Past tenses – part 4: Pretérito pluscuamperfecto

Grammatik: Spanish verbs

Past tenses – part 4:
Pretérito pluscuamperfecto (Past perfect)

Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto is used to indicate an action in the past which took place before another action in the past. For example: When we arrived at the station, the train had already left. This tense is much the same as the English Past Perfect and is formed using the auxiliary verb haber in the imperfect past tense + participio.

pronounhaber + participio
yohabía estudiado
habías estudiado
él, ella, ustedhabía estudiado
nosotroshabíamos estudiado
vosotroshabíais estudiado
ellos, ustedeshabían estudiado

When to use Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto?

The preceding past tense is used to express an action in the past that was completed before another action in the past:

  • Fuimos al kiosko pero había cerrado. We went to the kiosk but it had already closed.

  • De camino a casa vimos a Manuel que ya había lavado el coche. On our way home we saw Manuel who had already washed his car.

Please note that sometimes the meaning of “preceding” is inherent in the context. The second verb, before which the action was completed in the past, does not have to be present in the sentence. Read the following examples carefully and try to find how the notion of “preceding” is implied

  • El cielo estaba rojo. Nunca habíamos visto nada igual. The sky was red. We had never seen anything like that before.

  • Pablo dijo que había sido un día complicado. Pablo said that it had been a difficult day.
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