June 21, 2021 by Olga Put Spanish Grammar 0 comments
The past perfect tense in Spanish is probably the last indicative past tense that you’re learning. If you already have a firm grasp of other past tenses, you should be able to learn this one really quickly!
Whether you want to write in the past perfect tense, use it in conversations, or you just need somebody to explain the past perfect tense once for all, this article is for you.
This blog post explains the meaning of the name of this tense, how to form it, and when to use it. You’ll see lots of past perfect tense verbs in context and you’ll be able to see how much you’ve learned at the end.
Let’s get started!
What is the Past Perfect Tense in Spanish
The past perfect tense in Spanish is one of the easiest to master. It’s also called the pluperfect and el pretérito pluscuamperfecto in Spanish.
But what does past perfect tense mean?
It is a “perfect” tense, not because it’s so great but because it talks about events and actions that passed before another action or event. The English language also has perfect tenses—for example, the present perfect tense and the past perfect tense.
An English Review
The past perfect is a compound tense, made up of a helping verb and a main verb.
For example, in the sentence “I had eaten,” “had” is the helping verb and “eaten” is the main verb.
The helping verb is conjugated according to the subject, while the main verb remains in its past participle form.
What is the past participle form, you ask? It is a conjugated verb used in compound verbs (as in our example above, “had eaten”) or as an adjective (“half-eaten bread”). In English, you form the past participles by adding -ed, -d, -t, or -en to most verbs (such as “tried,” “bought,” and “broken”), which are preceded by a helping verb. Some more examples of past participles (bolded in the following phrases) are:
- I have studied.
- We had traveled.
- I have already caught it.
- The phone was stolen.
- The stolen phone.
As a brief reminder, the present perfect tense combines the present tense verb “to have” and the main verb in its past participle form.
Present Perfect: present conjugation of “have” + past participle
- have danced
- has decided
- have seen
The past perfect takes the same format, but instead uses the past tense form of “have” (instead of the present).
Past Perfect: past conjugation of “have” + past participle
- had danced
- had decided
- had seen
If you’re instead looking for the past perfect subjunctive, read “Master the Past Perfect Subjunctive.”
How to Form the Past Perfect Tense in Spanish
It’s very easy to form the past perfect indicative tense. Simply combine the auxiliary verb haber (to have, do be) in the imperfect form and add a past participle of the action verb.
NOTE! While both haber and tener mean “to have,” in Spanish, the auxiliary verb always translates to haber and never tener. (To clarify, tener always refers to having physical or abstract things, while haber most often takes the role of an auxiliary or helping verb.)
The past participles in Spanish are slightly more complicated than in English, but they aren’t too hard to master. The rules for forming the participio pasado are as follows:
For -AR verbs, add -ado. (hablado, jugado, enviado)
For -ER and -IR verbs, add -ido. (comido, ido, vivido)
Past Perfect Tense in Spanish Formula:
Subject + Haber in the imperfect + past participle of the main verb
Yo había guardado los libros antes de la comida.
I had put the books away before lunch.
Conjugation Chart of the Auxiliary verb haber in the Imperfect Tense
Let’s have a quick reminder of how to conjugate the auxiliary verb haber in the imperfect tense.
|Yo había||I had|
|Tú habías||You had|
|Él, ella, usted había||She, he, it had (fml. You had)|
|Nosotros habíamos||We had|
|Ustedes habían||You had|
|Ellos, ellas habían||They had|
Now that you know how to conjugate haber and you have the “had” part, all that is left is to add the past participle form of the main verb.
How to Create Past Participle Forms
These -ido and -ado endings for past perfect tense in Spanish are the past participle forms of verbs. You might remember from the present perfect tense how to create the past participle forms that you also need now. If not, I’ll cover it quickly here.
The past participle forms in Spanish of regular -ar verbs end in -ado, and in -ido for regular -er and -ir verbs. All you need to do is to take off the infinitive ending -ar, -er, and -ir and add the corresponding -ado or -ido past participle ending. Let’s some examples:
Amar (to love) – amado (loved)
Vivir (to love) – vivido (lived)
Comer (to eat) – comido (eaten)
Yo la había amado pero ella me dejó.
