What is the perfect tense?
The perfect tense - Easy Learning Grammar Spanish
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.
1 Using the perfect tense
- In English, we use the perfect tense (have, has or their shortened forms ’ve and ’s followed by a past participle such as spoken, eaten, lived, been) to talk about what has or hasn’t happened today, this week, this year or in our lives up to now.
- The Spanish perfect tense is used in a similar way.
|He terminado el libro.||I’ve finished the book.|
|¿Has fregado el suelo?||Have you washed the floor?|
|Nunca ha estado en Bolivia.||He’s never been to Bolivia.|
|Ha vendido su caballo.||She has sold her horse.|
|Todavía no hemos comprado un ordenador.||We still haven’t bought a computer.|
|Ya se han ido.||They’ve already left.|
Grammar Extra!You may also come across uses of the perfect tense in Spanish to talk about actions completed in the very recent past. In English, we’d use the past simple tense in such cases.
|¿Lo has visto?||Did you see that?|
2 Forming the perfect tense
- As in English, the perfect tense in Spanish has two parts to it. These are:
- the present tense of the verb haber (meaning to have)
- a part of the main verb called the past participle.
3 Forming the past participle
- To form the past participle of regular -ar verbs, take off the -ar ending of the infinitive and add -ado.
|hablar (to speak)||→||hablado (spoken)|
- To form the past participle of regular -er or -ir verbs, take off the -er or -ir ending of the infinitive and add -ido.
|comer (to eat)||→||comido (eaten)|
|vivir (to live)||→||vivido (lived)|
4 The perfect tense of some regular verbs
- The following table shows how you can combine the present tense of haber with the past participle of any verb to form the perfect tense.
|Present of haber||Past participle||Meaning|
|(yo)||he||hablado||I have spoken|
|(tú)||has||trabajado||you have worked|
|(él/ella/usted)||ha||comido||he/she/it has eaten, you have eaten|
|(nosotros/nosotras)||hemos||vendido||we have sold|
|(vosotros/vosotras)||habéis||vivido||you have lived|
|(ellos/ellas/ustedes)||han||decidido||they/you have decided|
|Has trabajado mucho.||You’ve worked hard.|
|No he comido nada.||I haven’t eaten anything.|
- Note that you should not confuse haber with tener. Even though they both mean to have, haber is mainly only used for forming tenses and in certain impersonal expressions such as hay and había meaning there is, there are, there was, there were, and so on.
- For further information on Impersonal verbs, see Impersonal verbs.
5 Verbs with irregular past participles
- Some past participles are irregular. There aren’t too many, so try to learn them.
|abrir (to open)||→||abierto (opened)|
|cubrir (to cover)||→||cubierto (covered)|
|decir (to say)||→||dicho (said)|
|escribir (to write)||→||escrito (written)|
|freír (to fry)||→||frito or freído (fried)|
|hacer (to do, to make)||→||hecho (done, made)|
|morir (to die)||→||muerto (died)|
|oír (to hear)||→||oído (heard)|
|poner (to put)||→||puesto (put)|
|romper (to break)||→||roto (broken)|
|ver (to see)||→||visto (seen)|
|volver (to return)||→||vuelto (returned)|
|He abierto una cuenta en el banco.||I’ve opened a bank account.|
|No ha dicho nada.||He hasn’t said anything.|
|Hoy he hecho muchas cosas.||I’ve done a lot today.|
|Todavía no he hecho los deberes.||I haven’t done my homework yet.|
|Han muerto tres personas.||Three people have died.|
|¿Dónde has puesto mis zapatos?||Where have you put my shoes?|
|Carlos ha roto el espejo.||Carlos has broken the mirror.|
|Jamás he visto una cosa parecida.||I’ve never seen anything like it.|
|¿Ha vuelto Ana?||Has Ana come back?|
Tiphe/has/ha and so on must NEVER be separated from the past participle. Any object pronouns go before the form of haber being used, and not between the form of haber and the past participle.
|No lo he visto.||I haven’t seen it.|
|¿Lo has hecho ya?||Have you done it yet?|
6 Reflexive verbs in the perfect tense
- The perfect tense of reflexive verbs is formed in the same way as for ordinary verbs. The reflexive pronouns (me, te, se, nos, os, se) come before he, has, ha, and so on. The table on the next page shows the perfect tense of lavarse in full.
|Subject pronoun||Reflexive pronoun||Present tense of haber||Past Participle||Meaning|
|(yo)||me||he||lavado||I have washed|
|(tú)||te||has||lavado||you have washed|
|se||ha||lavado||he has washed|
she has washed
one has washed
it has washed
you have washed
|nos||hemos||lavado||we have washed|
we have washed
|os||habéis||lavado||you have washed|
you have washed
|se||han||lavado||they have washed|
they have washed
you have washed
Grammar Extra!Don’t use the perfect tense with desde, desde hace and hace ... que when talking about how long something has been going on for. Use the present tense instead.
|Está enfermo desde julio.||He has been ill since July.|
|Conduce ese coche desde hace tres meses.||He has been driving that car for three months.|
|Hace mucho tiempo que salen juntos.||They have been going out together for a long time.|
- For more information on the Present tense, see The present simple tense.
- In European Spanish you CAN use the perfect tense in the negative with desde and desde hace.
|No lo he visto desde hace mucho tiempo.||I haven’t seen him for a long time.|
- The Spanish perfect tense is formed using the present tense of haber and a past participle.
- In Spanish, the perfect tense is used very much as it is in English.
- The past participle of regular -ar verbs ends in -ado, and the past participle of regular -er and -ir verbs ends in -ido.
- Make sure you know the following irregular past participle forms: abierto, cubierto, dicho, escrito, frito, hecho, muerto, puesto, roto, visto, vuelto.