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The Present Perfect of Spanish Verbs

The present perfect is a verb conjugation in the Spanish language that refers to verbs in the present tense, perfect aspect, indicative mood, and active voice. Similar to the English present perfect, the present perfect in Spanish can be defined as a verb form that expresses and emphasizes a previous action or state that began in the past and continued up to the present and whose consequences have implications for the present. The following sections explain the formation of the present perfect in Spanish as well as the use of Spanish verbs in the present perfect that Spanish language learners must understand and master.

Formation of the Spanish Present Perfect

Unlike most verb forms in the Spanish language, the present perfect is periphrastic. Periphrasis means that a “phrase of two or more words that perform a single grammatical function that would otherwise be expressed by the inflection of a single word.” Verbs in the present perfect in Spanish are formed by a present tense form of the verb haber “to have” followed by a past participle. The verb phrase patterns for the Spanish present perfect are as follows:

  • first person singular – he + past participle – Yo he tabajado.
  • second person singular – has + past participle – Tú has bailado.
  • third person singular – ha + past participle – Ella ha corrido.
  • first person plural – hemos + past participle – Nosostros hemos salido.
  • second person plural – habéis + past participle – Vosostros habéis vivido en España.
  • third person plural – han + past participle – Ellos han venido.

Notice that the verb haber “to have” is irregular in the present tense in all persons and numbers except for the second person plural form.

Use of the Spanish Present Perfect

The use of the present perfect in Spanish is very similar to the use of the present perfect in English. The present perfect conjugation most often occurs in sentences that express the following situations:

  • Experiences and accomplishments
  • Changes over time
  • Incomplete actions with expected ends
  • Continuous actions with starting points in the past
  • Past actions with present results
  • Multiple actions at different times

For example:

  • ¿Han comido? “Have they eaten?”
  • Ya hemos visto la película.  “We have already seen the film.”
  • Lo hemos visto tres veces esta noche. “We have seen him three times tonight.”
  • Hace cuatro años que vivo aquí. “I have lived here for four years.”
  • Pablo le ha dado mucho dinero a su hermana. “Pablo has given a lot of money to his sister.”
  • Me he comprado una esponja rosa. “I have bought a pink sponge.”

Do not use the Spanish present perfect with specific times or dates.

The present perfect expresses previous actions or states with present implications.

Note: I have studied Spanish as a foreign language. Please feel free to correct any mistakes that I have made in my Spanish.

References

Ramboz, Ina. 2008. Spanish verbs & essentials of grammar (Verbs and Essentials of Grammar Series), 2nd edn. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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