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or preterite

[pret-er-it] /ˈprɛt ər ɪt/
noun, Grammar.
past (def 12).
a preterit tense.
a verb form in this tense.
Grammar. noting a past action or state.
Archaic. bygone; past.
Origin of preterit
1300-50; Middle English < Latin praeteritus past, past participle of praeterīre to go by, equivalent to praeter- preter- + -i-, base of īre to go + -tus past participle suffix; as tense name < Latin (tempus) praeteritum
Related forms
preteritness, noun Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for preterite
Historical Examples
  • May I venture to suggest a pun on the preterite of the verb to speak?

  • Fit, an Americanism denoting the preterite of the verb to fight.

    The Slang Dictionary John Camden Hotten
  • Find the blind, I may remark, are pronounced to rhyme with the preterite of grin.

    Underwoods Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The preterite of to sleep (slepan), for example, was slp, and that of to weep was weop.

    The American Language Henry L. Mencken
  • Before that time the preterite of sende (send) had been sende; now it became sente.

    The American Language Henry L. Mencken
  • The preterite of to hear is heerd; the perfect may be either heerd or heern.

    The American Language Henry L. Mencken
  • I have noted "I give" both as present and as preterite, and "I have give," and even "I had give."

    The American Language Henry L. Mencken
  • In several cases this transfer of the preterite has survived.

    The American Language Henry L. Mencken
  • The preterite of the German dialect is formed by adding ium to the imperative, which is always the root of the verb.

    Carmen Prosper Merimee
  • The -en in the plural of the present and preterite tenses is frequently dropped.

British Dictionary definitions for preterite


a tense of verbs used to relate past action, formed in English by inflection of the verb, as jumped, swam
a verb in this tense
denoting this tense
Word Origin
C14: from Late Latin praeteritum (tempus) past (time, tense), from Latin praeterīre to go by, from preter- + īre to go
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for preterite

mid-14c., "having to do with the past," from Old French preterit "past tense" (13c.) and directly from Latin praeteritum (as in tempus praeteritum "time past"), past participle of praeterire "to go by, go past," from praeter "beyond, before, above, more than" (see prae-) + itum, past participle of ire "to go" (see ion). Grammar sense is late 14c. The word also was a noun in Middle English meaning "past times" (late 14c.). Related: Preteritive. Preterite-present attested from 1813.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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