Aprender Conjugation: Preterite & Subjunctive

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena teaches Spanish as a foreign language and has a PhD in linguistics.

In this lesson we will study the Spanish verb ''aprender'' ('to learn'). We will see how to express wishes or give orders with it, i.e. in the subjunctive. We will also study its usage in the past tense, specifically in the preterite.

Introducing the Verb Aprender

¿Quieres aprender español? Do you want to learn Spanish? Then you will definitely need the verb aprender ('to learn'). By conjugating it adequately you will be able to talk about your learning aims and outcomes, express wishes or give instructions.

Aprender = To learn

Using Aprender in Context

In Spanish, the verb aprender can be followed either by a noun or a verb. With nouns, we do not need any prepositions, just the object. We can learn Spanish (aprender español), learn a profession (aprender una profesión), or learn a lesson (aprender una lección).

With verbs, the second verb will normally be an infinitive preceded by the preposition a. So, we will say aprender a montar en bici ('to learn to ride a bike') or aprender a tocar el piano ('to learn to play the piano').

The following table provides a summary of these and some other expressions with this verb:

Structure Translation Examples
aprender + noun to learn something aprender inglés / francés / un oficio ('to learn English / French / a trade')
aprender + a + infinitive to learn to do something aprender a tocar el violín / a conducir ('to learn to play the violin / to drive')
aprender + gerund to learn by doing something aprender jugando ('to learn by playing')
aprender de memoria to learn by heart aprender la lección de memoria ('to learn the lesson by heart')
aprender de alguien to learn from someone aprender de tu familia ('to learn from your family')

Aprender a montar en bici = To learn to ride a bike

Subjunctive of Aprender

We use the subjunctive in order to express wishes or desires, hope, doubts, or uncertainty.

Similarly to the present indicative, the present subjunctive is formed by taking the verbal stem (aprend-, in this case) and adding the adequate endings depending on the person. In the subjunctive, for verbs ending in -ER or -IR, the ending main vowel will be -a. Therefore, its forms are as follows:

VERB: aprender (ah-prehn-DEHR) - to learn

Subject Pronouns Aprender: Subjunctive Pronunciation Translation
yo aprenda ah-PREHN-dah I learn
aprendas ah-PREHN-dahs you learn
él/ella/usted aprenda ah-PREHN-dah he/she learns - you formal learn
nosotros/nosotras aprendamos ah-prehn-DAH-mohs we learn
vosotros/vosotras aprendáis ah-prehn-DIYS you all learn
ellos/ellas/ustedes aprendan ah-PREHN-dahn they/you all formal learn

Subjunctive forms are typically preceded by verbs of hope, desire or doubt followed by que. The first person plural is frequently used to make suggestions.


Lidia is helping her children, Carlos and María, with their school homework and assignments.

Lidia: Espero que aprendas las tablas de multiplicar, Carlos. ('I hope you learn the multiplication tables, Carlos'.)

Y tú también, María. ('And you too, María'.) Quiero que aprendáis vuestras lecciones hoy, que mañana tenéis un examen. ('I want you to learn the lessons today, since you have an exam tomorrow'.)

María: Sí, Mamá. ('Yes, Mom'.) Aprendamos las tablas juntos, Carlos. ('Let's learn the tables together, Carlos'.)

Preterite of Aprender

The preterite, which is one of the past tenses, is used in order to talk about finished actions in the past. Since aprender is a regular verb, we will only need to add the adequate preterite endings to its stem (aprend-).

VERB: aprender (ah-prehn-DEHR) - to learn

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