Preterite Perfect Tense in Spanish Grammar

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What is the preterite perfect?

The preterite perfect, also past anterior (el pretérito anterior), is a Spanish past tense that is usually only found in literary texts.

The preterite perfect indicates an action that took place directly before another past action. In modern Spanish, it is usually replaced by the pluperfect tense.

Learn about the conjugation and use of the past anterior in Spanish grammar with Lingolia, then practise in the exercises.

Head to our tense comparison section to see how the past anterior compares to the other Spanish tenses.


Tan pronto como hubo cobrado su primer sueldo, Iván corrió raudo y veloz a comprar una guitarra para poder ir a rondar a su amada.

When to use the past anterior in Spanish

The past anterior, or preterite perfect, expresses an action that took place directly before another action in the past.

Tan pronto como hubo cobrado su primer sueldo, Iván corrió raudo y veloz a comprar una guitarra para poder ir a rondar a su amada.As soon as he had received his first paycheck, Iván ran quickly to buy a guitar with which to serenade his girlfriend.

Conjugation of the preterite perfect

To conjugate the preterite perfect (pretérito anterior), we need the verb haber in the preterite tense and the participle of the main verb.

Person haber Participle
yo hube




él/ella/usted hubo
nosotros/-as hubimos
vosotros/-as hubisteis
ellos/ellas/ustedes hubieron

How to form the Spanish participle

We form the Spanish participle by adding -ado or -ido to the root of the verb.

  • add -ado to the root of -ar verbs
    hablar → habladospeak → spoken
  • add -ido to the root of -er and -ir verbs
    aprender → aprendidolearn → learned
    vivir → vividolive → lived


When the root of the verb ends in a vowel, the -i of the ending -ido takes an accent: -ído.

leer → leídoread → read
oír → oídohear → heard
traer → traídobring → brought

Note: Participles that contain a dipthong (weak vowel + weak vowel) such as construido or huido do not take an accent.

Check out our Spanish-language page on accents to learn more about dipthongs.

Irregular participles

Certain verbs have an irregular participle form as shown in the table below:

Verb Irregular Participle Regular Participle
abrir abierto
cubrir cubierto
decir dicho
escribir escrito
hacer hecho
freír* frito freído
imprimir* impreso imprimido
morir muerto
poner puesto
proveer* provisto proveído
romper roto
satisfacer satisfecho
suscribir** suscrito/suscripto
ver visto
volver vuelto

*Some verbs have two participle forms, one regular and one irregular. There is no difference in meaning and they can be used interchangeably.

**The participle suscripto is used in certain countries in Latin America.

Derivative irregular verbs

Many verbs are derivative; they are derived from irregular verbs by adding a prefix. Their participles are also irregular:

encubrir → encubiertohide → hidden
descubrir → descubiertodiscover → discovered
componer → compuestocompose → composed
posponer → pospuestopostpone → postponed
proponer → propuestopropose → proposed
revolver → revueltostir → stirred
resolver → resueltoresolve → resolved
devolver → devueltoreturn → returned
deshacer → deshechoundo → undone
predecir → predichopredict → predicted
prever → previstoforecast → forecasted

Note: although derived from the irregular verb romper, the participle of the verb corromper is regular.

corromper → corrompidocorrupt → corrupted
not: corroto

Signal words for the preterite perfect

The pretérito anterior is indicated by the following words:

  • apenas
  • así que
  • cuando
  • en cuanto
  • luego que
  • no bien
  • tan pronto como
  • una vez que