You had some homework last month, which was to conjugate in the Past Simple Tense the verbs that I gave you at the end of the article.  Here they are again:

Ayudar, buscar, cambiar, cocinar, comprar, escuchar, firmar, limpiar, pagar, pensar, soñar, trabajar, viajar. 

The verbs were chosen at random, but are all completely regular.  This means that all you needed to do was remove the ending ‘ar’ to find the root of the verb (ayud, busc, cambi etc.) and then add the standard Past Simple Tense endings (é, aste, ó, amos, asteis, aron).  If you’ve done that, you’ve got them right!

Only one small rider to that statement is that, as I mentioned last month, there are two verbs in that list that make minimal spelling changes in the ‘I’ (first person singular) form in order to keep their spellings phonetic.  In other words, whilst the sound of the verb is completely regular, the spelling has to change to reflect that regularity.  I think I’ll stop trying to explain that now and tell you which ones they are:  busqué and pagué.

Just so that we’re clear about why:  If we were to follow the ending rules as stated with the verb buscar, then the first person singular (meaning “I looked for”) would be buscé.  However, this spelling gives us a soft ‘th’ sound for the ‘c’ as it comes before an ‘e’ (so it would sound something like ‘boosthay’).  In order to preserve the ‘k’ sound, we have to change the ‘c’ to ‘qu’ busqué.  With the other person endings this is not a problem as the ‘c’ is followed by ‘a’ or ‘o’ so is pronounced like a ‘k’.

A similar problem arises with pagar in the first person singular.  Here the letter ‘u’ is added to keep the hard sound to the ‘g’ before the letter ‘e’.  These kinds of spelling adjustments occur throughout the Spanish language when parts of words are changed.  They should never be considered as ‘irregularities’ and they can be worked out logically once you understand the basic principle.

Soon we will need to talk about regular ‘–er’ and ‘-ír’ verbs in this tense, but before we do that, I think it would be rather a good idea to practise what we have learnt so far.  For example:

Ayer me levanté a las siete y media.

Me duché y después desayuné té y cereales.

Llevé a mis hijas al instituto y empecé a trabajar.

Trabajé muchas horas, pero entre clase y clase tomé un café.

Por la tarde paseé por el centro de San Pedro y cené en casa.

Me acosté temprano para ir a trabajar al día siguiente.   ¿Y tú?   ¿A qué hora te levantaste?

You may notice I’ve deliberately stuck to regular ‘–ar’ verbs and avoided all others for the moment.  You might want to practise talking about a day of yours in the past tense, also being careful to use the verbs you know so far!    One of the ‘tricks of the trade’ when speaking a foreign language is to tailor what you want to say, to what you can say!   I can assure you that this principle never changes, however good you get.

See you next month.

Jane Cronin’s ‘Step by Step Spanish’ articles are available as e-books at www. where you can also obtain Jane’s ‘Step by Step’ Internet Spanish Course’.