Past tenses – part 2: Pretérito perfecto compuesto

Grammar: Spanish verbs

Past tenses – part 2:
Pretérito perfecto compuesto (Present Perfect)

This past tense is called compuesto (compound) , because it consists of two parts: the auxiliary verb haber + past participle. The result is a verb form like this: He hablado con el profesor = I have spoken to the teacher. This tense is similar to the English Present Perfect. First, let’s look at the forms of the verb “haber”.

yo he
él ha
nosotros hemos
vosotros habéis
ellos han

How is the past participle formed? (Participio)

  • verbs ending in -ar ⇒ -ado: hablar ⇒ hablado

  • verbs ending in -er/-ir ⇒ ido: vivir ⇒ vivido

When is the Pretérito perfecto compuesto used?

The key to using Spanish tenses correctly is memorizing all the situations when a respective tense is used. You will then come to see that Spanish tenses form a logical system. Here are the situations in which we should use Pretérito perfecto compuesto:

  1. when we are talking about a period of time that has not yet ended at the time of speaking:
  2. Esta semana he visto muchas peliculas interesantes. This week I’ve watched a lot of interesting films.
    Hoy hemos visitado un museo. Today we’ve been to a museum.

  3. when the result of the action is still felt:
  4. He bebido demasiado. I’ve drunk too much (and that’s why I’m so drunk right now). Siempre he querido ser actor. I’ve always wanted to be an actor (I used to want to and now I still want to, or I’m already working as an actor).

  5. when the action is somehow related to the present or the future:
  6. He decidido aceptar el trabajo. I’ve decided to accept the job (I have thought about it and have made a decision).
    Hemos vuelto de las vacaciones. We have come back from holidays (hence we are here now).

Remember these indicator words for this tense:

  • hoy, hoy por la mañana, hoy a las 8 etc.
  • Hoy no he desayunado. I haven’t had breakfast today.
    Por la mañana me he duchado. I’ve had a shower this morning (the day isn’t over yet).

  • Este mes, esta semana, este año etc.
  • Este año hemos viajado mucho. We have travelled a lot this year.
    Esta semana Laura me ha llamado tres veces. Laura has called me three times this week.

  • ya, alguna vez, todavía no, por ahora, nunca (meaning “so far”)
  • ¿Has estado en Madrid alguna vez Have you ever been to Madrid?
    Ya hemos hecho el trabajo. We have done the work.

  • últimamente, en los últimos tiempos, hace poco (anything that expresses closeness to the moment)
  • Últimamente no te hemos visto. We haven’t seen you lately.
    Pedro ha tenido un accidente hace poco. Pedro has had an accident recently.

Some verbs have irregular participle forms. The table below shows the most important exceptions:

VerbParticiple (Participio)
imprimirimpreso / imprimido
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