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Past perfect in Spanish

The past perfect is conjugated by using the imperfect tense of haber as the auxiliary verb, followed by the past participle of the main verb.

  • Ellos ya habían visto la película que yo quería ver.
    • They had already seen the movie that I wanted to watch.

 

Use the following conjugations of haber for the past perfect tense.

yo había… I had
tú habías… you had
él/ella/usted había… he/she/you had
nosotros habíamos… we had
vosotros habíais… you all had
ellos/ellas/ustedes habían… they/you all had

 

**Click here for a review of the past participle

 

The past perfect is used to talk about actions that had occured prior to another event in the past.

  • Mi familia ya había comido cuando por fin llegué.
    • My family had already eaten when I finally arrived.
  • Los estudiantes dijeron que ya habían hecho la tarea.
    • The students said that they had already done the homework.

 

The past perfect may also be used in its subjunctive form as well for commenting in the past on things that happened previous to the comment.

  • Yo quería que me hubieran esperado.
    • I was hoping they had waited for me.
  • ¿Dudabas que yo lo hubiera llamado
    • Did you doubt that I had called him?

Past subjunctive conjugations

yo hubiera… I have
tú hubieras… you have
él/ella/usted hubiera… he/she has.. you have
nosotros hubiéramos… we have
vosotros habéis… you all have
ellos/ellas/ustedes hubieran… they/ you all have



Unlike in English when the auxiliary “have” and the main verb cannot be separated in the present perfect, in Spanish, haber and the past participle must stay together.

 

  • Ellos ya habían decidido no venir .
    • They had already decided not to come.
  • María no había visto a nadie.

    • Maria had not seen anyone.

 

Since the auxiliary and main verb cannot be separated, object pronouns, as well as reflexive pronouns, must be placed before haber.

  • Mis padres me habían llamado tres veces ese día.
    • My parents had called me three times that day.
  • ¿Se habían dormido?
    • Had they fallen asleep?

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