Pretérito perfecto compuesto

How to form the Pretérito perfecto compuesto in Spanish.

This tense is one of the most common in Spanish and corresponds to the English Present Perfect.

Alongside the Present tense (presente de indicativo), this is one of the first Spanish tenses that you will need to get to grips with.

We have included audio files with this lesson.  In this case, the accent you’ll hear is from Madrid, Spain.

As you’ll see below, the Pretérito perfecto compuesto is formed by the present tense (present indicative) of the verb haber and the past participle of the verb in question.

Person /Verb Hablar – Speak Vivir – Live Comer – Eat
yo he hablado he vivido he comido
has hablado has vivido has comido
él / ella ha hablado ha vivido ha comido
nosotros hemos hablado hemos vivido hemos comido
vosotros habéis hablado habéis vivido habéis comido
ellos han hablado han vivido han comido

The Past Participle

Forming the past participles of regular Spanish verbs is easy:

  • Hablar -> Hablado
  • Vivir -> Vivido
  • Comer -> Comido

Just remember that the past participle for ER verbs uses an ‘I’ instead of an ‘E’:

Correct: Comido
Incorrect: Comedo

Irregular verbs 1 – accented past participles

All verbs form the Pretérito perfecto compuesto with the auxiliary verb ‘haber’ and the past participle.  However, not all verbs have a regular past participle.  When –er and –ir verb stems end in a vowel, then the past participles require the addition of an accent. However, this does not apply to verbs which end in –uir.

Verb Participle Translation
 Caer  caído  fallen
 Creer  creído  believed
 Leer  leído  read
 Oír  oído  heard
 Reír  reído  laughed
 Sonreír  sonreído  smiled
 Traer  traído  brought

Let’s look at examples using this first group of irregular verbs:

  • He oído mucho de ti.
    I’ve heard a lot about you.
  • He oído a mi madre hablar de ti.
    I’ve heard my mother talk about you.
  • He oído a los mares gritar mi nombre.
    I’ve heard the seas shout my name.
  • Os he traído regalos.
    I’ve brought you gifts.
  • Nunca me he reído tanto.
    I’ve never laughed so much.

* You will also hear the participle ‘creído’ used a lot with the meaning of ‘vain’

  • Tu hermano es muy creído.
    Your brother is very vain. 

Did you notice how reflexive verbs form the Pretérito perfecto compuesto?:

reírse -> me he reído, te has reído, se ha reído, nos hemos reído, os habéis reído, se han reído

Irregular verbs 2

The following verbs also have irregular past participles, but follow no set pattern:

Verb Participle Translation
Abrir abierto opened
Cubrir cubierto covered
Decir dicho said
Escribir escrito written
Hacer hecho done
Morir muerto died
Poner puesto put
Romper roto broken
Ver visto seen
Volver vuelto returned

Some example phrases

  • La tienda no ha abierto todavía.
    The shop hasn’t opened yet.
  • ¿Por qué no me has escrito?
    Why haven’t you written to me?
  • ¿No te he visto antes?
    Haven’t I seen you before?
  • No han vuelto todavía.
    They haven’t returned yet.

More tenses?

In our Spanish grammar section you’ll find all of the most common (and most useful!) Spanish tenses.  If you’re tired of grammar, then take a look at our section on Spanish phrases, with video and audio of native speakers from Spain and Latin America.