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Ponerse Conjugation: Preterite & Command

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena has a PhD in linguistics from University of La Laguna (Spain). Currently, she teaches Spanish as a foreign language and creates teaching resources.

In this lesson, we study the reflexive conjugation of the Spanish verb 'ponerse,' which means 'to put on,' but can also be used in lots of familiar expressions. We'll see how to use it in the preterite and how to give commands.

Using the Verb Ponerse

When was the last time you put on a suit or an elegant dress? When were you very happy to receive an unexpected visit? To talk about these situations in Spanish, despite being so different, we can use the verb ponerse (pronounced: poh-NEHR-seh).

Ponerse means 'to put on,' but it can also be used in plenty of expressions, such as ponerse contento (to become/be happy) or ponerse en contacto (to get in contact).

Meanings of Ponerse

First, let's take a look at the most common uses and meanings of ponerse.

Meaning Example Translation
To put on ponerse el abrigo to put on a coat
To put oneself, move ponerse a la derecha to move to the right
To get in contact with ponerse en contacto con to get in contact with
To start doing something ponerse a estudiar to start studying
To become/be ponerse contento/triste to become/be happy/sad

For the last two expressions, use the structures:

  • Ponerse + a + infinitive (to start doing something)
  • Ponerse + adjective (to become/be)

Translation: To start studying
study

Now you're ready to learn its conjugation.

Preterite of Ponerse

We use the preterite to talk about finished actions in the past that normally happened once or momentarily. For example, if you want to say that yesterday you put on your favorite T-shirt or that your mom was delighted when you gave her the good news, use ponerse in the preterite.

Ponerse is irregular, and its preterite stem is quite different from the infinitive. In this tense, we need to use the stem pus-, to which we'll add the endings below.

Notice that ponerse is a reflexive verb, which means that we need to add the reflexive pronouns IN FRONT of every conjugated form. These pronouns are: me/te/se/nos/os/se.

VERB: ponerse (poh-NEHR-seh) - to put on/start/be

Subject
Pronoun
Preterite
Conjugation
Pronunciation Translation
yo me puse (meh POO-seh) I put on/started/was
te pusiste (teh poo-SEES-teh) you put on/started/were
él/ella
usted
se puso (seh POO-soh) he/she put on/started/was,
you (formal) put on/started/were
nosotros/
nosotras
nos pusimos (nohs poo-SEE-mohs) we put on/started/were
vosotros/
vosotras
os pusisteis (ohs poo-SEES-tays) you all put on/started/were
ellos/ellas
ustedes
se pusieron (seh poo-SYEH-rohn) they put on/started/were,
you all put on/started/were

Note: Spaniards use the form vosotros/as when addressing a group of people in an informal situation and ustedes in formal contexts. In the rest of the Spanish-speaking countries, everyone uses the form ustedes in any setting.

Examples Conversation

Laura and Carla should have studied for their exam on Friday, but they've been busy with other things.

Laura: ¿Te pusiste a estudiar? (Did you start studying?)

Carla: Bueno, me puse a ayudar a mi hermano con los deberes y luego fuimos a visitar a mi abuela. (Well, I started helping my brother with his homework and then we went to visit my grandma.) Se puso muy contenta al vernos. (She was very happy to see us.)

Al llegar a casa, nos pusimos el pijama y vimos una película. (When we arrived home, we put on the pajamas and we watched a movie.) ¿Y tú? (And you?)

Laura: Mi hermana y yo nos pusimos a hacer galletas y otras cosas en casa. (My sister and I started baking cookies and doing other things at home.)

Carla: Así que tampoco se pusieron a estudiar. (So you (both) didn't start studying either.)

Laura: No, pero esta tarde empiezo. (No, but I'll start this evening.)

Translation: My grandmother was happy to see us.
grandmother

Imperative of Ponerse

We use the imperative to give affirmative orders or commands, but also to make suggestions.

In this case, we need two different stems. We'll use the irregular stem (pong-) for all subject pronouns, EXCEPT FOR and vosotros/as, which keep the regular stem (pon-).

Note: When a verb is reflexive, its imperative forms have the pronouns ATTACHED at the end, making a single word, and not in front, as in the rest of the tenses.

VERB: ponerse (poh-NEHR-seh) - to put on/start/be

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