The Present Perfect in Spanish: How to Use It in Sentences?


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Kirsten has been fascinated by foreign languages since childhood and has made it her mission to inspire others with her passion for Spanish. She has a master’s degree in Hispanic Studies from Boston College and has tutored and taught students of all ages.
Kirsten Agla

What Is the Present Perfect In Spanish?

Have you ever played the game “Never Have I Ever” with your friends?

The Present Perfect in Spanish
Never Have I Ever Game Card, Image from Neverhaveievergame, Credit Zachary A. Ruden

The statements made in this game are great examples of the present perfect tense.

The present perfect is when we use the verb “to have” with the past participle to express past events, such as “We have taken Spanish together” and “Have you seen U2 in concert?”

I’ll get into this later, but for now just know that the present perfect in Spanish is a general way to talk about the past! 

 

How to Form the Present Perfect in Spanish?

While English uses “to have” for the present perfect, Spanish uses the verb haber.

Below is the formula for the present perfect in Spanish:

Subject (yo, tú, él, etc.) + haber conjugated to the subject + verb in the past participle

👉 Note that in Spanish including the subject is optional, but it is included here for clarity.

To see this formula in action, let’s do a quick example.

I have painted → (Yo) he pintado.

To negate it:

I have not painted → (Yo) no he pintado.

This post goes over each component of this formula, so don’t stress if you are unfamiliar with some of these terms.

Once you have reviewed how to conjugate haber and how to form the past participle, you can revisit this section and it will be a piece of cake!

How to Conjugate Haber for the Present Perfect in Spanish

Here is a table with all of the present tense haber conjugations.

PronounHaberPronounHaber
I - YoheWe - Nosotros/ashemos
You (informal) - TúhasYou all (informal) - Vosotros/ashabéis
He - Él
She - Ella
You (formal) - Usted
haThey (masculine) - Ellos
They (feminine) - Ellas
You all (formal) - Ustedes
han

It is quite an irregular verb so I recommend practicing with flashcards or with the LingoDeer app. 

How to Form the Past Participle for the Present Perfect in Spanish

As mentioned previously, the past participle is the verb that goes after haber.

(We have this in English too – we say “you have cooked dinner” not “you have cook dinner.” In other words, the past participle is the “-ed” form of an English verb.)

Spanish Regular Past Participle Verbs

To change “cook” to “cooked” and “smell” to “smelled” is simple, right? It’s just as easy in Spanish.

  • For -ar verbs, remove the ending -ar then add –ado to the remaining stem.
    ex.
    hablar (to speak) → hablado.
  • For -er and -ir verbs, remove the ending then add -ido to the remaining stem. 
    ex. comer (to eat) → comido
          salir (to go out) → salido

👉 Note: if a verb is irregular in English, this does NOT mean that it is irregular in Spanish. (Case in point, all of the above examples are regular in Spanish and irregular in English.)

 

Spanish Irregular Past Participle Verbs

Some verbs are basically regular in the past participle in Spanish but have an additional accent mark when written.

👉 The rule is that if an -er or –ir verb’s stem ends with the vowels -a,-e,-i, or -o, then use the -ído ending.

ex. leer (“to read”) is an -er verb. 
     le ends with -e.
     leer → leído.

👉 Additionally, there are a few verbs in Spanish that are totally irregular. They don’t have the -ado/-ido ending and have a change in the stem.

Here is a list of the most common irregular past participles in Spanish.

English Verb Spanish Verb Spanish Past Participle
to openabrirabierto
to putponerpuesto
to covercubrircubierto
to saydecirdicho
to breakromperroto
to writeescribirescrito
to do/makehacerhecho
to seevervisto
to returnvolvervuelto
to diemorirmuerto


Present Perfect Examples and Practice Questions

Now that you have read about each component for the present perfect in Spanish, here are some simple examples of this tense in action!

Highlight to reveal the translations.

