In Spanish, we use preterite conjugations of verbs to communicate completed actions in the past. Learning how to produce the preterite conjugations and when to properly use this verb tense are something that is included in our comprehensive Spanish homeschool curriculum or schools and classes curriculum, specifically the Verbos themed course for each. This article will provide you with explanations and practice ideas to support learning preterite conjugations.

Understanding Preterite Conjugation

Spanish verb conjugation is about changing the ending of an infinitive verb (un-conjugated verb like “comer” = to eat, “vivir” = to live, “hablar” = to speak) to indicate who did an action and when it was done. Preterite conjugations are the endings we use to indicate things done in the past.

The preterite conjugations of regular verbs follow a predictable pattern with infinitive verbs that end in “ar”, “er”, or “ir” as you can see below.

This chart shows the verb endings in three categories: -ar, -er and -ir. The endings are modified according to who performed the action and indicate that the action was completed in the past. 

Person -ar verb endings -er and -ir verb endings
Yo (I)
Tú (You)-aste-iste
Él (He), Ella (She), Usted (You formal)-ió
Nosotros/as (We)-amos-imos
Vosotros/as (You all)-asteis-isteis
Ellos (They), Ellas (They), Ustedes (You all)-aron-ieron

Let’s conjugate the verbs “trabajar” and “comer” to illustrate.

The stem of the infinitive verb, trabajar, is “trabaj” and the ending is “ar”.
The stem of the infinitive verb, comer, is “com” and the ending is “er“.

Regular Preterite Conjugation for the “ar” Verb Trabajar

Person -ar verb endings Preterite tense 
Yo (I)trabajé
Tú (You)-astetrabajaste
Él (He), Ella (She), Usted (You formal)trabajó
Nosotros/as (We)-amostrabajamos
Vosotros/as (You all)-asteistrabajasteis
Ellos (They), Ellas (They), Ustedes (You all)-arontrabajaron

Regular Preterite Conjugation for the “er” Verb Comer

Person -er and -ir verb endingsPreterite tense
Yo (I)comí
Tú (You)-istecomiste
Él (He), Ella (She), Usted (You formal)-iócom
Nosotros/as (We)-imoscomimos
Vosotros/as (You all)-isteiscomisteis
Ellos (They), Ellas (They), Ustedes (You all)-ieroncomieron

The above charts can guide you in correctly conjugating regular verbs in the preterite tense. There are also irregular verbs in the preterite tense that do not follow the same predictable patterns. Students must learn those verbs’ unique conjugations too. Learning them is not presented in this post, but many of the activities suggested below can be used for learning and practicing those conjugations too.

Preterite Conjugation Practice Ideas

Creating a Spanish Verb Conjugation Chart

Conjugation charts like the ones above and like this downloadable template, are used widely in Spanish classes to help  students easily apply the rules mentioned above. To make this activity fun and interesting, ask students to find an article, passage or other written text. While they read, ask students to identify words that end with -ar, -er, and -ir and highlight them. Using the conjugation chart above, ask students to practice conjugating the verbs following the rules. Can they identify words that are conjugated in the text? By providing clear examples, students will be able to see the specific forms of preterite conjugation in action.

Another fun way to use charts is to give students a blank chart or charts, set a timer, and see how quickly they can fill it/them in correctly. You can even put students in teams and see which team can fill in the chart(s) correctly the fastest. Each person on the team would take a term filling in a box until all the boxes are filled in.

Play Burbujas – Bubbles

Students can use the verb charts to prep for this game. In this game students are given an infinitive verb, such as “hablar” (to talk). Then someone blows bubbles and the student(s) have to conjugate that verb “top/down” out loud. “Top/down” means they say the conjugations in order from the “I” conjugation down to the “They/You all” conjugation. 

Students really enjoy this game! Many of my students would ask if they could go “solo” and do more than one verb. So, that meant I would say two or three infinitive verbs to that student, blow the bubbles, and he/she would have to conjugate each verb “top/down’ before the bubbles popped. 

Use My Spanish Conjugation Slide

My downloadable Spanish Conjugation Slide provides an effective, hands-on way for students to learn, practice, and review regular preterite tense “ar”, “er”, and “ir” verbs. It’s fun and can be used in so many ways! The packet includes

  • a template to create the verb ending “slide”
  • two pages of verb cards
  • instructions for easy-to-do activities using the slide
  • a verb conjugation chart to be able to check all your conjugations

Online Word Wall

Although online games do not provide students with the face to face interactions needed for language learning, they can provide enjoyable repetitive practice, especially when just starting out. This wordwall preterite Spanish verb game shows the sentence in English, and asks the students to find the correct Spanish verb. 

Conversation in Pairs or Small Groups

Put your students into pairs or very small groups, no more than 3 or 4 people. Provide each group with a small stack of cards that have questions on them that will require them to use the preterite tense to answer. They take turns picking up the cards and asking the question to someone in the group. 

As another option, you can provide a list of cards with infinitive verbs. Students then pick up a card, ask a question using the infinitive verb in the preterite tense to another person who then has to answer in the preterite.

Or, you can have students create a stack of cards in their group with topics on each card, such as “fiesta” (party), “la clase” (the class), “fin de semana” (weekend), “ayer” (yesterday), “el año pasado” (last year), “la semana pasada” (last week), etc. Then when someone picks up a card they have to say something they did according to the topic on the card. For more challenge, someone picks up a card, asks a question according to the subject that someone else has to answer using the preterite tense.


Learning Spanish preterite conjugations takes a lot of practice just like when learning any other verb conjugations. But, there are many ways you can help students enjoy the process, get them engaged, and develop proficiency. As mentioned above, my Regular Preterite Conjugation Slide is one way to make it easy for them to learn these and easy for you to teach them! 

For more ideas to teach and practice Spanish, browse my blog. And If you need a curriculum to teach Spanish for your classes or at home, check out, Spanish for You! You’ll find implementing Spanish is SO easy! Everything is laid out for you, and no experience is needed. It is your entire school year ready to go!


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