The pretérito perfecto in Spanish is one of the easier tenses to learn because of its simple conjugation and few irregular verbs. This tense will help you speak about your experiences and events that have happened in the recent past. Read on to learn the uses, conjugations and see some examples.
Use of pretérito perfecto
The pretérito perfecto is similar in nature to the English present perfect tense. It is used to describe:
- actions in the past that have been recently completed
- actions in the past that started in the past and are still continuing or seen as the present
- completed actions that influence the present or future
- experiences in your life that have (or have not) happened
If you see these time words, you can usually use the pretérito perfecto:
- este/esta …
fin de semana
- hace …
1 hora/2 horas
- todavía no
Conjugation of pretérito perfecto
To form a verb in the present perfect tense in Spanish, we use two elements:
the verb haber conjugated in the simple present + the participio pasado
Below is the table of the present conjugation of the verb haber:
The participio pasado can be made easily as well:
Verbs ending in –AR
add –ADO to the root verb
caminar = caminado
cantar = cantado
saludar = saludado
Verbs ending in –ER and –IR
add –IDO to the root verb
beber = bebido
comer = comido
When there is a vowel before –IDO, we must add an accent to the –I to make sure that there are two syllables pronounced in the word.
leer = leído
traer = traído
✅ Good news! Estar, ser, and ir are all regular conjugations: estado, sido, and ido.
Irregular past participles (participios pasados)
Lucky for you, there are only a handful of irregular verbs for the participio pasado. Once you know them, they are easy enough to apply because only the verb haber needs to be changed according to each pronoun (yo, tú, él etc.).
You can also use irregular endings to find out how similar verbs would be conjugated. For example, if the past participle of cubrir is cubierto, then the past participle of descubrir is descubierto.
Examples of pretérito perfecto
Below are some examples of the perfect tense in use.
Sara ha vivido en Londres toda su vida. (Sara has lived in London all her life.)
We use pretérito perfecto because we are describing an action that has started in the past and continues until the present – Sara continues to live in London.
Hoy he caminado cinco kilómetros. (Today I have walked five kilometres.)
Here we use the pretérito perfecto because we are describing an action that has been completed recently. Also, the day is not yet over, so there is still a chance we could walk more on this same day.
Esta semana mis padres me han llamado 3 veces. (This week, my parents have called me 3 times.)
We use pretérito perfecto because it is a completed action that has happened in a time that is still considered the present – this week.
Nunca hemos probado el ceviche. (We have never tried ceviche.)
We are describing something that we have never experienced (in our lives). We use pretérito perfecto because there is the possibility that we can try it in the future as our lives are not yet over.
No quiero ir a ver Batman. Ya lo he visto 2 veces. (I don’t want to go see Batman. I have already seen it twice.)
We are describing an experience again. I have seen the movie twice already, but that doesn’t mean I won’t see it again at some point in my life.
El próximo finde he quedado con Albert. (Next week, I have arranged to meet with Albert.)
Here, an action in the past – arrange to meet – has an influence on the future. We must use pretérito perfecto.
Maribel ha planeado su viaje para Mallorca. (Maribel has planned her trip to Mallorca.)
Again, an action in the past – planning a trip – results in influencing the future: Maribel will go on a trip to Mallorca.
⚠️ It is important to note that speakers in Spain are more likely to use the pretérito perfecto in instances when many other Spanish speakers would use the pretérito indefinido.
Are you ready to start applying what you’ve learned to talk about your past experiences and recently completed actions? If you want to learn more, check out our Spanish classes in the heart of Barcelona.