  • Sara has cooked the dinner. – Sara ha cocinado la cena.
  • You all (informal) have not taken the class. – Vosotros no habéis tomado la clase.
  • Ana and I have gone to the museum. – Ana y yo hemos ido al museo.
  • Have you (informal) bought the tickets? – ¿Has comprado los boletos?
  • I have not called my parents. – No he llamado a mis padres.
  • The boys have read the text. – Los chicos han leído el texto.
  • You all (formal) have not cleaned the living room. – Ustedes no han limpiado la sala.

 

Where to Place Pronouns with the Present Perfect in Spanish

To take your Spanish to the next level, learning how to use direct, indirect, and reflexive pronouns with new verb tenses are important.

If you are familiar with these pronouns and using them with verbs in a sentence, then there will be no surprises here!

Direct and Indirect Object Pronouns

👉 In Spanish, object pronouns go before the verb instead of after. (Read more about object pronouns here.)

To demonstrate:

I give her it. → Yo se lo doy.

As you can see in this sentence, the indirect object pronoun se goes first followed by the direct object pronoun lo.

The formula for present perfect with pronouns in Spanish:

indirect object + direct object + conjugated haber + past participle

👉 It is important to note that the objects always go before haber and cannot attach to the past participle like in other tenses.

Here are some examples of direct and indirect object pronouns used with the present perfect in Spanish:

  • She has not found it – Ella no lo ha encontrado.
  • Paula has told him it – Paul se lo ha dicho.
  • I have copied it – Yo lo he copiado.
  • They have given us the keys. – Ellos nos han dado las llaves.

 

Reflexive Verb Pronouns

Reflexive verb pronouns go ONLY BEFORE haber.

  • I have gone to bed – Yo me he acostado.
  • You all have not washed yourselves. – Ustedes no se han lavado.
  • Manuel has broken his arm. – Manuel se ha roto el brazo.
  • You (informal) have woken up early. – Tú te has despertado temprano.

 

When to Use the Present Perfect vs the Preterite in Spanish

Even though haber is conjugated in the present tense, it is referring to past events.

👉 The present perfect should be used to describe the past or events that began in the past and are still ongoing.

For example, you could say Yo he trabajado desde las seis – “I have worked since six o’clock” to show that you began work earlier in the day and are still working. 

Here are some phrases that indicate a past action that is still ongoing:

  • Todavía (still)
    I still have not called my boss → Todavía no he llamado a mi jefe.

  • Ya (already)
    She has already bought the coat → Ella ya ha comprado el abrigo.

  • Toda mi vida (all my life)
    All my life I have loved chocolate. → Toda mi vida me ha encantado el chocolate.

  • Nunca, Jamás (never)
    We have never traveled to Mexico → Nunca hemos viajado a México.

Present Perfect vs Other Past Tenses in Spanish

Spanish has a few different tenses that are exclusively used to talk about the past.

  • The preterite tense is for single completed actions and is quite specific
    (like telling all of the key plot points to a story)
  • The imperfect is more general and descriptive
    (setting the scene for past events)
  • The present perfect is used to talk about the past too, not just the recent past or a past event that is still ongoing.

present perfect in Spanish

👉 One difference between Latin America and Spain is: 
     Spaniards tend to prefer the present perfect when about the past too the preterite tense. 

For example,  to say “you (informal) went to the market today,”

fuiste al mercado hoy ✅
has ido al mercado hoy ✅

because through context, you know that this was a singular action. 

  • 👉In short:
    if you want to be specific, use the preterite
    If you want to be more general, use the present perfect.

These two sentences illustrate the difference:

  • I went to Peru last year. – Fui a Perú el año pasado.
  • I have been to Peru before. – He ido a Perú antes.

As you can see, the preterite is referring to a specific trip last year, whereas the present perfect is stating that at some point in the past I went to Peru.

 

The Present Perfect in Spanish Summary

Now you know how to conjugate haber, form the past participle, place the object and reflexive pronouns first, and play “Never Have I Ever” in Spanish!

The present perfect is a great way to talk about the past as well as past events that are still ongoing. It can even replace the preterite in most cases.

For present perfect practice and more Spanish language lessons, check out LingoDeer app!

 


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