Abrir Conjugation: Preterite & Imperfect

Instructor: Tiffany Strickland

Tiffany has taught middle, high, and college level Spanish and has a Educational Specialist's Degree in Teaching and Learning.

In this lesson, you will learn how to use the verb ''abrir'' in the preterite and imperfect tenses. ''Abrir'' means to open, and you will see it used in real life in the past tense.

Seeing the verb Abrir

Have you ever been to a party and watched someone open presents and then talked about it later? Have you talked about opening presents when you were little? Well, if you are discussing these topics in Spanish, you will need to use the Spanish verb abrir, which means to open. If you are discussing this in the past, you will need to know how to use the preterite and imperfect tenses. In this lesson, we'll look at two different discussion and how abrir is used in both the preterite and imperfect tenses.

Los Regalos - The Presents
Presents

Abrir in the Past (Preterite Tense)

Let's first take a look at the preterite tense. Imagine you are in Spain for the winter holidays. While you are there, you go to a Christmas party. You are later talking to another friend about the party. He asks you, ¿Abriste regalos?

You answer, No. Yo no abrí regalos; nadie abrió regalos. (No. I did not open presents; nobody opened presents.) Then, you continue, Pero, los niños abrieron regalos en el Día de los Reyes, el seis de enero. (But, the kids opened presents on the Day of the Three Kings on January 6th.)

Los Tres Reyes - The Three Kings
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Do you notice how abrir is used in the past in the story above? The events in the story have a definite beginning and end, so abrir is used in the preterite tense in the story. Abrir is a regular -ir verb in Spanish. So, let's look at its conjugation in the preterite tense:

VERB: Abrir (ah-breer) - to open

Subject Pronouns Abrir Conjugation: Preterite Pronunciation Translation
yo abrí ah-bree I opened
abriste ah-bree-stay you opened
él, ella, usted abrió ah-bree-oh he/she/you formal opened
nosotros/nosotras abrimos ah-bree-mos we opened
vosotros/vosotras abristeis ah-bree-stays you (plural) opened
ellos, ellas, ustedes abrieron ah-bree-ay-rohn they/you (plural) opened

Abrir in the Past (Imperfect Tense)

You are later talking with your friend in Spain about how you celebrated holiday parties when you were little. You ask him ¿Abrías regalos en Navidad cuando eras niño? (Did you open presents on Christmas when you were little?)

He says, No. En Navidad, yo no abría regalos. Nadie abría regalos. ( No. On Christmas, I did not open presents. Nobody opened presents.) Pero, en el Día de los Tres Reyes, los niños sí abrían regalos. (But, on the Day of the Three Kings, the children opened presents.)

Los Regalos de Navidad - Christmas Presents
null

In the second story, when your friend discusses opening presents at parties when he is little, the verb abrir is conjugated differently. It is used in the imperfect tense. (Preterite and imperfect are explained more below)

Do you also notice in the story that for the imperfect tense, the conjugation is the same when the pronoun is yo and when the pronoun is él, ella, or usted? You will have to use context clues to know which pronoun is being used. Here are the conjugations for the verb abrir in the imperfect tense:

VERB: Abrir (ah-breer) - to open

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