Did you know that there are 5 Spanish verbs that change meaning when you use them in the preterite and imperfect past tenses?
If you’ve been studying Spanish for a bit, you know there are always exceptions to the rules. So just when you thought you had those past tense verb meanings memorized… these 5 verbs change meaning depending on if you’re using them in the preterite or imperfect past verb tenses. Thanks Spanish – you just like to keep us on our toes! 👍
The good news is that learning these subtle differences and using them successfully in your Spanish conversations will uplevel your Spanish!
Here are the 5 verbs that change meaning between the imperfect and preterite verb tenses.
- Conocer = to know
- Saber = to know
- Poder = to be able to
- Querer = to want to
- Tener = to have
¿Cuál es la diferencia? Can you tell a difference?
|Yo conocía a 5 personas en la reunión, pero no conocía a las otras personas.||Yo conocí a 2 personas ayer en la reunión.|
|Ella podía caminar pero tenía prisa así que se fue en Uber.||Ella no pudo encontrar un Uber y por eso no llegó a tiempo.|
|Nosotros no sabíamos el diagnóstico hace una semana.||Nosotros supimos el diagnóstico hace 3 días.|
Can you identify the differences in these sentences?
Watch this Quick Tip lesson to learn how to use these 5 verbs!
Notice how the meanings of these 5 verbs change in the preterite and imperfect verb tenses
|VERB||Meaning in the Imperfecto||Meaning in the Pretérito|
|Conocer||Used to know, or knew a person or a place||Met for the first time|
|Saber||Used to know information, facts||Discovered, found out for the first time|
|Poder||Could do something||Could do and did it successfully. Managed to do something.|
NO poder = Failed to do something
|Querer||Wanted to do something||Wanted to do AND did it |
NO Querer = Refused something
|Tener||Used to have, had||Received something|
Watch the lesson to learn the details, see examples of these verbs, and take the quiz to test your understanding.
¡Ojo! Pay attention…
- If you’re wondering what the “Pretérito and Imperfecto” are – watch the video below to get a quick review of these two verb tenses that describe events that take place in the past.
- Did you notice that both saber and conocer mean “to know” I go in depth about these two verbs and when to use each one in this SABER vs. CONOCER lesson
¡Te toca a ti! Let’s practice…
Grab a piece of paper and quiz yourself.
Which verb conjugation do you use for these contexts below…
- They received (they got) good grades
- They wanted to go skiing, but not sure if they did?
- We wanted to go ziplining and we did!
- She knew all about Costa Rica.
- She just found out about that waterfall today!
Want more practice? Download the lesson notes and take the Quiz at the end of the lesson.
Answers to Ejercicio #1:
- Ellos tuvieron (recibieron)
- Ellos querían
- Nosotros quisimos
- Ella sabía
- Ella supo
2 thoughts on “5 Spanish verbs that change meaning in the past tense”
El día cuando nosotros conocimos, yo sabía que seríamos amigos mejores por muchos años.
Excelente uso de conocer y saber @Blaine! Una pequeña corrección…use”nos” conocimos the reciprocal form to express we met each other. ¡Buen trabajo!