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  • Preterite: I went
  • Present: I go
  • Future: I will go

Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English preterit, from Old French preterit (13th century), from Latin praeteritum (as in tempus praeteritum (time past)), the past participle of praetereō (I go by, go past), itself from praeter (beyond, before, above, more than) (comparative of prae (before)) + itum (the past participle of (I go)).


  • IPA(key): /ˈpɹɛtəɹət/, /ˈpɹɛtəɹɪt/


preterite (not comparable)

  1. (grammar, of a tense) Showing an action at a determined moment in the past.
    • 1913 [1856], Robert Caldwell, edited by J.L. Wyatt and T. Ramakrishna Pillai, A Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian, or, South-Indian Family of Languages, 3rd edition, London: Kegan Paul, →OCLC, page 496:
      The Dravidian preterite tense is ordinarily formed, like the present, by annexing the pronominal signs to the preterite verbal participle.
  2. Belonging wholly to the past; passed by.
    • 1890, James Russell Lowell, “Cambridge Thirty Years Ago”, in The Writings of James Russell Lowell, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, →OCLC, page 52:
      Without leaving your elbow-chair, you shall go back with me thirty years, which will bring you among things and persons as thoroughly preterite as Romulus or Numa.
    • 1988, Clifford Geertz, Works and Lives: The Anthropologist as Author, page 19:
      Boas, Benedict, Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, Murdock, Evans-Pritchard, Griaule, Levi-Strauss, to keep the list short, preterite, and variegated, []




preterite (plural preterites)

  1. (grammar) A grammatical tense or verb form serving to denote events that took place or were completed in the past.
    • 1772, John Mair, A Radical Vocabulary, Latin and English, Edinburgh: A. Murray, and J. Cochran, for A. Kincaid & W. Creech, and J. Bell, →OCLC, page 101:
      When simple verbs redouble the preterite, the compounds drop the first syllable, as: Pello, pĕpŭli, to drive away, to beat back; Repello, rĕpŭli, and not rĕpĕpŭli, to drive back, to repel.
    • 1994, Dieter Stein, Ingrid Tieken-Boon van Ostade, Towards a Standard English: 1600-1800, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, →ISBN, page 115:
      Nevertheless, a small amount of variation still exists in one area of standard English verbal morphology: the preterite and past participle forms of certain irregular verbs.

Related terms[edit]


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  1. second-person singular voseo imperative of preterir combined with te