I had loved her but she left me.
En aquella casa habíamos vivido antes de mudarnos al departamento.
We had lived in that house before moving into the apartment.
Ya habíamos comido y mi abuela nos sirvió más.
We had already eaten and my grandmother served us more.
That’s easy. Now, let’s see some possible irregularities in the past participle forms that you need to make sentences in past perfect Spanish.
Accented Past Participle Forms
Some -er and -ir verbs whose stem (the part left after removing the infinitive ending) ends in a vowel have an accent mark over the letter i in the past participle -ido ending.
Examples of Some Verbs With Accented Past Participle Endings.
|atraer – atraído||to attract – attracted|
|caer – caído||to fall – fallen|
|creer – creído||to believe – believed|
|leer – leído||to read – read|
|oír – oído||to hear – heard|
|poseer – poseído||to possess – possessed|
|reír – reído||to laugh – laughed|
|sonreír – sonreído||to smile – smiled|
|traer – traído||to bring – brought|
Lo miró, pero ya había caído demasiado abajo para verlo.
He looked at it, but it had already fallen too low to see it.
Antes de casarse con él, ella ya había poseído una gran fortuna.
Before marrying him, she had already possessed a great fortune.
Siempre se había reído de mí y mira lo que le pasó.
He had always laughed at me and look at what happened to him.
Irregular Past Participle Forms
There are some past participle irregulars that don’t follow rules of any kind and you need to learn them by heart to use them correctly in the past perfect tense form. You probably already know most of them by studying the present perfect tense formation.
Past Participle Irregulars Chart
|abrir – abierto||to open – opened|
|absolver – absuelto||to absolve – absolved|
|cubrir – cubierto||to cover – covered|
|decir – dicho||to say – said|
|escribir – escrito||to write – written|
|hacer – hecho||to do – done|
|morir – muerto||to die – died|
|poner – puesto||to put – put|
|resolver – resuelto||to solve – solved|
|romper – roto||to break – broken|
|satisfacer – satisfecho||to satisfy – satisfied|
|ver – visto||to see – seen|
|volver – vuelto||to return – returned|
Pensé que ya había resuelto el problema pero no.
I thought I had solved the problem but no.
No había visto nada así hasta que se mudó a Europa.
He hadn’t seen anything like it until he moved to Europe.
Pidió perdón porque me había hecho daño.
She asked for forgiveness because she had hurt me.
Object Pronouns Placement With the Past Perfect Tense Verbs
The auxiliary verb haber and the main verb in the past participle are never separated. That’s why if you need to add any object pronouns they will always go before the verb haber.
For example, you cannot say “ya había lo visto antes.” (incorrect)
The correct form is: ya lo había visto antes (I had seen it before).
Lo busqué pero alguien ya se lo había llevado.
I looked for it but someone had already taken it away.
Nunca la había visto antes de aquella noche.
I had never seen her before that night.
When to Use the Past Perfect Participle in Spanish
As I mentioned earlier, the past perfect or pluperfect in Spanish refers to an action that took place before another past action.
Ella había llegado antes que sus padres.
She had arrived before her parents.
NOTE: Her parents arrived at some point in the past but she had arrived even earlier, hence you have to put it in the past perfect tense.
Let’s see more examples before you take the quiz below!
Ya te habías ido de la fiesta cuando yo llegué.
You had already left when I arrived.
¡Habías visto la película antes que yo!
You had seen the movie before me!
Corrimos hacia la puerta del embarque pero el avión ya había despegado.
We ran to the gate but the plane had already taken off.
Ella había preparado todo antes de la ceremonia de la mañana.
She had prepared everything before the morning ceremony.
Ya se habían hecho muy amigas cuando llegó la hora de ir a casa.
They had already become very good friends when it was time to go home.
Congratulations! I think you’re ready to see how much you know.
