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The Present Perfect In Spanish

What is the present perfect tense in Spanish? Despite its name in English, the Spanish present perfect tense is actually one of the past tenses in Spanish, which indicates that one "has done" some action within some specific period of time. This lesson will examine how to conjugate this useful Spanish tense as well as providing examples of when to use it. 

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How to Conjugate the Spanish Present Perfect Tense 

The present perfect tense in Spanish is relatively easy to conjugate. To do so, we should remember a simple formula: haber + participle. Let's first take a look at the present conjugation of the verb haber, which corresponds to the English "has" or "have" in the present perfect:

 

Personal Pronoun: Conjugation of Haber:
yo he
has
él/ella/usted ha 
nosotros/as hemos
vosotros/as habéis
ellos/ellas/ustedes han

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, let's examine how to conjugate the participle form of verbs in Spanish, which corresponds to English words with endings like -ed or -en, such as "taken," "looked," "baked," etc.

 

Conjugating the participle with -ar verbs:

Take the infinitive, remove the -ar, and add the suffix -ado:

 

hablar: hablado (to talk/speak: talked/spoken)

mirar: mirado (to watch: watched)

comenzar: comenzado (to start/begin: started/begun)

bailarbailado (to dance: danced)

 

Conjugating the participle with -er and -ir verbs: 

Take the infinitive, remove the -er or -ir, and add the suffix -ido:

 

comer: comido (to eat: eaten)

aprenderaprendido (to learn: learned)

recibirrecibido (to receive: received)

subir: subido (to rise/go up: risen/gone up) 

 

Irregular Participles: 

There are several irregular participle forms in Spanish that it would definitely be helpful to memorize. Here are several:

 

abrir: abierto (to open: opened)

cubrir: cubierto (to cover: covered)

decir: dicho (to say: said)

escribir: escrito (to write: written)

hacer: hecho (to do: done)

morir: muerto (to die: died)

poner: puesto (to put: put)

romper: roto (to break: broken)

resolver: resuelto (to resolve: resolved)

satisfacer: satisfecho (to satisfy: satisfied) 

ver: visto (to see: seen)

volver: vuelto (to return/returned)

 

Now that we know how to conjugate the auxiliary verb haber as well as the participle, we can conjugate verbs in and formulate sentences using the present perfect in Spanish. 

 

For example, if we wanted to say, "I have spoken," we'd take the form of the verb haber that corresponds with yo (he) and the participle of the verb hablar (to speak), hablado, to get: Yo he hablado. And, we could take hemos (we have) along with the irregular participle abierto (opened) to get Hemos abierto la puerta (We've opened the door).

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When to Use the Present Perfect in Spanish 

Ahora que hemos aprendido (Now that we've learned) how to conjugate verbs in the present perfect tense in Spanish, we should think about when to use it. Just like the present perfect in English, we use the Spanish present perfect to describe actions that have been completed within a certain period of time. As previously mentioned, because these actions were completed in the past, however recent, the present perfect is considered a past tense in Spanish, in which it is known as el pretérito perfecto (literally the "past" or "preterite perfect"). With this in mind, let's take a look at some examples:

 

Ya hemos visto que reciclar contribuye de forma importante,

We have already seen that recycling contributes in an important way,

Caption 23, 3R Campaña de reciclaje - Part 3

 Play Caption

 

¿Pero se han preguntado alguna vez cómo se cultivan y se comercializan?

But have you ever wondered how they are grown and sold?

Captions 75-76, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 16

 Play Caption

 

Hoy ha llovido todo el día.

"Hoy ha llovido todo el día" [Today it has rained the whole day].

Caption 69, Carlos explica El pretérito Cap. 2: Perfecto compuesto I

 Play Caption

 

The examples above entail specific but different time periods. When the speaker says Ya hemos visto (We have already seen) in the first example, he is referring to us having already seen the importance of recycling in that video. In the second caption, the speaker asks if the people to whom he is speaking have ever (alguna vez) wondered, in their entire lives. And finally, this third example of the present perfect in Spanish explains what has happened that day.

 

It is important to note that while sentences in the present perfect often contain such references to the time period they describe as todo el día (all day), alguna vez (ever), ya (already), etc., this is not always the case. For example, in an effort to find out if "you have (ever) traveled to Spain," someone might simply ask: ¿Has viajado a España? 

 

Discrepancy Between the Spanish and English Present Perfect Tenses

Sometimes, Spanish speakers from Spain in particular use the present perfect to talk about actions in the recent past in situations in which English speakers would most likely use the past tense and Latin Americans would probably use the Spanish preterite. Let's look at an example:

 

Hola, soy Ariana Moreno y he dormido fatal. He pasado una mala noche. 

Hello, I'm Ariana Moreno, and I've slept horribly. I've had a bad night.

Captions 1-3, Ariana Cita médica

 Play Caption
 

Although the translators at Yabla opted to literally translate he dormido (I've slept) and he pasado (I've spent) with the present perfect in English, the English version sounds a bit awkward in this context because an English speaker would almost always say "I slept horribly. I had a bad night" when referring to the previous night. A Spanish-speaker from Central or South America, on the other hand, might say: "Dormí fatal. Pasé una mala noche" in the preterite. Let's look at another example: 

 

Pues nada, que ha empezado el día superbién, se ha levantado a las ocho, ha desayunado en la cafetería al lado de la escuela como siempre, ha venido a clase, hemos tenido la clase como todos los lunes.

Well, she's started the day very well, she's gotten up at eight, she's had breakfast in the cafeteria next to the school as always, she's come to class, we've had the class like every Monday.

Captions 6-10, El Aula Azul Conversación: Un día de mala suerte

 Play Caption

 

The caption above illustrates once again that, although the same is not true in English, when talking about the very recent past (typically the same day or perhaps the previous night), Spanish speakers from Spain are much more likely to employ the present perfect tense.

 

We hope that this lesson has made it clear how to conjugate and use the present perfect tense in Spanish. For further explanation and examples, check out Carlos' video on El pretérito compuestoor "Compound perfect," which is yet another name for the present perfect in Spanish, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments

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