Spanish indefinite past tense: Verbs “querer”, “poder”, “saber”

indefinite past querer saber poder 1

There are many types of past tenses in Spanish, one of them, and probably the most common, is el pasado indefinido. It’s similar to el pasado imperfecto because they have basically the same purpose. Yet, when we use verbs like querer, saber, and poder, things might be a bit different.


In this article, we will show you how to use querer, saber, and poder in el pasado indefinido. As a result, you’ll learn their conjugations and how to combine them with other words in order to talk about past events and express your needs.


How to use querer in el pasado indefinido


The Spanish verb querer is frequently used by native speakers in almost every situation. It’s the Spanish equivalent of “want” and helps us express our wishes. When using querer in el pasado indefinido we can talk about things we wanted and did or got. We use el pasado indefinido to talk about completed events in the past.


The verb querer is an irregular verb in el pasado indefinido. Consequently, its root will change in every conjugation. We will change the root quer- to quis- and add a new ending depending on the personal pronoun we use. Let’s see querer conjugations below.


Querer – Want


Yo quise – I wanted

Tú quisiste – You wanted

Él/ Ella/ Usted quiso – He/ She wanted

Nosotros quisimos – We wanted

Vosotros quisisteis

Ellos/ Ellas/ Ustedes quisieron – They wanted


As you may see, all endings are quite different. However, learning them will take you only a couple of minutes. We can use querer together with verbs or nouns. If you use it with nouns, you must add an article between querer and the noun. The article will depend on the noun’s gender and if it’s singular or plural. The structure of the sentence will look like the formula shown below.


Subject/ Personal pronoun + querer (pasado indefinido) + article (definite or indefinite) + noun + complement


On the other side, if you use querer with a verb, you have to conjugate the verb in the infinitive form. In this case, the formula we use is shown below.



Subject/ Personal pronoun + querer (pasado indefinido) + 2nd verb (infinitive) + complement

Now let’s see some examples to better appreciate how we should use querer in el pasado indefinido.


Yo quise correr 10KM / I wanted to run 10KM


Ayer, Nosotros quisimos comer en el restaurante chino del centro comercial

Yesterday, we wanted to eat at the Chinese restaurant in the mall


Ellos quisieron hablar acerca del calentamiento global

They wanted to talk about global warming.


Tu quisiste una mochila nueva. / You wanted a new backpack.


Rafael quiso el reloj de su abuelo. /  Rafael wanted his grandfather’s watch.


Please note that in some situations, we can add the Spanish word que right after querer. In that context, we will conjugate the verb following the structure querer + que in different ways but it’ll depend on what we try to express and if there’s a second subject. Let’s get a clearer picture by looking at the examples below.


Tú quisiste que compráramos entradas para el concierto de esta noche.

You wanted us to buy tickets for tonight’s concert.


Samuel quiso que María visitara el templo Sagrada Familia en Barcelona

Samuel wanted Mary to visit the Sagrada Familia temple in Barcelona


Mi jefe quiso que le pagara la deuda pendiente.

My boss wanted me to pay the outstanding debt.


Building negative sentences with querer is simple as que just have to add “no” before querer to express that a request was declined. Here’s an example.


Mi jefe no quiso que le pagara la deuda pendiente.

My boss didn’t want me to pay him the outstanding debt.


How to use saber in el pasado indefinido.


Saber is a basic verb that you must keep in your toolbox. It helps us express and talk about things we know or don’t know. When using saber in el pasado indefinido it’s equivalent to “found out”. It’s because, in this case, we give the idea that we didn’t know something but then we found out. Using the verb saber in el pasado indefinido is quite different from el pasado imperfecto because, with el pasado imperfecto, we express that we “already knew it”.


Saber is also an irregular verb in el pasado indefinido, just like querer. Therefore, we must change the verb’s root from sab- to sup-. The ending of each conjugation will depend on the subject or personal pronoun we use. Let’s see saber conjugations below.


Saber – To find out

Yo supe – I found out

Tú supiste – You found out

El/ Ella/ Usted supo – He/ She found out

Nosotros supimos – We found out

Vosotros supisteis

Ellos/ ellas/ ustedes supieron – They found out.


Often, we use saber in el pasado indefinido together with verbs or Spanish words like que and como. Just like with querer, if we use a verb after saber, we must conjugate it in the infinitive form. If you use the structure saber + que, you should apply the same method we explained with querer + que. And, if you use the structure saber + como, you will conjugate the verb in the infinitive form or in el pasado indefinido depending on what you try to say.


In general, the structure saber + como helps us get information about how an action or event happened. Clearly, it’s a structure you’ll love if you are one of those who love to know every detail.


Let’s see some examples using saber and its different structures using el pasado indefinido below.


No supe como explicar lo que ocurrió / I didn’t find out how to explain what happened


Nosotros supimos como pasó / We found out how it happened


¿Supiste cómo pasó? / Did you find out how it happened?


Rafael no supo cambiar la clave del cajero automatico. / Rafael didn’t find out how to change the ATM key.


María supo que hablé con su hermana. / María found out I talked to her sister.



As you may see, building negative sentences with saber isn’t a nightmare because placing a “no” before saber will, again, help us get the job done.


How to use poder in el pasado indefinido


Last but not least, we have poder which just like querer, and saber, is an important Spanish verb typically used by native speakers. It’s a must-have tool because its quite flexible and we can combine it with other verbs to build different kinds of sentences. In el pasado indefinido, poder is an irregular verb, as well. In this scenario, we have to change the poder’s root from pod- to pud-. The endings ending for each conjugation are similar to the ones shown previously. Take a look at the conjugation of poder below.


Poder – To be able to

Yo pude – I was able to

Tú pudiste – You were able to

Él/ Ella pudo – He/ she was able to

Nosotros pudimos – We were able to

Vosotros pudisteis

Ellos/ Ellas/ Ustedes pudieron – They were able to


In el pasado indefinido, poder help use to talk about things we were able to do and accomplished. So, if you’re someone who never leaves things halfway, poder and el pasado indefinido will become your new best friends.


In almost every situation, we use poder together with other verbs. Since we use poder to talk about activities or actions, we can’t use it together with nouns as it would have no sense. The verb that follows poder always goes in the infinitive form. Here are a few examples.


Pude cambiar mi manera de pensar luego de hablar contigo

I was able to change my way of thinking after talking to you


Tranquilamente, pudimos hablar en la mañana

Calmly, we were able to talk in the morning


Similarly, building negative sentences is an unchallenging task. One more time, the word no will help us achieve our goal. Here are some other examples.


Sofía no pudo ver su película favorita anoche.

Sofia wasn{t able to watch her favorite movie last night.


Ellos no pueden cantar mientras estén en esta habitación

They are not able to sing while in this room.


Please note that “no” always goes between the subject and poder.


In conclusion, querer, saber and poder are irregular verbs in el pasado indefinido. Querer help us talk about our wishes and, in el pasado indefinido, helps us express that we did or got them. Saber helps us talk about things we found out and poder about things we were able to do and accomplished. In most cases, we will conjugate the verb that follows querer, saber, and poder in the infinitive form, unless we use the structure querer/saber + que.

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