Past Perfect Tense in Spanish Grammar

Introduction

The past perfect, also pluperfect, indicative (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.

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Usage

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.

Verb Conjugation in Spanish Past Perfect Tense

To conjugate the past perfect (pretérito pluscuamperfecto), we use the imperfect forms of the verb haber, and 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

Past Participle

We construct the past participle by removing the infinitive ending, and adding the corresponding ending: -ado for -ar verbs and -ido for -er/-ir verbs.

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 past participle translation
irregular regular
abrir abierto open
decir dicho say
escribir escrito write
hacer hecho do/make
freír frito freído fry
imprimir impreso imprimido print
morir muerto die
poner puesto place/set
proveer provisto proveído provide
suscribir suscrito/suscripto sign/subscribe
ver visto see
volver vuelto return