Using El Preterito Indefinido to talk about experiences

Although it is still used in some regions, the use of El Pretérito Perfecto when talking about general experiences in life, is rapidly decreasing in favour of El Pretérito Indefinido.

Spanish speakers in Latin America prefer to use the El Pretérito Indefinido to talk about life experiences with or without specific time references simply because in their minds, the events are over. Have a look at these examples:

Yo viajé mucho por el mundo.I have travelled the world a lot.

Ella dice que nunca vio un OVNI.She says that she's never seen a UFO.

Jaime aprendió muchos idiomas.Jaime has learned many languages.

Ella se enamoró tres veces.She has fallen in love three times

El Pretérito Indefinido is the preferred tense in Latin America.

Compare this to using El Pretérito Perfecto when talking about general experiences in life, especially when asking about them. These are still grammatically correct, but no longer used as often as El Pretérito Indefinido. Here are some El Pretérito Perfecto examples:

¿Tú has montado en globo?Have you [ever] been in a hot air balloon?

Yo he viajado mucho por el mundo.I have travelled the world a lot.

¿Has jugado al golf alguna vez?Have you ever played golf?

Ella dice que nunca ha visto un OVNI.She says she has never seen a UFO.

Some common time phrases used when talking about experiences are: 

  • Nunca (never)

  • Siempre (always)

  • Alguna vez (ever/at some point)

  • Tres veces (three times)

  • En mi vida (in my life)

For other uses of El Pretérito Indefinido see also When to use the perfect tense versus the simple past (Perfecto vs Indefinido)

 

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Examples and resources

Ella dice que nunca ha visto un OVNI.She says she has never seen a UFO.
¿Tú has montado en globo?Have you [ever] been in a hot air balloon?
Ella dice que nunca vio un OVNI.She says that she's never seen a UFO.
Ellos han cometido muchos errores en su vida.They have made many mistakes in their lives.
Yo viajé mucho por el mundo.I have travelled the world a lot.
Yo he viajado mucho por el mundo.I have travelled the world a lot.
Ella se enamoró tres veces.She has fallen in love three times
¿Has jugado al golf alguna vez?Have you ever played golf?
Jaime aprendió muchos idiomas.Jaime has learned many languages.
I'll be right with you...