Spanish Past Perfect – Conjugation and Use of this Tense

Spanish Past Perfect, Title of the Grammar Lesson

The Spanish Past Perfect tense of the Indicative Mood, also called Pluperfect (or “Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto”) is a verb tense, used to talk about an action which HAD already HAPPENED at some in the past.

When Spanish learners come to learn about the Past Perfect, they might think: “What? Another past tense! We have already learned like 20 past tenses!!”. But don’t worry: this one is very easy if you already know the Present Perfect (which you should), and it will give you more resources when telling stories.

In this post we will learn how to use the Past Perfect, going through the following points:

1. Conjugation of verbs in Spanish Past Perfect: “Haber” + Past Participle

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

  • The first word is the verb “haber” conjugated in Imperfect tense: “había, habías, había, habíamos, habíais, habían”
  • The second word is the Past Participle of the main verb. It is the same for all persons.

Remember… The Past Participle of a verb is usually formed with the ending “-ADO” for verbs whose infinitive ends in “-AR”, and “-IDO” for verbs ending in “-ER, -IR”). But there are also some Irregular Past Participles. Click here to learn more about the Past Participle and its Irregularities.

Examples of verbs conjugated in Spanish Past Perfect

With our formula in mind, here are some examples of verbs fully conjugated in Past Perfect. These particular verbs have a Regular Past Participle:

yohabía jugadohabía bebidohabía sentido
habías jugadohabías bebidohabías sentido
élhabía jugado había bebidohabía sentido
nosotroshabíamos jugadohabíamos bebidohabíamos sentido
vosotroshabíais jugadohabíais bebidohabíais sentido
elloshabían jugadohabían bebido habían sentido

And here are a couple more verbs conjugated in Past Perfect. In this case, they have an Irregular Past Participle:

yohabía hechohabía visto
habías hechohabías visto
élhabía hechohabía visto
nosotroshabíamos hechohabíamos visto
vosotroshabíais hechohabíais visto
elloshabían hechohabían visto

2. Use of the Spanish Past Perfect

We use the Past Perfect to talk about an action that HAD already HAPPENED at some point in the past, usually by the time something else occurred.

Example sentences:

Cuando Ana llegó, Pablo se había ido.
When Ana arrived, Pablo had left.

No me di cuenta de que habías llegado.
I didn’t realized you had arrived.

Luisa vio el regalo que le habíamos comprado.
Luisa saw the present that we had bought her.

Me preguntaron si había oído algo.
They asked me if I had heard something.

¡Pensé que habían contado la historia!
I thought they had told the story!

¿Habíais empezado a trabajar cuando llegó el director?
Had you guys begun working when the director arrived?

Frequent Keywords with the Past Perfect

It is relatively frequent to find the keywords “ya”, “aún no” and “todavía no” in sentences which include the Past Perfect. These keywords are usually placed before the verb. Their meanings are:

  • ya = already
  • aún no = not yet
  • todavía no = not yet (same meaning as “aún no”)

It makes sense that these keywords are frequent with the Past Perfect, when talking about something that “had already happened” or ” had not yet happened” at some point.

Example Sentences including these keywords:

Antonio ya había estudiado la lección y se la explicó a sus compañeros.
Antonio had already studied the lesson and he explained it to his classmates.

Tú me dijiste la solución cuando yo ya la había encontrado.
You told me the solution when I had already found it.

Llegó la hora y aún no habíamos preparado nada.
The time came and we had not prepared anything yet.

Todavía no me había despertado cuando me llamaron.
I hadn’t yet woken up when they called me.

3. Pratice: A Quiz

Take this short Quiz and test your knowledge about the Past Perfect!:

4. Practice: An Exercise

When Angel arrived at the party, many things had already happened. Fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using the Past Perfect, and check the solutions at the end of this post.

Cuando Ángel llegó a la fiesta…

… sus amigos _____ 1.(comerse) todos los bocadillos.
… el alcohol también _____ 2.(acabarse).
… alguien _____ 3.(destrozar) el sofá.
… los vecinos _____ 4.(venir) a quejarse varias veces por el volumen de la música.
… y en realidad, la fiesta ya _____ 5.(terminar).

Solutions to the Exercise: 1 = se habían comido, 2 = se había acabado, 3. = había destrozado, 4 = habían venido, 5 = había terminado