Definition of preterite in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈpredərət/
(also preterit) Grammar


Expressing a past action or state.
Example sentences
  • But what we do in English is shift the subordinate clause verb into preterite inflection (had blue eyes instead of has blue eyes) as if to respect the choice of tense in the main clause.
  • In Tables 4 and 5, the present and preterite paradigms of the indicative mood of the strong verb bindan (to bind) and of the weak verb heran (to hear) are set out for comparison.
  • So now look at this sentence, with the preterite form could.


A simple past tense or form.
Example sentences
  • Both of them have a raft of irregular preterites and past participles, suggesting long standing confusion.
  • Both shed and crown could therefore be taken as preterites.
  • That minimum is represented in English by verbs such as must and ought, which are modal verb with no preterite (inflected past tense).


Middle English (in the sense 'bygone, former'): from Latin praeteritus 'gone by', past participle of praeterire, from praeter 'past, beyond' + ire 'go'.

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: pret·er·ite

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