Pretérito perfecto simple

simple past tense in Spanish

How to form the Pretérito perfecto simple in Spanish.

Alongside the Present tense (Presente de indicativo), this is one of the first Spanish tenses that you’ll need to get to grips with.

The Pretérito perfecto simple is often just called the ‘Pretérito’ and usually corresponds to the English Past Simple ( I went, I saw…)

As with the other Spanish tenses which we cover in this grammar section, we’ll look at the three groups of regular verbs (AR, ER & IR), and also cover some of the most important verbs which are irregular in the Pretérito perfecto simple.

As always, audio files are included for all the verb tables and the examples.

But first: How do you actually say “Pretérito perfecto simple“?:

Pretérito perfecto simple

Regular Spanish verbs

Here’s how to conjugate the Pretérito perfecto simple for the three groups of regular Spanish verbs:

Person /Verb Hablar – Speak Vivir – Live Comer – Eat
yo hablé viví comí
hablaste viviste comiste
él / ella / usted habló viv com
nosotros hablamos vivimos comimos
vosotros hablasteis vivisteis comisteis
ellos / ustedes hablaron vivieron comieron

Did you notice how the ‘v’ was pronounced in ‘vivir’? We cover that, and other quirks of Spanish pronunciation, in our comprehensive Spanish Pronunciation Guide.

Irregular verbs

Verbs which are irregular in the Pretérito perfecto simple include:

  • ser – to be
  • estar – to be
  • andar – to walk
  • ver – to see
  • ir – to go

As you’ll see, often the differences between regular and irregular verbs are pretty minimal:

Person /Verb Ser – Be Estar – Be Andar – Walk Ver – See
yo fui estuve anduve vi
fuiste estuviste anduviste viste
él / ella / usted fue estuvo anduvo vio
nosotros fuimos estuvimos anduvimos vimos
vosotros fuisteis estuvisteis anduvisteis visteis
ellos / ustedes fueron estuvieron anduvieron vieron

Ir and Ser

These two verbs are identical in the Pretérito perfecto simple:

Ser: Fui, fuiste, fue, fuimos, fuisteis, fueron
Ir: Fui, fuiste, fue, fuimos, fuisteis, fueron

Uses

The Pretérito perfecto simple has similar uses to the English Simple Past. However, there are two important factors to take into account:

  1. Spanish has an additional past tense, the Imperfect, which limits somewhat the use of the Pretérito perfecto simple.*
  2. In Latin America, the Pretérito perfecto simple is used more often than in Spain. This is because Spaniards prefer the Pretérito perfecto compuesto for many situations.

*We’ll cover this in more detail in our forthcoming class on the Spanish Imperfect tense.

Famous Examples

After a military victory, the Roman emperor Julius Casear famously stated in Latin: “Veni, vidi, vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered).  The same phrase in Spanish looks remarkably similar to the original Latin:

  •  Vine, vi y vencí

Basic Spanish Course

Don’t forget Hablarama’s fantastic Beginner’s Spanish Course! It’s completely free and packed full of really useful examples.