The Past Perfect Tense in Spanish – Multiple Choice Quiz
Now, the moment has come. Try this multiple-choice quiz on the past perfect tense in Spanish to feel proud of yourself! Remember, there’s only one correct answer for each question.
1. Nosotros nunca ________________ ayuda económica antes del 2019. (We had never asked for financial aid before 2019.)
2. Ya ________________ antes de nuestro encuentro en la Ciudad de México. (I had already seen her before our meeting in Mexico City.
3. Ya lo ________________ hecho antes de que yo naciera. (You had already done it before I was born.)
4. Nosotros ________________ bebido demasiada coca cola y por eso nos dolió la panza a todos. (We had drunk too much coca cola and that’s why our stomach hurt.)
5. Nadie ________________ y de todas formas le preguntaron a mi hermano. (Nobody had believed me and they asked my brother anyway.)
6. ________________ salido demasiado temprano y no vieron la emocionante final. (They had left too early and did not see the exciting finale.)
7. ¡Yo no ________________! ¡Se cayó solo! (I hadn’t broken it! It fell by itself!)
8. ________________ muy guapo pero la princesa ni lo miró. (He had become very handsome but the princess did not even look at him.)
9. Esa tienda ________________ antes del 1955. (That store had been opened before 1955.)
10. Su mama ________________ de toda la culpa pero él nunca se perdonó. (His mother had absolved him of all guilt but he never forgave himself.)
The Past Perfect Tense in Spanish Quiz
Wow, you've mastered the past perfect tense in Spanish!
You've got a solid understanding of how to use the past perfect tense in Spanish and the quality of your Spanish conversations are exploding through the roof!
You've almost mastered the past perfect tense in Spanish. Your consistent practice is leading to better results!
As you keep up your hard work and practice, you're starting to understand better how to use the past perfect tense in Spanish. For more study materials, keep up-to-date with our newest published blog posts at Homeschool Spanish Academy. *YOU'RE ALMOST THERE! You can do it!* Do you prefer learning with videos? Check out our YouTube channel Spanish Academy TV for the best Spanish learning content on the web!
Practice makes perfect! Keep on studying!
Your motivation to learn Spanish is an essential ingredient to success! If you're ready to take your Spanish to the next level and master the past perfect tense in Spanish, then join us for a free Spanish class with one of our friendly, certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. Sign up today!
How does it feel to be a master of the past perfect tense in Spanish? Great, doesn’t it? Do you want to practice it now in live conversation? Sign up for a free class, in a 1-on-1, student-tailored environment with professional, native Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala. Remember, that to be considered fluent, you need to be able to use what you know.
Don’t wait any longer. Just imagine how great it will be to travel to Latin America or to Spain and be able to communicate without a google translator!
Ready to learn more Spanish grammar? Check these out!
- Spanish Grammar Exercises for Beginners with Answer Keys
- 5 Essential Conjugation Charts for Improving Your Grammar Skills
- The Top 5 Spanish Grammar Rules You Can’t Afford to Ignore
- Connecting the Dots: Why Spanish Conjunctions Are Essential for Fluency
- Llegar vs Llevar in Spanish: What’s the Difference?
- 10 Essential Ways to Use “Que” in Spanish
- Solo vs Solamente: What’s the Difference?
- What Is an Infinitive in Spanish?
- Recent Posts
Freelance Writer at Homeschool Spanish Academy
I'm a Spanish philologist, teacher, and freelance writer with a Master's degree in Humanities from Madrid. I speak Polish, Spanish, and English fluently, and want to get better in Portuguese and German. A lover of literature, and Mexican spicy cuisine, I've lived in Poland, Spain, and Mexico and I'm currently living and teaching in Madeira, Portugal.
