How to conjugate irregular verbs in Spanish Preterits.
Updated: Sep 9
By: Daniel Alvarez.
If you already have some experience in learning Spanish, you probably know that recalling the conjugation of the verb requires extra practice. When we study tenses that have a lot of irregular forms we need to focus on memorizing them. This is the case of the Preterit.
We can say that this tense is the most irregular of all. But, what is an irregular form or conjugation?
A verb has two parts: root or stem and ending. Normally, to conjugate a verb it’s enough to change the ending of the infinitive (ar - er - ir) according to tense and person. Verbs that behave this way are called regular verbs:
On the other hand, irregular verbs can have changes that imply different endings, different stems or both. For example:
As can be seen in the examples above, both the stem and the ending varies in different ways. As the verb ‘atacar’, we will see many other verbs that, being regular in some tenses, are irregular in others.
Let's go into how to learn irregular verbs?
Irregular verbs don’t follow the same conjugation patterns as regular verbs, but luckily, they do follow patterns that we can identify and study. By classifying them we can identify them easier and we can apply a general concept to broader groups.
In the study of irregular verbs, it is important to have a lot of patience, repeat as many times as necessary (if you think it is enough, try a little more!), and not be afraid to make mistakes.
Groups of irregular verbs of the Preterit tense:
1. Verbs ending with -CAR, -GAR and -ZAR:
Verbs with these endings always have a first-person singular irregular (Yo), although not completely. We could say that these verbs are irregular only when written, but they are phonetically regular. This is due to the different combinations of C, G, and Z with the different vowels. Let's see:
2. Verbs with a hiatus before ending ‘Y’:
These verbs are easily identifiable because they present two vowels together with no consonant in the middle between the last and second last syllables. For example leer, oír, construir. These verbs present an irregularity in the third persons and the second plural (Ustedes):
Some of the verbs in this group are caer (to fall), creer (to believe), poseer (to possess), concluir (to conclude), contribuir (to contribute), distribuir (to distribute), huir (to flee), incluir (to include), destruir (to destroy).
This is the first approach to the irregular verbs of the Preterit. Make sure to study and practice!
In our next post, we will be presenting the rest of the groups that are essential to know to fully master this tense.
Leave any questions in the comments.