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A Common Past: Ser and Ir

We all know that irregular verbs are tricky. Very often, however, we can take advantage of those special rules that make the learning process a bit easier. In this lesson, we will explore the past tense of the irregular verbs ser (to be) and ir (to go).

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First of all, the good news: the verbs ser and ir share the same simple past conjugation! By simple past, we are referring to what is known in Spanish as pretérito perfecto simple or just pretérito (preterit). Let’s review the simple past conjugation of the verb ser:

 

Yo fui | I was
Tú fuiste | You were
Él/Ella fue | He/She was
Nosotros fuimos | We were
Vosotros fuisteis | You were
Ellos fueron | They were

 

Pensar que un día fui la respuesta

To think that one day I was the answer

Caption 15, Belanova - Tal vez

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Aprendí que los primeros en hacer cómic fueron los aztecas.

I learned that the first ones to make comics were the Aztecs.

Captions 47-48, Antonio Vargas - Artista - Comic

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And now, let’s take a look at the simple past conjugation of the verb ir:

Yo fui | I went
Tú fuiste | You went
Él/Ella fue | He/She went
Nosotros fuimos | We went
Vosotros fuisteis | You went
Ellos fueron | They went

 

Y sí, definitivamente fuimos a tomar un café, fuimos a cenar.

And yes, we definitely went for a coffee, went to dinner.

Caption 18, Enanitos Verdes - Luz de día

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¿Y te fuiste a vivir con tu novio con cuánto?

And you went to live with your boyfriend when you were how old?

-Con diecisiete.

-I was seventeen.

Caption 92, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 14

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We also use the simple past conjugation of the verb ir for the reflexive form irse (to leave):

 

Yo me fui de la casa cuando tenía nueve años.

I left home when I was nine years old.

Caption 41, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 5

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Desde aquel día que te fuiste, supe que eras para mí

From that day on which you left, I knew you were for me

Caption 1, Andy Andy - Maldito Amor

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That's all for now. But before we leave, a short exercise for you: Write 10 sentences in simple past with the verb ser and 10 sentences with the verb ir. And don’t forget to send your feedback and suggestions to newsletter@yabla.com.

If I Had Known - An Alternative to Si Clauses

Si clauses are typical markers of the Spanish conditional:

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Y yo creo que si me hubiese quedado viviendo...

And, I believe that if I had stayed living...

Caption 12, Festivaliando - Mono Núñez - Part 2

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However, sometimes you could use the conditional phrase de + haber + participio:

Y yo creo que de haberme quedado viviendo...
And, I believe that if I had stayed living...

In fact, the construction de + haber + participio (endings -ado, -ido, -to, -so -cho) is based on what in Spanish is known as the conditional compuesto or condidional perfecto (perfect conditional):

Here's an example of the perfect conditional combined with a si clause:

Tal vez, si yo fuera un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción

Maybe, if I were a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

Captions 20-21, Belanova - Tal vez

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And this is how you substitute si with de:

Tal vez, de ser un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción
Maybe, if I were a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

Just for practice, instead of present subjunctive (yo fuera) let's use past perfect subjunctive:

Tal vez, si yo hubiera sido un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción
Maybe, if I had been a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

Substitution is as follows:

Tal vez, de haber sido un poco más sensata habría inventado una poción
Maybe, if I had been a bit more sensible I would have invented a potion

This recalls the common phrase de haber sabido (if I had known). It's also common to combine it with direct object pronouns: de haberlo sabido (If I had known of it), de haberlo pensado (if I had thought of it). 

But de + infinitive is not always an option. For example, you can't use it instead of the si clause when the conditional refers to an action in the future. You can't use it in the following example:

 

Voy a ver si alguna quiere jugar conmigo a Nimanji.

I am going to see if anyone wants to play Nimanji with me.

Caption 26, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 7

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This is because the perfect conditional can only be used to refer to actions in the past. Also have in mind that the perfect conditional is not only used with si clauses, because sometimes the condition for something to happen is left unexpressed or it's inferred only by context:
 

Yo y mi hermana hemos vivido una vida que no nos habríamos imaginado.

My sister and I have lived a life that we wouldn't have imagined.

Captions 68-69, Horno San Onofre - La Historia de la Pastelería

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But if we artificially add a si clause to the previous example, let's say:

Yo y mi hermana hemos vivido una vida que no nos habríamos imaginado [si viviéramos en México]
My sister and I have lived a life that we wouldn't have imagined [if we were living in Mexico]

Then you can make the de + infinitive substitution:

Yo y mi hermana hemos vivido una vida que no nos habríamos imaginado [de vivir en México]
My sister and I have lived a life that we wouldn't have imagined [if we were living in Mexico]

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