Latest posts by Olga Put (see all)
- Hispanic Mom Wisdom: Quotes and Phrases to Live By - May 15, 2023
- 5 Essential Conjugation Charts for Improving Your Grammar Skills - May 14, 2023
- Spring into Spanish: Top Kids’ Songs for the Season - April 30, 2023
grammar grammar quiz spanish grammar
The pluscuamperfecto—or the “past perfect” or “pluperfect” in English—is one of Spanish's many tenses used to talk about actions that happened in the past.What is the pluscuamperfecto tense in Spanish? ›
The Spanish pretérito pluscuamperfecto (or pluperfect in English) is used to describe events or actions that have happened further back in the past than a past action we are referring to. If you think about it in English, it would be something like: “When I got home yesterday, my mom had already left for work.What is an example of pluscuamperfecto tense? ›
|El sol ya había empezado a ponerse cuando llegué.||The sun had already started to set when I arrived.|
|Ya había salido (cuando llamaste).||I had already left (when you called).|
|Fui al mercado por la mañana; ya había ido al banco.||I went to the store this morning; I had already gone to the bank.|
The difference between the tenses is when you use them. Pluperfect is commonly used in conversation. Preterit perfect is commonly used in formal writing and literature. In most cases, you're going to use the pluperfect.How do you form El pluscuamperfecto? ›
The pluperfect subjunctive (pluscuamperfecto subjuntivo) is formed with: the past (or imperfect) subjunctive of the auxiliary verb haber + the past participle of the main verb. Ella hubiera sido mejor presidenta yo creo que la otra muchacha. She would have been a better president than the other girl, I think.What form is pluscuamperfecto? ›
Form. The Pluscuamperfecto is a compound tense, which means that is formed with the auxiliary verb, “haber” in the imperfect tense and followed the participe of the verb.What is the past perfect tense in Spanish? ›
Past perfect Spanish requires you to use the verb haber (to have) and conjugate it in the imperfect tense as an auxiliary verb, and then add the necessary past participle of the action verb. This gives us the following formula: subject + haber in the imperfect + action verb in its participle (-ado/-ido)What is past perfect pluperfect in Spanish? ›
In English, we often use had followed by a past participle such as spoken, eaten, lived or been talk about something that had happened in the past. This tense is known as the pluperfect or past perfect tense. The Spanish pluperfect tense is used and formed in a similar way. Ya habíamos comido cuando llegó.When to use past perfect? ›
Functions of the past perfect
The past perfect refers to a time earlier than before now. It is used to make it clear that one event happened before another in the past. It does not matter which event is mentioned first - the tense makes it clear which one happened first. when I arrived in the office.
- Raj has just gone out to the market.
- The clock has just struck twelve.
- We have gone for a walk.
- Toby has eaten all the cookies. ( ...
- My mother has cut her finger. ( ...
- I have done all my homework.
- I have been in Pune for one week.
Examples of phrases in the perfect tense include he visitado (I have visited) and hemos comprado (we have bought).What is perfect tense vs pluperfect? ›
The perfect tense indicates that an action was/is/will be completed before some other action. The pluperfect indicates that the action was completed before some other action in the past.What are the 4 past tenses in Spanish? ›
There are four past tenses in Spanish; the perfecto, the indefinido, the imperfecto and the pluscuamperfecto. These four tenses dance together when we tell stories about the past or anecdotes… The four are necessary to express when the action happens, but also to set up the context of that past story.How to tell the difference between present perfect and past perfect in Spanish? ›
Like its English counterpart, the Spanish past perfect is used to talk about actions which happened or started in the past, or generally about experiences the subject has had in their life. The present perfect is normally used to express some relevant past information that has to do with the current situation.Is The past perfect and pluperfect the same? ›
The past perfect, also called the pluperfect, is a verb tense used to talk about something that happened before something else that is also in the past.How do you identify a pluperfect? ›
The pluperfect tense (or past perfect in English) is used to describe finished actions that have been completed at a definite point in time in the past. It is easiest to understand it as a past 'past' action. For example: 'I had given the messuage to Lucy, when I realised my mistake.How do you conjugate the pluperfect? ›
- -ar verbs → -ado.
- -er verbs → -ido.
- -ir verbs → -ido.
