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A una persona con pocos conocimientos se le dice coloquialmente "burro". Un "mataburros" es literalmente algo que elimina a los burros y de ahí que (en Argentina, por ejemplo) al diccionario se le diga "mataburros" pues ayuda a suprimir burros, es decir, personas sin conocimientos. Un caso similar sucede con "tumbaburros" que es otra de las maneras ...
Before your question, I never heard nor read about Spanish verbs that change their meaning when used in some preterite verbal tense. So I read about it, and I found out that: This issue is mainly a way to teach Spanish verbs to English speaking students. This issue is not formally stated in Spanish grammar. For example, when you analyse the verb saber, ...
According to the RAE's dictionary, "mataburros" means dictionary only in Argentina, Costa Rica, Cuba, Honduras, Uruguay and Venezuela; "tumbaburros", as you said, only in Mexico. Since "burro" is also used to refer to ignorant/rude/uncivil people, the "mataburro" becomes an object that "kills" those kind of people.
I believe that the preterite refers to the IMMINENCE of the verb. For instance, puedo and podía refer to "could have done it" in the present and past respectively, which represent POTENTIAL. Pudo (the preterite) means she just DID it, not she could have done it, and of course no pudo means the opposite. In the other example, Sé and Sabía means know and ...
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