangest name of a verbal tense. It actually means ‘more than perfect’ in Latin. So, what the pluscuamperfecto expresses is a past action that happened before another past action. Again we have one of the indicative past tenses in Spanish that can be find in English: the past perfect. Similar to the pretérito perfecto, it is formed with the auxiliary verb haber in its imperfect tense and a participle.

past perfect in Spanish (pretérito pluscuamperfecto)

So, this is how it looks in a sentence:

Antes de hacer el examen DELE, mis amigos y yo habíamos reservado clases en SpanishviaSkype. Yo he asistido a muchos cursos de español, pero nunca había hecho uno tan divertido.

As you can see, the contrast of the indicative past tenses in Spanish is not a simple matter. On we can help you. Our Spanish for different levels course can make the difference. We are looking forward to meeting you!