The past perfect subjunctive follows the structure haber in the imperfect subjunctive + past participle of the main verb (e.g. acabado, tenido, salido…/finished, had, left…). Me hubiera gustado mucho ir a tu fiesta. I would have loved to come to your party.What is the perfect tense in Spanish? ›
In Spanish, as in English, the perfect tense is a verb form used to talk about what has or hasn't happened; for example, I've broken my glasses; We haven't spoken about it. He terminado el libro. I've finished the book. ¿Has fregado el suelo?What are past perfect tense verbs? ›
The past perfect is made from the verb had and the past participle of a verb: I had finished the work. She had gone. The past perfect continuous is made from had been and the -ing form of a verb: I had been working there for a year.
The perfect tense ( he hecho) is used for past events which have just happened and are relevant to the speaker in the present. The imperfect tense (hablaba/comia/dormia) is used for past events which were repeated and are relevant to the speaker in the present.Why is past perfect called pluperfect? ›
The word derives from the Latin plus quam perfectum, "more than perfect". The word "perfect" in this sense means "completed"; it contrasts with the "imperfect", which denotes uncompleted actions or states.How do you use past perfect tense in a sentence? ›
- After Sofie had finished her work, she went to lunch.
- I washed the floor when the painter had gone.
- Harold had known about it for a while.
- I didn't say anything until she had finished talking.
- After she had moved out, I found her notes.
- Before I knew it, she had run out the door.
We use after + past perfect to talk about an action that happened before something else. After the exams had finished, they had a party. (The exams finished, and then they had a party.) We had dinner after Mum had phoned.What is an example of a past perfect tense conversation? ›
Natasha : The sun had risen before we got up today. Kunal : I had already gone for a walk before the sun rose. Natasha : The thief had run away before the police came. Kunal : Had the police not left the station before you reached?What are the 4 types of the perfect tense? ›
The English perfect tenses (present perfect, present perfect progressive/continuous, past perfect, past perfect progressive/continuous, future perfect, & future perfect progressive/continuous) are all used to make connections in time.What are the 20 examples of present perfect tense? ›
- I have written articles on different topics.
- He has read various kinds of books.
- They have played football.
- She has taken coffee.
- He has gone to the library.
- We have shopped in this market.
- We have watched movies in this Cineplex.
- You have shopped in that market.
- I have finished my work.
- You have finished your work.
- He has finished his work.
- She has finished her work.
- They have finished their work.
- I have been working on this project for a week.
- You have been working on this project for a week.
- He has been working on this project for a week.
- She has been working on this project for a week.
- They have been working on this project for a week.
|He, she, it has walked||He, she, hasn't walked||Has he, she, it walked?|
|We have walked||We haven't walked||Have we walked?|
|You have walked||You haven't walked||Have you walked?|
|They have walked||They haven't walked||Have they walked?|
|We have been living||We haven't been living||Have we been living?|
|You have been living||You haven't been living||Have you been living?|
|They have been living||They haven't been living||Have they been living?|
Verbs can appear in any one of three perfect tenses: present perfect, past perfect, and future perfect.What are the 2 past tenses in Spanish? ›
However, it's important to note that there is no pasado simple in Spanish. Instead, two different tenses exist in Spanish that translate to the simple past in English: el pretérito and el imperfecto. El pretérito is for actions that took place one time.What are the 5 past tenses in Spanish? ›
There are five Spanish past tenses that are used in different situations. These tenses are the preterite, imperfect, past progressive, present perfect and past perfect. You will most often use the preterite and imperfect past tenses while the other three are less common, but still good to know.What are the 7 tenses in Spanish? ›
- Present (presente)
- Imperfect (pretérito imperfecto)
- Preterite (pretérito indefinido)
- Future (futuro simple or futuro imperfecto)
- Simple conditional (condicional simple or pospretérito)
- Present perfect (pretérito perfecto)
- Past perfect or pluperfect (pretérito pluscuamperfecto)
Past and Past perfect are two types of tenses used in English grammar with difference between them. While past tense is used to describe an event that was completed, past perfect tense is used to describe an event that was completed long ago.What is the difference between past tense and past perfect tense with examples? ›
These two tenses are both used to talk about things that happened in the past. However we use past perfect to talk about something that happened before another action in the past, which is usually expressed by the past simple. For example: "I had already eaten my dinner when he called."How to differentiate between past indefinite and past perfect tense? ›
While both tenses tend to talk about things that happened in the past, the two clearly have differences. Past simple expresses actions that occurred in the past, while past perfect talks about something that occurred before another past event or action.What is the difference past perfect continuous and past perfect? ›
As mentioned earlier, past perfect talks about an action or event that is set and done in the past. Past perfect continuous talks about longer actions in the past before another action in the past. I had written my book when she came. Here, we are referring to an action that was finished in the past.What is the main difference between present perfect and past perfect? ›
What is Their Main Difference? The main difference between present perfect and past perfect is that present perfect talks about an action that happened in the past and is still ongoing in the present whereas past perfect talks about an action that has occurred in the past.
