Preterite Perfect Tense in Spanish Grammar

Just here for the exercises? Click here.

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.

Example

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.

Example:
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 past participle of the main verb.

Person haber Past Participle
yo hube

hablado

aprendido

vivido

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

Past Participle

The past participle is formed by removing the infinitive ending and adding the corresponding verb ending: -ado for verbs that end in -ar or -ido for verbs that end in -er/-ir.

Example:
hablar - hablado
aprender - aprendido
vivir - vivido

Irregular past participles

  • If there is a vowel directly before the ending -ido, we have to add an accent on the -i of the ending. This shows us that each vowel is pronounced separately and not as a diphthong.

    Example:
    leer – ldo
    traer - trdo
  • Some verbs have an irregular and/or regular participle form. These verbs can be found in the following list:
Verb Past Participle Translation
Irregular Regular
abrir abierto open – opened
decir dicho say – said
escribir escrito write – written
hacer hecho do/make – done/made
freír frito freído fry – fried
imprimir impreso imprimido print – printed
morir muerto die – died
poner puesto place/set – placed/set
proveer provisto proveído provide – provided
suscribir suscrito/suscripto sign/subscribe – signed/subscribed
ver visto see – seen
volver vuelto return – returned

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