Spanish Past Perfect Subjunctive – The Ultimate Guide

Welcome to our grammar lesson about the Spanish Past Perfect Subjunctive.

The Past Perfect Subjunctive (“Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto del Subjuntivo”) is a verb tense in Spanish. It belongs to the Subjunctive Mood. We use it in some types of sentences, either about hypothetical situations in the past that can’t be realized anymore, or past actions about which we express some subjectivity.

Obviously that explanation is too vague, so the best thing the Spanish student can do is learn the specific types of sentences where we use the Past Perfect Subjunctive. We will do that in this lesson, after studying how to conjugate verbs in this tense.

At the end, you’ll find a Quiz and an Exercise for practice.

1. Conjugation of verbs in Past Perfect Subjunctive

The formula to construct the Past Perfect Subjunctive consists of 2 words:

  • The first word is the verb “haber” conjugated in Imperfect Subjunctive for the specific person. Because there are two ways of conjugating “haber” in Imperfect Subjunctive, you can choose between these two sets of forms:
    – hubiera, hubieras, hubiera, hubiéramos, hubierais, hubieran
    – hubiese, hubieses, hubiese, hubiésemos, hubieseis, hubiesen
  • The second word is the Past Participle of the main verb. The Past Participle is the same for all persons.


With our formula in mind, let’s see a couple of verbs fully conjugated in Past Perfect Subjunctive. This is the verb “cantar”, which has a regular Past Participle:

 Conjugation of "cantar" with "hubiera..."Conjugation of "cantar" with "hubiese..."
yohubiera cantadohubiese cantado
hubieras cantadohubieses cantado
élhubiera cantadohubiese cantado
nosotroshubiéramos cantadohubiésemos cantado
vosotroshubierais cantadohubieseis cantado
elloshubieran cantadohubiesen cantado


And here is the conjugation of “hacer”, which has an irregular past participle:

 Conjugation of "hacer" with "hubiera..."Conjugation of "hacer" with "hubiese..."
yohubiera hechohubiese hecho
hubieras hecho hubieses hecho
élhubiera hechohubiese hecho
nosotroshubiéramos hechohubiésemos hecho
vosotroshubierais hechohubieseis hecho
elloshubieran hechohubiesen hecho

Remember…

The Past Participle of regular verbs in -ar ends in -ado.
The Past Participle of regular verbs in -er and -ir ends in -ido.

But there are also some verbs with an irregular Past Participle.

Click here to learn more about the Past Participle and its Irregularities.

2. Uses of the Past Perfect Subjunctive

We use the Imperfect Subjunctive in certain types of sentences either about hypothetical situations in the past that can’t be realized anymore, or past actions about which we express some subjectivity.

Unfortunately, that idea is not enough to master its use, because the types of sentences where we use it are very specific. The Spanish student should learn each specific type of sentence where we use the Past Perfect Subjunctive.

Here are the most frequent ones:

Sentence types where we use the Past Perfect Subjunctive


1) After “ojalá” or “ojalá que”, when they express a regret about something that can’t be fulfilled anymore:

Ojalá te hubiera conocido antes.
I wish I had met you before.


2) As the unfulfilled condition of something that could have happened, but didn’t. The unfulfilled condition (introduced by “si…”) is expressed in Past Perfect Subjunctive, and what could have happened is either in Conditional or in Conditional Perfect:

Si hubiéramos hecho las tareas, habríamos impresionado a nuestro profesor.
If we had done the homework, we would have impressed our teacher.

Marta habría organizado la fiesta si hubiese tenido tiempo.
Marta would have organized the party if she had had time.


3) Expressing doubts, disbelief or speculation in the past about an action that is even further in the past. That action further in the past is the one we express in Past Perfect Subjunctive:

Yo dudaba que ellos hubiesen llamado a Antonio.
I doubted that they had called Antonio.

Ana no podía creer que su novio hubiera comprado un coche tan caro.
Ana couldn’t believe that her boyfriend had bought such an expensive car.

4) After “como si…”, which means “as if… like if…”, referring to something in the past:

Estoy lleno, me siento como si hubiera comido una vaca entera.
I’m full, I feel like if I had eaten a whole cow.

3. Practice the Spanish Past Perfect Subjunctive

Quiz

Take this Quiz about the Past Perfect Subjunctive!:

Exercise

In the next sentences, fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using the Past Perfect Subjunctive, then check the solutions below.

Because in Past Perfect Subjunctive we can choose between the “hubiera…” and the “hubiese…” forms, both possible answers are given in the solutions.

1. Ojalá yo _______ (ser) más cariñoso con mi difunta abuela.
2. Si tú _______ (comprar) un móvil, ahora podrías llamarme.
3. Yo nunca creí que vosotros _______ (robar) el coche.
4. Ellos hablan español como si _______ (crecer) en España.

Solutions: 1 = “hubiera sido” or “hubiese sido”, 2 = “hubieras comprado” or “hubieses comprado”, 3 = “hubierais robado” or “hubieseis robado”, 4 = “hubieran crecido” or “hubiesen crecido”.