We use the Spanish pretérito perfecto (the present perfect tense) to talk about actions that have taken place in the past, that somehow relates to the present or future. We can speak about things we have done in our lives and how many times something has happened. In Spain this tense is also used to describe things that have happened in the near past, such as “earlier today” or “earlier this week”.
How to conjugate the Spanish pretérito perfecto
The Spanish pretérito perfecto is formed by putting together the present indicative form of the auxiliary verb haber and the past participle of the main verb. Haber is an irregular verb and we conjugate it like this in the present tense:
Now we can put them together. Let’s look at how to conjugate the Spanish pretérito perfecto using the verb hacer:
Yo he hecho
I have done
Tú has hecho
You have done
Él ha hecho
He has done
Nosotros hemos hecho
We have done
Vosotros habéis hecho
You have done
Ellos han hecho
They have done
You can see here that the past participle form of the verb is always the same – it does not change according to number or gender. The only part we have to conjugate according to the subject is the auxiliary verb haber.
How to use the Spanish pretérito perfecto
We mainly use the Spanish pretérito perfecto to speak about things that have happened in the past, that are still somehow connected to the present.
Note that there are some differences in how to use this tense in South American Spanish and the European Spanish from Spain. The pretérito perfecto is more widespread in Spain
Let’s take a look at the main uses:
1. Past actions that affect the present or future
We use it to speak about actions from the past, that somehow relate to or affect the present or future. For example: “John has been to London” (nobody can take that experience away from him), or “I have sold my car” (the car has been sold, and remains sold).
Todavía no he comido – I still haven’t eaten
Nunca han estado aquí – They have never been here
El tren ha salido – The train has left
¿Has visto las pirámides? – Have you seen the pyramids?
2. Actions that have happened in a time period that is not over
We use it to describe actions that have taken place in the near past, in a set time period that still has not terminated (for example today, this morning, this week, etc.). This use of present perfect is mostly used in Spain. In South American Spanish (just like in English) the preterite tense is more used in these situations.
Hoy me he levantado a las siete – Today I got up at seven o’clock
Han ido al trabajo esta mañana – They went to work this morning
Esta semana ha visitado a Juan – This week he/she visited Juan
Últimamente he estado enfermo – Recently I was sick
Remember that the auxiliary verb (haber) and the past participle of the verb NEVER must be separated. This means that the pronoun must be placed either before or after the pair of verbs (Ex.: Me he levantado, ha visitado a Juan)
Perfecto! Now, where do I go from here?
One of the best ways to get a feel for the use of the Spanish pretérito perfecto, is to read Spanish as often as you can. Maybe a little bit every day. And why not read interesting articles and stories with live translations of words and phrases, to enjoy yourself as you practice? Check out the latest Spanish articles in our blog section!