Has Been / Have Been / Had Been

Has Been / Have Been / Had Been


Most Spanish grammar is making sense to me now, but i'm sticking on a particular area which relates to the use of the auxilliary verb Haber, in two key uses:

1) As a non-indicative form of Hay
2) How it can be applied to the English equivalent of 'have been .....ing' something


1) I'm ok with most uses of 'there is / are' , such as hay, habia, habra, habria, haya. However, reading a text book recently relating to the past subjunctive has thrown me a little bit in my understanding of its use in those tenses.

There was a sentence which translated the phrase ' if there had been anyone there', as 'si hubiera habido alguien alli' .

What would be the correct grammar for 'there had been', without the subjunctive signal before it, and also the correct grammar for 'there will have been' ? Would it be 'habia habido' for 'there had been' , and 'habria habido' for 'there will have been'? Or am i coming at it from the wrong angle?

2) In English, when somebody asks us what we have been doing or when we offer information about our activities, we will say for example 'i have been playing football' or 'i have been watching television' , 'they have been drinking a lot' etc.

It can either mean something that a person or people have been doing right up until the moment of speaking, or something that you have been doing for a period of time, for example 'i have been learning spanish for 2 years' .

Would the translation for these come from the use of Haber + Estar + present participle , i.e. in Spanish can you have 2 conjugated auxiliary verbs followed by another conjugated verb in the present participle, or does one conjugation of Haber or Estar + present participle cover it?

Thanks in advance !

updated NOV 28, 2012
posted by elguapo

5 Answers


YOu correctlky see that if there had been (si hubiera) is very different from there had been (habia habido)
eg there had been a light on - habia habido una luz prendida
Note that I normally would have said something else in Spanish, ie not use the subjunctive

on the second one
I have been learning Spanish for two years
He estado estudiando español por dos años

i have been playing...
estaba jugando ... with preference to he estado jugando which sounds a bit stilted in that context same in English I was playing instead of I have been playing ...
when in the sense of I have been devoting my time to playing football, I would have said he estado jugando en el campeonato, o he estado jugando con el club... just he estado jugando al futbol is correct but doesn;t sound right.

I/they have been drinking a lot
he/han estado tomando mucho is ok.

updated ABR 6, 2013
posted by RicardoN

Here is a link & I think you can find more advanced links from there


updated NOV 28, 2012
posted by motley

NOte that I said that as a native speaker I wouldn't have used 'there had been' not if...

So I would have said for "there had been a few ocasions when i thought ..."
"hubieron momentos en los que pensaba"...
habia habido is a mouthful in Spanish.
there had been a light on - habia una luz prendida
in other words i would have lost the sense of been and just said "there was a light on"

If there was an if then I owuld have used the subjunctive, but simply.
if there had been a light on I would have probably used the same as before and said "si habia una luz prendida" (if there was a light on) or even "si la luz estaba prendida" (if the light was on)

updated ENE 13, 2008
posted by RicardoN

THanks for the reply Ricardo, that's a big help.

Just out of interest, as a native spanish speaker what would you have said for 'if there had been' instead of the subjunctive?


updated ENE 11, 2008
posted by elguapo

I'll check it out, thanks.

updated ENE 10, 2008
posted by elguapo
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