Perfect Tense in Spanish Grammar

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What is the Perfect Tense in Spanish?

The Spanish perfect tense, also pretérito perfecto/pretérito perfecto compuesto de indicativo, is used for actions completed in the recent past that have a connection to the present.

This tense is similar to the English present perfect tense (have done, have asked, have seen…) and is conjugated with the auxiliary verb haber + past participle.

Example:
Esta mañana no he hecho los deberes.I haven’t done my homework this morning.

Learn all about the perfect tense in Spanish with Lingolia, then practise in the exercises.

Example

Esta semana Antonio ha ordenado su oficina.

Ha planeado mantener el orden en el futuro.

When to use the perfect tense in Spanish

We use the Spanish perfect tense to express:

  • actions completed within a period of time that is still viewed as the present (hoy, esta mañana/semana, este mes/verano/año/siglo …)
    Example:
    Esta semana Antonio ha ordenado su oficina.This week, Antonio tidied up his office.
  • completed actions whose results influence the present or future
    Example:
    Antonio ha ordenado su oficina.Antonio has tidied up his office.
    result: his office is tidy now
    Ha planeado mantener el orden en el futuro.He has decided to keep it organised in the future.
    result: his office will be tidy in future

How to conjugate the Spanish perfect tense

To conjugate the perfect tense in Spanish grammar, we need the present indicative form the verb haber followed by the past participle (participio pasado) of the main verb. See the table below:

Person haber Past Participle
yo he

hablado

aprendido

vivido

has
él/ella/usted ha
nosotros/-as hemos
vosotros/-as habéis
ellos/ellas/ustedes han

The Spanish past participle

The past participle is formed by replacing the infinitive endings -ar, -er and -ir with the corresponding participle ending: -ar-ado, -er/-ir-ido.

Example:
hablar - hablado
aprender - aprendido
vivir - vivido

Reflexive Verbs

When the main verb is reflexive, we place the reflexive pronoun (me, te, se, nos, os, se) before the auxiliary verb haber.

Example:
beberseTe has bebido el vaso de agua de un trago.You drank the glass of water in one go!

Irregular past participles

  • When an -ido ending is preceded by a vowel, we add an accent to the -i of the ending. This shows us that each vowel is spoken separately (i.e. not a diphthong).

    Example:
    leer – ldo
    traer – trdo
  • Some Spanish verbs have two past participle forms: one regular and one irregular. Both forms are correct, although the usage varies in different regions of Spain and Latin America. The table below provides an overview of some of the most common irregular past participles:
Verb Irregular Participle Regular Participle
abriropen abierto
decirsay dicho
escribirwrite escrito
hacerdo/make hecho
freírfry frito freído
imprimirprint impreso imprimido
morirdie muerto
ponerput puesto
proveerprovide provisto proveído
suscribirsign/subscribe suscrito/suscripto
versee visto
volverreturn vuelto

Irregular verbs and their derivatives

Verbs formed by adding a prefix to an irregular verb maintain the same irregularities in their participle forms:

Examples:
encubrir → encubierto
descubrir → descubierto
componer → compuesto
posponer → pospuesto
proponer → propuesto
resolver → resuelto
revolver → revuelto
devolver → devuelto
deshacer → deshecho
prever → previsto