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The Preterite (also praeterite, American English also preterit) is the grammatical tense expressing actions which took place in the past. In English, the term 'preterite' is often superseded by 'simple past' or 'past simple', although it is still often heard in its adjectival form (for instance: The preterite form of 'to slay' is 'slew'.). In German, the Präteritum is used for past actions. In South Germany, Austria and Switzerland, it is mostly used solely in writing, for example in stories; this is, apart from modal verbs and verbs haben (to have) and sein (to be), which are commonly used in the preterite in speech as well. In speech and informal writing, Perfekt is used (eg, Ich habe das und das gesagt. (I said this and that)).

However, in the colloquial language of North Germany and in Standard German, there is still a very important difference between the preterite and the perfect, and both tenses are consequently very common. The preterite is used for past actions when the focus is on the action, whilst the perfect is used for past actions when the focus is on the result of the action. This corresponds to the English usage of the preterite and the present perfect.

The preterite is a verb tense used in Spanish that indicates an action taken once in the past and ending at a specific time. This is as opposed to the Imperfect, which refers to any repeated or continuous past action. So, "I ran five miles yesterday" would use the first person preterite form of ran, corrí whereas "I ran five miles every morning" would use the first person imperfect form, corría.

hablar comer insistir
yo hablé comí insistí
hablaste comiste insististe
él habló comió insistió
nosotros hablamos comemos insistimos
ellos hablaron comieron insistieron

See also: pluperfect (past perfect), past tense, present tense, future tense, grammatical aspect, .