Spanish preterite – Uses and features

Uses and features

The preterit describes the past as a completed action. The preterit may report on past events as complete units of time. It may focus on the beginning, the end, or the entire event.

Use 1

The preterit can focus on the beginning of an action, for example:

Juan empezó el examen a las 9 am.  (Juan started the exam at 9 am)

Use 2

The preterit can focus also on the end of an action:

Ayer, fui a visitar a Fernando. (Yesterday, I went to visit Fernando)

Use 3

In the use 3, the preterit can be viewed as aperiod of time as a completed unit of time:

En España la guerra civil duró tres años. / In Spain, the Civil War lasted three years.

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