Simple past tense
The preterite is used for actions that can be viewed as single events.
Ella caminó por el parque.
She walked through the park.
Ellos llegaron a las ocho.
They arrived at eight o'clock.
The preterite is used for actions that were repeated a specific number of times, or occurred during a specific period of time.
Ayer escribí tres cartas.
Yesterday I wrote three letters.
Vivimos allí por cuatro años.
We lived there for four years.
The preterite is used for actions that were part of a chain of events.
She got up, dressed, and left the house.
The preterite is used to state the beginning or the end of an action.
It began to snow at eight in the morning.
Now, for some simpler rules. With short verbs like dar and ver, the only irregularity in the preterite is one that you’ll find easy to accomplish: just forget to put the accent marks in! Because the words are so short, the stress falls naturally on the right syllable.
Identical twins: ir and ser (I was or I went? Which is which? Use context clues!)
What about verbs that stem-change in the present indicative?
The –IR stem-changing verbs WILL stem change in the preterite, but only in the third person singular and plural. They follow the same rules as the present participles, except that all –o to –ue stem changers become –o to –u, and all –e to –ie stem changers become –e to –i.