How To Master The Past Perfect Spanish Tense In 5 Minutes


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In Spanish, there are five different ways to speak about the past, and in this post, you’ll learn how to master the Past Perfect Spanish tense (or pluscuamperfecto in Español),

(PS, we did a comprehensive breakdown of each Spanish past tense here)

Fortunately, this tense is relatively straightforward – so let’s not waste any more time and get started.

When To Use Past Perfect Spanish (aka pluscuamperfecto)

Spanish speakers use the past perfect tense to talk about an action that took place in the past, prior to another already completed action.

Although it may sound a little bit confusing at first, you can think of this tense as the Spanish equivalent to “I had done this…” in English.

For example:

  • I had lived with a few roommates before finding my first place for myself

As you can see, this sentence refers to an action that was completed, prior to a separate past action.

However, the concept of an action being completed before another previous action doesn’t always need to be explicitly stated.

In many cases, it will be implied due to previous context, or by assumption.

  • I had studied enough before taking the test (stated)
  • I had studied enough (implied)

Past Perfect Spanish Conjugation

If you’re already familiar with the present perfect tense (and we recommend that you are), then you’ll immediately recognise that the past perfect conjugation is very similar.

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)

As a reminder, below is the auxiliary verb haber, conjugated in the imperfect tense.

Subject Haber English
Yo Había I had
Habías You had
Él, ella Había He/she had
Ustedes Habían You (plural) had
Nosotros Habíamos We had
Ellos Habían They had

Once you know how to conjugate haber, all you need to do is add the past participle of the action verb.

Remember, the past participle is normally formed by changing the ending of the action verb and adding -ado for verbs ending in -AR, or -ido for verbs ending in -ER or -IR.

Let’s review some examples of past participles.

AR Verbs …ado English
Ayudar Ayudado Helped
Buscar Buscado Searched
Escuchar Escuchado Heard
Caminar Caminado Walked
ER and IR  verbs …ido English
Poder Podido Could
Comer Comido Eaten
Vivir Vivido Lived
Sentir Sentido Felt

Of course, there are some exceptions to the general past participle rule.

Below is a list of the most common irregular verbs which require a different past participle.

Verb Past Participle English
Abrir Abierto Opened
Cubrir Cubierto Covered
Devolver Devuelto Returned
Escribir Escrito Wrote
Hacer Hecho Made
Resolver Resuelto Resulted
Satisfacer Satisfecho Satisfied
Decir Dicho Said
Descubrir Descubierto Discovered
Volver Vuelto Returned
Imponer Impuesto Imposed
Morir Muerto Died
Poner Puesto Put
Romper Roto Broken
Ver Visto Seen

Just to recap.

In this post, we explained:

1) how to conjugate the auxiliary verb haber

2) how to find the past participle of the action verb

Remember this gives us the formula:

subject + haber in the imperfect + action verb in its participle (-ado/-ido)

One last thing to mention is that the auxiliary verb and the past participle cannot be separated under any circumstance.

And now you’re ready to start using past perfect Spanish.

Let’s finish by reviewing some examples of the past perfect tense in action, so you can practice translating directly.

  • Ese día había sido un desastre (That day had been a disaster)
  • María no había viajado en tren hasta ayer (María had not traveled by train until yesterday)
  • La audiencia había disfrutado mucho del concierto. (The audience had enjoyed the concert a lot)
  • Michelle había ido en la mañana a pagar los pasajes (Michelle had gone in the morning to pay for the tickets)
  • Pedro siempre había tenido motocicletas (Pedro had always had motorcycles)

Practice: Past Perfect Spanish Tense

How well do you understand the past perfect tense? Simply add the correct conjugated verbs to the below sentences.

(you’ll find the answers at the bottom of the page.)

1.- Nosotros nunca ________ (pedir) ayuda con esto.

We had never asked for help with this.

2.- ¿Ustedes ya ________  (trabajar) con nosotros?

Had you guys worked with us before?

3.- Yo les ________  (permitir) hacer muchas cosas.

I had allowed them to do many things.

4.- Pero tú no ________  (usar) algo así antes.

But you had never used something like that before.

5.- ________  (encontrar) algunas cosas así o al menos similares.

I had found some things like that or at least similar.

6.- Ustedes ya  ________  (venir) acá, ¿no recuerdan?

You had already come here, don’t you remember?

7.- ________  (estudiar) toda la semana para este examen.

I had studied all week for this test.

8.- ________  (confiar) en que eso serviría.

I had trusted this would work.

9.- Aún no  ________  (limpiar) la mesa cuando se sentaron.

I hadn’t cleaned the table by the time they sat down.

10.- Nunca  ________  (intentar) algo así.

I had never tried something like this before.


1.- Nosotros nunca habíamos pedido ayuda con esto.

2.- ¿Ustedes ya habían trabajado con nosotros?

3.- Yo les había permitido hacer muchas cosas.

4.- Pero tú no habías usado algo así antes.

5.- Había encontrado algunas cosas así o al menos similares.

6.- Ustedes ya habían venido acá, ¿no recuerdan?

7.- Había estudiado toda la semana para este examen.

8.- Había confiado en que eso serviría.

9.- Aún no había limpiado la mesa cuando se sentaron.

10.- Nunca había intentado algo así.


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