Past Perfect Tense in Spanish Grammar

What is the past perfect tense in Spanish?

The past perfect, also the pluperfect (pretérito pluscuamperfecto de indicativo), is used for actions that took place before a certain time in the past. It is similar to the English past perfect tense.

Learn about the conjugation and usage of the Spanish pluperfect tense with Lingolia’s grammar rules, then test yourself in the exercises. See the subjunctive tenses for information on the conjugation and usage of the past perfect subjunctive. In tense comparison, you will find an overview of all the Spanish tenses.

Example

En una competición de talentos Luisa tocó una pieza de música muy complicada con su flauta.

Había practicado mucho para presentar esta pieza tan perfectamente.

When to use the past perfect in Spanish grammar

The Spanish pluperfect or past perfect indicative is much the same as the English past perfet tense. Use this tense to describe:

  • an action that took place before a certain point in the past
    Example:
    Había practicado mucho para presentar esta pieza tan perfectamente.She had practised for a long time to be able to play the piece so perfectly.

How to conjugate the past perfect tense in Spanish grammar

To conjugate the past perfect (pretérito pluscuamperfecto), we use the imperfect form of the verb haber, followed by the past participle of the main verb.

Person haber Past Participle
yo había

hablado

aprendido

vivido

habías
él/ella/usted había
nosotros/-as habíamos
vosotros/-as habíais
ellos/ellas/ustedes habían

Reflexive Verbs

When we use a reflexive verb in the past perfect, the reflexive pronoun (me, te, se, nos, os, se) always comes before the help verb haber.

Example:
levantarse - Ese día me había levantado muy temprano.I had got up very early that day.

How to form the past participle in Spanish

To form the Spanish past participle, replace the infinitive ending -ar with -ado and the endings -er and -ir with -ido.

Example:
hablar - hablado
aprender - aprendido
vivir - vivido

Irregular past participles

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

    Example:
    leer – ldo
    traer - trdo
  • Some verbs have an irregular and/or regular participle form. Below, is a list of irregular past participles:
Verb Irregular Participle Regular Participle
abriropen abierto
decirsay/tell 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