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The uses of the Preterite

Spanish expresses the past in two different ways depending on the nature of the action, state, or condition being described. When this action, state, or condition is considered completely finished from the point of view of the person who speaks in the “now,” the preterit is required. Some of the most common time expressions that go with the description of these past actions to indicate when they began and when they ended at a specific point in time are:

Hace + (time):

La película empezó hace diez minutos.
The movie started ten minutes ago.

A specific time: hour, day, month, year:

La reunión empezó a las 11 de la mañana y terminó a las 2 de la tarde.
The meeting started at 11 in the morning and ended at 2 in the afternoon.

Michael Jackson nació el 28 de agosto de 1958 y murió el 25 de junio de 2009.
Michale Jackson was born on the 28 of August of 1958 and died on the 25 of June of 2009.

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