Spanish Present Perfect – The Ultimate Guide to this Tense

A painting of a child sleeping, because the Spanish Present Perfect is all about recent actions

Welcome to our grammar lesson about the Spanish Present Perfect.

The Present Perfect of the Indicative Mood (“Pretérito Perfecto Compuesto” or “Antepresente del Indicativo”) is a verb tense in Spanish. Although it’s called “Present Perfect”, we use it to talk about past actions, usually actions in the recent past.

Conjugating verbs in Present Perfect is easy, with the formula “haber” + Past Participle.

In this lesson we will learn how to conjugate and use verbs in Present Perfect, providing example sentences. At the end you’l find a Quiz and Exercises for practice.

Conjugation of verbs in Spanish Present Perfect

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

  • The first word is the auxiliary verb “haber” conjugated in Present Tense for the proper person: “he, has, ha, hemos, habéis, han”.
  • The second word is the Past Participle of the verb expressing the action. The Past Participle is the same for all persons.

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. Here are the most frequent irregular Past Participles:

hacer → hecho
decir → dicho
ver → visto
escribir → escrito
romper → roto
poner → puesto
volver → vuelto
resolver → resuelto
satisfacer → satisfecho
descubrir → descubierto
morir → muerto

Click here to learn more about the Past Participle.


With our formula in mind, here is a table showing some verbs fully conjugated in Present Perfect. These particular verbs have a Regular Past Participle:

 jugarbebersentir
yohe jugadohe bebidohe sentido
has jugadohas bebidohas sentido
élha jugadoha bebidoha sentido
nosotroshemos jugadohemos bebidohemos sentido
vosotroshabéis jugadohabéis bebidohabéis sentido
elloshan jugadohan bebidohan sentido


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

 hacerver
yohe hechohe visto
has hechohas visto
élha hechoha visto
nosotroshemos hechohemos visto
vosotroshabéis hechohabéis visto
elloshan hechohan visto

Uses of the Present Perfect

We use the Present Perfect to talk about past actions.

But the problem is… there are several tenses in Spanish to talk about past actions! So when in particular should we use the Present Perfect?

We use it only if one of these things is true:

  1. The sentence mentions a time frame that reaches the present.
  2. The sentence doesn’t mention any time frame, but the action is recent.

Let’s see each case separately:

1. The sentence mentions a time frame that reaches the present

If the action is past but the sentence mentions a time frame that reaches the present, we use the Present Perfect.

For example, consider the following sentence in English: “I played football today”. The action (“I played football”) is past, but the word “today” refers to a time frame that reaches the present: we are still in that time period. Thus, in Spanish we would use the Present Perfect:

Hoy he jugado al fútbol.
I played football today.


Another example: “We have done many things this year”. Again, the actions are past, but we are still in “this year”:

Hemos hecho muchas cosas este año.
We have done many things this year.


Last example: “I have won many times in my life”. Once again, the actions are in the past. Some of them might even be in the distant past, but the time frame “in my life” reaches the present:

He ganado muchas veces en mi vida.
I have won many times in my life.


2. The sentence doesn’t mention any time frame, but the action is recent

For example, in the following sentences it is understood that the actions are very recent:

¿Qué habéis hecho?
What have you guys done?

He desayunado tostadas.
I’ve had toasts for breakfast.

Mis amigos han visto una película.
My friends have watched a movie.

¿No has comprado el regalo?
You haven’t bought the present?

Placement of “no” and Object Pronouns with the Present Perfect

We can’t place anything between the two words that form the Present Perfect. That means, if we want to construct negative sentences with “no”, or if we wish to add Object Pronouns (“me, te, lo”…etc), they should be placed before the 2 words of the Present Perfect, never in between.

Example sentences:

No he cocinado.
I haven’t cooked.

Lo has copiado.
You have copied it.

Vosotros os habéis duchado.
You guys have showered.

No me lo han dicho.
They haven’t told it to me.

Keywords and Phrases with the Present Perfect

Some keywords and phrases work very well in sentences in Present Perfect. The following are some of them. Notice that they are all time frames which reach the present:

  • Hoy = today
  • Esta semana = this week 
  • Este mes = this month
  • Este año = this year
  • Últimamente = lately
  • Hasta ahora = until now
  • Desde entonces = since then
  • En mi vida = in my life
  • Siempre = always
  • Nunca = never


And here are couple of sentences containing some of the keywords:

En mi vida he hecho muchas tonterías.
In my life, I’ve done many stupid things.

Has empezado un curso de español este mes.
You have started a Spanish course this month.

Siempre he pensado que los españoles son un poco ruidosos.
I’ve always thought Spaniards are a bit loud.

Hemos cambiado mucho desde entonces.
We have changed a lot since then.

Hoy han venido mis abuelos.
My grandparents have come today.


Other useful Keywords: “ya”, “aún no”, “todavía no”

We frequently find the keywords “ya”, “aún no” and “todavía no” in sentences in Present 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”)


Example sentences including those keywords:

Antonio ya ha estudiado la lección
Antonio has already studied the lesson.

Aún no hemos preparado nada.
We haven’t prepared anything yet.

Son las nueve y todavía no se han levantado.
It’s nine o’clock and they haven’t got up yet.

The Present Perfect Vs. The Preterite

As explained in this lesson, we use the Present Perfect for past actions but with time frames that reach the present.

But what if both the action AND the time frame we mention are in the past? In that case, we tend to use another tense: the Preterite. Click here to learn all about the Spanish Preterite.


Practice the Spanish Present Perfect

Quiz

Take this Quiz and test your knowledge about the Spanish Present Perfect:

Exercise 1

Read the following sentences in English and pay attention to the time frames they mention. Which ones would you translate to Spanish in Present Perfect? After deciding, check the solution below:

1. I’ve gone to the circus today.
2. I haven’t traveled this year.
3. Last year we went to Kenya.
4. I’ve met many people in my life.
5. We talked three months ago.

Solution: The sentences we would translate using the Present Perfect are numbers 1, 2 and 4. Because they mention time frames that reach the present.


Exercise 2

In the following sentences, fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using the Present Perfect of the verb in brackets, then check the solutions below.

A clue: all verbs in this exercise have regular Past Participles.

Tú ____ _______ 1. (mejorar) mucho últimamente.
Gonzalo ____ _______ 2.(dormir) la siesta hoy.
Laura y sus amigos ____ _______ 3.(comprar) las entradas.
Yo ____ ______ 4.(comer) la carne que vosotros ____ _______ 5.(cocinar).
Nosotras ____ ________ 6.(nadar) dos horas.

Solutions: 1 = has mejorado, 2 = ha dormido, 3 = han comprado, 4 = he comido, 5 = habéis cocinado, 6 = hemos nadado


Exercise 3

In the following sentences, fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using the Present Perfect of the verb in brackets, then check the solutions below.

A clue: all verbs in this exercise have irregular Past Participles.

Nosotros ______ 1.(romper) el cristal.
¿Qué ____ _______ 2.(hacer) hoy Carmen y Marcos?
Tú ____ _______ 3. (escribir) una carta muy bonita.
Yo ____ _______ 4. (descubrir) cosas importantes este año.
¿Qué ____ _______ 5. (decir) vosotros?
Mi padre ____ _______ 6.(resolver) el problema.

Solutions: 1 = hemos roto, 2 = han hecho, 3 = has escrito, 4 = he descubierto, 5 = habéis dicho, 6 = ha resuelto

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