The Spanish language has many tenses and the conjugation of the past tense is one of the most complicated because there are many types of past tense. And since listening to music is one of the coolest and most useful ways to acquire a new language, this time we’ll focus on presenting you with songs in pretérito indefinido (preterite past tense or simple past).

Through music, you’ll get used to hearing the accents, improve your pronunciation, gain new words and common phrases, learn idioms and colloquial speech, and hear the differences in the verb tenses. All while having fun!

Pretérito Indefinido

It is also known as pretérito perfecto simple or just pretérito. It’s used to talk about actions that happened and finished in the past, and have no relation with how things are in the present; used when an action interrupts another action; or when an action was repeated. It can be accompanied with time markers, such as “yesterday” and “last week”, to indicate precisely when these actions happened.

8 Songs in Pretérito Indefinido (Simple Past Tense) to Improve your Spanish

1. A mi manera – Il Divo

Il Divo is a renowned group, whose singers are from different countries: Spain, France, USA and Switzerland. Though they sing mostly in Spanish, they also sometimes sing in other languages, such as English and Italian. In fact, for “A mi manera”, they sang the first part in Spanish and then in English.

A mi manera” is the Spanish version of “My way”. It is the remembrance of one’s own life and how this person lived the way they wanted. In English it has been sung by many famous singers, such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. The same happens in Spanish: there are other versions, sung by Vicente Fernández, José José, and Raphael. The song has many verbs in pretérito indefinido that will help you understand better the conjugations of this tense.

Key phrases:

  • Fui feliz – I was happy
  • No encontré… – I didn’t find…
  • Viajé y disfruté – I traveled and enjoyed
  • Tal vez gané o tal vez perdí – Maybe I won or maybe I lost

Enjoy the video

2. Todos me miran – Gloria Trevi

Gloria Trevi is a famous Mexican singer, and this is one of her hit songs. The title and chorus might be in the present tense, but many other stanzas are in the past, with many verbs in pretérito indefinido. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn about how past and present can work together to tell a story. The story here is about a woman that felt powerful once she left her partner and got over the lost love.

The rhythm is so catchy that it will help you memorize the song easily. It is also very repetitive, so that will help you with the key words and phrases.

Key phrases:

  • Me vestí – I got dressed up
  • Me solté el cabello – I let my hair down
  • Caminé hacia la puerta – I walked towards the door
  • Tú me hiciste sentir… – You made me feel…

Enjoy the music video:

3. Nunca voy a olvidarte – Cristian Castro

Cristian Castro is a Mexican singer. This song was first recorded by Bronco, a norteño band. But Cristian Castro made it a ballad and popularized it, so much that it reached number one on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart. Later, it was sung by La India, a Puerto Rican salsa singer. So, there are many versions of this song.

It’s about a lover that is leaving the relationship because the other person wants it that way, but the lover doesn’t leave without expressing all of his love. As with many songs, it has different tenses, but the pretérito stands out when the lover remembers the relationship.

Key phrases:

  • Tú lo decidiste – You decided it
  • El tiempo que duró nuestro amor – The time that our love lasted
  • Tú me hiciste feliz – You made me happy

Enjoy the music video:

4. Se fue – Laura Pausini

Laura Pausini is an Italian singer, with more than 20 years of experience. She mainly sings in Italian and Spanish but has also sung in English, French, and Portuguese. She even recorded a whole album in English.

Se fue” describes the feeling when your lover leaves you. There are two other versions of this song: the first one is the original in Italian and the second one is a Spanish duet with Marc Anthony, and a salsa rhythm. This last one even got a music video. So, if you’re also trying to learn Italian, it will help you compare this song in both languages.

Key Phrases:

  • Se fue – (He/She) left
  • Todo destruyó – (He/She/It) destroyed everything
  • Me quedó sólo… – I was left with…

Enjoy the video:

5. Te lloré un río – Maná

Maná is a Mexican rock and pop-rock band. They have had many achievements throughout their career. They have won four Grammy Awards, and even got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016!

Te lloré un río” is a break up song and one of Maná’s hit songs. It was released in 1992, but they’ve recently released it again as a duo with Christian Nodal. The song changes between the past and the present tense, showing the memories of how the lover felt the heartbreak and where he is now.

Key phrases:

  • Este mundo ya giró – This world turned/went around again
  • Te tocó perder – It was your time to lose/ You lost
  • Lloré a reventar – (I) cried till I burst / I cried a lot

Enjoy the music video:

6. Ella se llamaba Martha – Napoleón

Napoleón is a Mexican singer-songwriter, also known as El poeta de la canción (The song’s poet). This is one of his many popular songs. It tells the story of a couple, from when they met, to the child they have, and how later she leaves her lover. Though it’s heart-wrenching, the rhythm is very catchy.

Though the title is in imperfecto and it is repeated a lot in the chorus, the rest of the song is in pretérito indefinido.

Key phrases:

  • Me abrazó – (She/He) hugged me
  • Se casó conmigo – (He/She) married me
  • Me dijo adiós – (He/She) said goodbye to me
  • Me dejó llorando – (He/She) left me crying

Enjoy the music video:

7. ¿Dónde están corazón? – Enrique Iglesias

Enrique Iglesias is a Spanish singer. He sings both in English and Spanish and also has an album in Italian. He has sung in different genres, though in recent years he’s been more into electronic pop and reggaeton, he used to be more known for his pop songs and ballads. “¿Dónde están corazón?” is one of those songs that made him stand out.

In this song, he wonders about where the moments with his lover went. Time has passed and so has love. This song will help you know how to ask questions in the past.

Key Phrases:

  • ¿A dónde fue…? – Where did (he/she/it) go?)
  • ¿Dónde quedó…? – Used to ask where you left something or someone, or where it is. It’s usually asked with an “en” at the beginning: ¿En dónde quedó…?
  • No supe – I didn’t know/could figure it out

Enjoy the video:

8. Fue en un café – Los Apson

If you are more into rock & roll and 60s songs, this is your group. Los Apson is a Mexican group that does Spanish covers of the greatest rock & roll English hits. So, if you listen to them, you can have two versions of one song in two different languages.

Fue en un café” narrates the memories of how someone broke up with a lover. This is the cover of “Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters. The slow pace of the song will help you listen correctly to what they sing. Also, it’s a repetitive song; that will help you memorize the many verbs in pretérito indefinido that it has.

Key Phrases:

  • La dejé – (I) left her
  • Me engañó – (He/She) cheated on me
  • Yo tuve razón – I was right

Enjoy the song:

Spanish Has a Variety of Past Tenses

As seen in these Spanish songs, people can mix different past tenses to speak about something, and still make sense. Though every past tense has its own purpose, they can work together to express an idea, feeling, or situation. It’s not easy to differentiate them, but these songs will help you understand and recognize the pretérito indefinido a little bit more.

Plus, some of these artists also sing the same song in other languages. You can take advantage of that: simply compare those same songs in Spanish and in the other language. That will help you see the use of the past tense in other languages, and will improve your vocabulary, listening, and comprehension.

Another thing you could do if you want to learn more Spanish – or another language – is to sign up for a TruFluency trial class, for only $35. Our classes are as fun as listening to music!