Spanish Perfect Tense.

A Perfect Explanation of the Perfecto de Indicativo

Perfect tense?! Imperfect? Imperfect indicative? Subjunctive?

AAAAaaarrrrrrggggghhhh!!!   (...did I spell that right ...?)


Don't be... The condition is CUREABLE! We have the brain medicine right here!
If you are confused about what a perfect tense is or an imperfect tense is, we are going to clear it up here. It is simple, and you will understand it.

What is something that is PERFECT? Perfecto!

Something that is perfect is just that ... it is perfect.

It is complete.

Nothing more can be done to it to finish it. It is already perfect so there is nothing more that can be done with it or to it. You cannot add to it, amend it, change it, embellish it.

It is complete, whole, total, finished, done and dusted.

You know what a perfect artefact, vase, egg, photograph or painting is.

Well, in language teaching this word is simply applied to an ACTION that is perfect. It is perfect because it is totally finished.

Completed. Done. Over and out.

So a perfect tense (and remember tense means 'time', and in French, Italian and Spanish the words are identical - temps, tiempo and tempo respectively) is one that is finished.

If an action is finished it must be in the past.

In English a perfect tense is a past tense too. Many students get confused as soon as we use such a label as 'perfect tense'. But take a look at some examples of English perfect tenses below...

I have eaten.
You have finished.
You have been.
He has finished.
They have driven.

When you see them in that form you can see that there is nothing to fear! So just remember these English tenses are formed with 'have' or 'has'. To this is added a past tense word like eaten, finished, been, driven.

The name for this past tense word is the past participle.

Again don't be frightened by the word past participle.. It is just a label that is used to describe those words. A past participle is just a word like eaten, finished, been, driven, swum, begun, marched, dived, sung... etc that describes an action that was completed in the past.

Spanish Perfect Tenses (Perfecto de Indicativo) are formed the same way as in English

In Spanish the same structure is used for the perfect tenses.

You take the Spanish word for 'have' or 'has', and add the past participle.

In Spanish the past participle is a verb that usually ends in -ado or -ido.

The Spanish words for have and has that are used in these situations are derived from the very important verb haber.

Haber - Spanish Verb for 'to have' Present Tense
I havehe
you havehas
he, she, it hasha
we havehemos
you all hadhabeís
they havehan

So you just take the above word as appropriate and add the Spanish past participle to get the perfecto. There are several examples of past participles below.

So for example, to say ... I have finished ... we take the Spanish word for 'I have' which is he from the table above (pronounced 'eh' with a silent letter 'h') and we add terminado.

He terminado.

You can do the same with all the verbs in the table above.

Haber - Spanish Verb for 'to have'
I have finished, terminatedhe terminado
you have finished, terminatedhas terminado
he, she, it has finished, terminatedha terminado
we have finished, terminatedhemos terminado
you all had finished, terminatedhabeís terminado
they have finished, terminatedhan terminado

Many are like English words to which you can just add the ending -ado or -ido. Spanish AR verbs have a past participle ending in -ado and Spanish ER and IR verbs have past participles take the ending -ido.

Past Participles ending -ado similar to English
finished, terminatedterminado
started, commencedcomenzado
manufactured, fabricatedfabricado

There are hundreds of words similar in Spanish to the English and learning such verbs will give your vocabulary a big boost.

Other Spanish Past Participles ending -ado
spoken, talked hablado
lacked, missed faltado
managed, operated (e.g. car) manejado
tested, tried probado

Spanish ER and IR verbs have past participles ending in -ido.

Past Participles ending -ido similar to English
maintained, supportedmantenido

Other Spanish Past Participles ending -ido
mounted, rose, got on (e.g. bus, plane, train) subido
brought traído
had habido
was able to, could podido

And of course there are irregulars that don't fit the rules! (Otherwise language teachers would be out of work!)

Spanish Irregular Past Participles
place, put puesto
said, told dicho
supposed supuesto
opened abierto
fried freído, frito

Some even have two different past participles like fried - freído, frito. One is regular and the other is irregular.

So putting them together you can see that we can take any of the words from haber in the first column and mix it with any of the past participles in the second column to get examples of the Spanish perfect tense.

Perfect Tense - Perfecto de Indicativo
Take any verb from the left and
add to it any of the
past participles
Present Tense of haber Past Participles


Imperfect Actions are Incomplete - Imperfecto!

You now know what perfect actions are in language. Actions that are complete.
This makes it easy for you to remember that incomplete actions are imperfect. They still need finishing. They are yet to be completed. They are, or were, ongoing.

I learned Spanish at school.
- In this case it was an on-going process. Not a clear-cut completion date if you like. Imperfect.
I lived in Peru for three years.
- Another ongoing action in the past. Imperfect.
I used to like the Beatles.
- This is another example of an imperfect action. It was ongoing. I still might like them now, but possibly not quite as much. Imperfect.

Now that you understand the perfect tense learn the imperfect tense (imperfecto de indicativo)(Haz click aquí para verlo...) in more detail in another Spanish lesson on this website.

Well there it is ... that summarizes the main points about Spanish perfect tenses.

Your key take-away points from this Spanish lesson are:
  1. Perfect tenses and actions are complete. Perfect.
  2. Learn the conjugations of haber thoroughly so that you can add them to the past participles to construct lots of examples of the perfect tense.
  3. Most Spanish past participles end in -ado or -ido.
The examples above cover the present perfect tense. Another perfect tense is the past perfect or the pluscuamperfecto de indicativo
Again, do not be put off by the name - it is just the fancy way of saying:

I had gone.
You had eaten.
We had finished.

...OK ... I have finished this lesson now. For more lessons on Spanish verbs check out the list of links below.

Spanish Verb Tense Definitions
Present - Presente
Imperfect - Imperfecto
Preterite - Pretérito
Future - Futuro
Conditional - Condicional
Subjunctive - Subjuntivo

Imperfect Subjunctive - Imperfecto de Subjuntivo
Present Perfect - Perfecto de Indicativo
Past Perfect - Pluscuamperfecto de Indicativo
Preterite Perfect- Pretérito
Future Perfect- Futuro Perfecto
Conditional Perfect- Condicional Perfecto
Subjunctive - Perfecto de Subjuntivo
Imperfect Subjunctive - Pluscuamperfecto de Subjuntivo
Imperative - Imperativo
Gerund - Gerundio
Past Participle - Imperativo

Learn Spanish Help - All about the Perfect Tense
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