Past perfect simple or past perfect continuous?
|I'd waited an hour for the bus.||Past perfect simple emphasises the completion of the activity (the waiting is over).|
|I'd been waiting an hour for the bus.||Past perfect continuous focuses on the duration of the activity.|
Past perfect Spanish requires you to use the verb haber (to have) and conjugate it in the imperfect tense as an auxiliary verb, and then add the necessary past participle of the action verb. This gives us the following formula: subject + haber in the imperfect + action verb in its participle (-ado/-ido)What is the pluperfect past perfect tense in Spanish? ›
In English, we often use had followed by a past participle such as spoken, eaten, lived or been talk about something that had happened in the past. This tense is known as the pluperfect or past perfect tense. The Spanish pluperfect tense is used and formed in a similar way. Ya habíamos comido cuando llegó.Is past participle the same as pluperfect? ›
The main difference between Past Perfect and Past Participle is that Past perfect is a Tense whereas Past Participle is a verb form. Past Perfect is one of the past tenses used to indicate that one of the two past actions took place before another in a sentence.What is past perfect tense examples in Spanish? ›
As I mentioned earlier, the past perfect or pluperfect in Spanish refers to an action that took place before another past action. Ella había llegado antes que sus padres. She had arrived before her parents.How do you use past perfect? ›
We use the past perfect simple (had + past participle) to talk about time up to a certain point in the past. She'd published her first poem by the time she was eight. We'd finished all the water before we were halfway up the mountain. Had the parcel arrived when you called yesterday?What is the past perfect tense example translation? ›
Past perfect + just
The train had just left when I arrived at the station. She had just left the room when the police arrived. I had just put the washing out when it started to rain.
The past perfect, also called the pluperfect, is a verb tense used to talk about something that happened before something else that is also in the past.What is the difference between present perfect and pluscuamperfecto? ›
Presente perfecto vs. Pluscuamperfecto | Compare Spanish Words - SpanishDict. "Presente perfecto" is a noun which is often translated as "present perfect", and "pluscuamperfecto" is a noun which is often translated as "past perfect".What is past perfect present perfect in Spanish? ›
Simple past: Yo comí (I ate) Present perfect: Yo he comido (I have eaten) Past perfect: Yo había comido (I had eaten) Past progressive: Yo estaba comiendo (I was eating)
The pluperfect tense (or past perfect in English) is used to describe finished actions that have been completed at a definite point in time in the past. It is easiest to understand it as a past 'past' action. For example: 'I had given the messuage to Lucy, when I realised my mistake.What is the difference between participle and past participle? ›
There are two types of participles: present participles and past participles. Present participles end in –ing, while past participles end in –ed, -en, -d, -t, or –n. A present participle is the –ing form of a verb when it is used as an adjective.What's the difference between past tense and past participle? ›
So, what's the difference between the past tense and the past participle? Basically, the past tense is a tense while the past participle is a specific verb form used in the past and present perfect tenses. The past participle is not a tense. It's a form of a verb and can't be used on its own.What is the difference between present participle and past participle and perfect participle? ›
Participle clauses enable us to say information in a more economical way. They are formed using present participles (going, reading, seeing, walking, etc.), past participles (gone, read, seen, walked, etc.) or perfect participles (having gone, having read, having seen, having walked, etc.).