Pensar Conjugation: Preterite & Subjunctive

Instructor: Raychelle Heath

Raychelle has a BA in Spanish and an MFA in Writing. She has studied in Puerto Rico and currently lives in Mexico. She has taught Spanish in various settings.

The verb 'pensar' means 'to think' in Spanish. In this lesson, you will learn how to conjugate 'pensar' in the preterite and the subjunctive tenses. You will also see examples of how to use the verb.

What Do You Think?

Lisa and Jenny are cleaning out their closets and finding lots of fun clothes from years gone by. They tell each other what they think about these dated clothes and if they should stay or go. Lisa and Jenny are speaking to each other in Spanish, and their conversation involves a lot of mentions of the word pensar, which is a verb that means 'to think.'

As we check in on Lisa and Jenny's conversation, we'll also learn how to conjugate the verb pensar in the preterite and subjunctive tenses. Remember that in Spanish, pronouns are only used when needed to specify who is speaking. For example, pronouns are necessary for the third-person singular (él, ella, usted), but not for the second person ().

Pensar in the Preterite Tense

The preterite tense is used to talk about things that happened once in the past. The verb pensar is regular in the preterite tense.

VERB: pensar (pen-SAR) to think

Subject Pronoun Preterite Tense Pronunciation Translation
yo pensé pen-SAY I thought
pensaste pen-SAH-stay You (informal) thought
él, ella, usted pensó pen-SO He, she, you (formal) thought
nosotros/nosotras pensamos pen-SAH-mose We thought
vosotros/vosotras pensasteis pen-sah-STAY-ees You (plural, informal) thought
ellos, ellas, ustedes pensaron pen-SAH-rone They (male, female), you (plural, informal) thought

Note: All conjugations are in the indicative.

Examples in the Preterite

Here are some examples of pensar in preterite tense:

  • ¿Por qué pensamos que fue una buena idea de usar ropa tan apretada? (Why did we think it was a good idea to wear such tight clothing?)
  • ¿Por qué pensé que iba a querer mi ropa de la preparatoria? (Why did I think I was going to want my clothes from high school?)
  • Él pensó que ya fuiste al mercado. (He thought that you already went to the market.)

He thought that you already went to the market.

Note: If you want to say 'to think about,' the correct phrase is pensar en. For example: Ellos pensaron en ti. (They thought about you.)

Example Conversation

Lisa and Jenny are talking about their old clothes. Let's listen in:

Jenny: No puedo creer que tenemos tanta ropa. ¿Como pensamos usar tantas cosas? (I don't believe we have so many clothes. How did we think we would wear so many things?)

Lisa: ¿Verdad? ¿Por qué pensé que iba a querer mi ropa de la preparatoria? (Right? Why did I think I was going to want my clothes from high school?)

Why did I think I was going to want my clothes from high school?
girl uniform

Jenny: ¡Ja ja! Mi mamá pensó lo mismo. Ella todavía tiene todos sus uniformes de sus años en la preparatoria. (Ha ha! My mom thought the same. She still has all her uniforms from her high school years.)

Pensar in the Subjunctive Tense

The subjuctive tense is used to express desire or doubt. For this lesson, we will focus on the present subjunctive for the verb pensar. Pensar is regular in this tense, but has an -e to -ie shift for all pronouns except nosotros/as and vosotros/as.

VERB: pensar (pen-SAR) to think

Subject Pronoun Present Subjunctive Tense Pronunciation Translation
yo piense pee-IN-say I think
pienses pee-IN-says You (informal) think
él, ella, usted piense pee-IN-say He, she thinks; you (formal) think
nosotros/nosotras pensemos pen-SAY-mose We think
vosotros/vosotras penséis pen-SAY-ees You (plural, informal) think
ellos, ellas, ustedes piensen pee-IN-sen They (male, female), you (plural, informal) think

Examples in the Present Subjunctive

Here are some examples of pensar in present subjunctive tense:

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