PRESENT PERFECT TENSE: Spanish grammar (A2)

Present perfect tense

The PRESENT PERFECT TENSE  or PRETÉRITO PERFECTO describes what a person has done in an indeterminate point the past, it used very much to talk about experiences when it is not important when the event(s) took place, or to talk about an action that happened in the recent past.

Hemos ido a Bolivia dos veces (We have gone to Bolivia twice-it is not important when.)

He visto a Mercedes en el pasillo (I have seen Mercedes on the corridor- I understand that recently.)

 Formation of the present perfect

1. Because the present perfect tense is a compound tense, you will be working with two verbs, not one. To form verbs in this tense, first conjugate haber (to have) in the present (not tener, even though it means to have too):

HABER – to have (auxiliary)
(yo) he (nosotros, -as) hemos
(tu) has (vosotros, -as) habéis
(usted) ha (ustedes) han
(el, ella) ha (ellos, -as) han

2. The conjugated form of haber is then followed by the past participle of the desired verb. Most past participle in Spanish are regulars. The pattern for regular past participles are below:

  • -ar verbs, drop the ar ending and replace it with –ado: hablar = hablado.
  • -er verbs, drop the –er ending and replace it with –ido: comer = comido.
  • -ir verbs, drop the –ir ending and replace it with ido: recibir = recibido.

Ya has hablado con Enrique (you have already spoken to Enrique.)

Nunca he comido ceviche (I have never eaten ceviche.)

Todavia no hemos recibido los regalos (We haven’t received the present yet.)

There are several commun verbs that have irregular past participles: ver =visto, ir= ido, hacer = hecho, escribir = escrito, decir = dicho, volver = vuelto, abrir= abierto, poner = puesto, morir= muerto, imprimir=  impreso... (learn more about past participles).

3. The auxiliary verb (haber) and the past participle are never separated in Spanish, unlike English. If object pronouns are present, they go immediately before haber.

¿Los has visto? (Have you seen them?)

Se las he dado. (I have given them to her.)

4. It is mainly used with expressions such as nunca (never), ya (already), todavía no (not yet), a veces (sometimes), ¿alguna vez (ever)?

This form is very widely used in Spain, while in Latin and South America, the preterite is used more often. In the following examples, you can see some differences between both ways to use this tense:

Este mes he viajado a Perú. (This month I have traveled to Peru-Spain.)

Este mes viajé a Perú. (This month I traveled to Peru-America.)

Hoy he llegado tarde a trabajar. (Today I have arrived late to work– Spain.)

Hoy llegué tarde a trabajar. (Today I arrived late to work-America.)

5. The present perfect tense is NOT used:

  • to indicate an action still in progress. The present tense is used to do this:

Hace tres años que vivo aquí. (I have lived here for three years.)

  • to express the idea to have just done something. It is more common to use the periphrasis acabar + de to convey this idea.

Acabo de leer este libro. (I have just finished reading this book.)

6. Now, you can practice with our quizzes everything that you have learned and don’t forget to check the past participles entry.

You can also learn how the present perfect works in context by watching the video “¿Alguna vez has viajado en barco?”  or listening to the podcast_042: Un día en la selva (A1).  Remember to contact your tutor with any question you have or to ask for more homework. Don’t you have a Spanish personal tutor yet?

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Thank you for a very helpful summary! The present perfect can be a confusing topic so this page is extremely useful 🙂

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