Bailar Past Tense Conjugation: Preterite & Imperfect

Instructor: Ashton Thompson

Ashton has taught secondary school Spanish and English, and has a master's degree in Bilingual Education.

The Spanish verb ''bailar'' means to dance. In this lesson, we look at how to conjugate this verb in the two past tenses: the preterite tense and the imperfect tense.

The Verb Bailar

Dancing is a significant part of most cultures, but that is especially true in the Spanish-speaking world. From salsa to tango to flamenco, each country brings their own type of dancing to the cultural table.


Dancing flamenco in the street
DanceintheStreet


The Spanish verb bailar means ''to dance''. Let's look at how we would talk about dancing in Spanish in the past.

Preterite Conjugation of Bailar

The preterite tense is used to talk about situations in the past that occurred one time. We mostly use this tense when we are telling about a singular event or story that has a definite beginning and end. Here is how to conjugate the verb bailar in the preterite tense:

Verb: bailar (biy-lahr) - to dance

Subject Pronoun bailar Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
yo bailé (biy-lAY) I danced
bailaste (biy-lahs-tay) you danced (singular)
él/ella/usted bailó (biy-lOH) he/she danced
nosotros bailamos (biy-lah-mohs) we danced
vosotros bailasteis (biy-lah-stay-ees) you danced (plural)
ellos/ellas/ustedes bailaron (biy-lah-rohn) they danced

Remember:

  • Letters with accent marks get the most emphasis when pronouncing the word.
  • The verb conjugations are so different from each other, most native speakers don't say the pronoun before it.
  • The nosotros form is the same as in the present tense, so we have to use a phrase that lets us know it's something that happened in the past (see phrases below).

Examples of Bailar in the Preterite

Sentences that use the preterite tense usually also have a phrase that lets us know the event was a one-time thing. Some examples of those phrases are ''last summer'' (el verano pasado), '''yesterday'' (ayer), and ''one time'' (una vez).

Last summer I danced flamenco in Seville, Spain. - El verano pasado bailé flamenco en Sevilla, España.

Did you dance with Miguel at the party yesterday? - ¿Bailaste con Miguel en la fiesta ayer?

One time, we danced salsa in a culture exhibition. - Una vez, bailamos salsa en una exposición cultural.


Bailaron tango ayer (They danced tango yesterday).
Tango Argentina


Imperfect Conjugation of Bailar

The other past tense in Spanish, known as the imperfect tense, is used to talk about things that happened in the past repeatedly, with no real reference to a beginning or an end. It also is used to express the idea that you ''used to'' do something. Below is the conjugation chart for bailar in the imperfect tense:

Verb: bailar (biy-lahr) - to dance

Subject Pronoun bailar Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
yo bailaba (biy-lah-bah) I danced
bailabas (biy-lah-bahs) you danced (singular)
él/ella/usted bailaba (biy-lah-bah) he/she danced
nosotros bailábamos (biy-lAH-bah-mohs) we danced
vosotros bailabais (biy-lah-biys) you danced (plural)
ellos/ellas/ustedes bailaban (biy-lah-bahn) they danced

Notice that the yo form and the él/ella/usted form are conjugated the same. With the imperfect tense, native speakers are more likely to say the pronoun before the verb.

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