Grammar Guide
Verbs
The Perfect Aspect

The Perfect Aspect

Quick Answer

The perfect aspect (el aspecto perfectivo ) is one of the grammatical aspects in Spanish. It is often used to talk about actions that are perceived as being finished or completed.

What is a "verbal aspect" anyway?

A verbal aspect gives information about the internal structure of events. It helps us to understand when an event begins, ends, or repeats itself. A verbal aspect affects the relative timing of an action, but it does not affect the time that the action is perceived to be completed; that is determined by the verbal tenses. For example, both of the examples below use the verbal tense that we call the past tense, but the first example expresses the perfect aspect while the second example expresses the imperfect aspect.

Había ido a la tienda.
I had gone to the store.
 
Iba a la tienda.
I was going to the store.
 

The first example presents the action of the speaker as being completed while the second example presents the action of the speaker as occurring over time.

The Simple Perfect Tenses

Three of the most common perfect verbal tenses in English are el pretérito perfecto compuesto  (the present perfect), el pretérito pluscuamperfecto  (the past perfect), and el futuro compuesto  (the future perfect). Let's take a look at how to form each one of these perfect tenses.

The Present Perfect

El pretérito perfecto compuesto, or the present perfect in English, is used to talk about actions that started in the past and continue into the present, and can include actions that began early in life all the way up to the recent past. This tense is formed with the verb haber  (to have) in the present plus a past participle (participio ).

Present Perfect Formula:

haber in the present + past participle

Let's take a look at some examples that use el pretérito perfecto compuesto.

He leído ese libro.
I have read that book.
 
Has gastado mucho dinero este mes.
You have spent a lot of money this month.
 

Want to learn more? Check out our article about the the present perfect.


The Past Perfect

Also called el pretérito anterior  (the past perfect in English), this tense is used to talk about actions that took place before another past action. It is formed with the verb haber in the past plus a past participle.

Past Perfect Formula:

haber in the past + past participle

Lo había visto antes.
I had seen him before.
 
Ya habíamos comido.
We had already eaten.
 

Let's take a look at some examples that use el pretérito pluscuamperfecto.

Want to learn more? Check out our article about the the past perfect.


The Future Perfect

El futuro compuesto, or the future perfect in English, is used to talk about an action that will have occurred in the future. It is formed with the verb haber in the future simple plus a past participle.

Future Perfect Formula:

haber in the future simple + past participle

Let's take a look at some examples that use el futuro compuesto.

Habré acabado con mi proyecto.
I will have finished with my project.
 
Habrán obtenido permiso.
They will have gotten permission.
 

Want to learn more? Check out our article about the the future perfect.

The Subjunctive Perfect Tenses

That's right. In Spanish, conditions for using perfect tenses and for using the subjunctive mood can overlap. When this is the case, we use the subjunctive perfect tenses. The subjunctive verbal tenses are el pretérito perfecto de subjuntivo  (the present perfect subjunctive), el pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo  (the past perfect subjunctive), and el futuro compuesto del subjuntivo  (the future perfect subjunctive). Let's take a look at how these tenses are used.

The Present Perfect Subjunctive

El pretérito perfecto de subjuntivo, or the present perfect subjunctive in English, is used to talk about past actions that are connected to the present, as well as actions that will have happened by a certain point in the future. It is formed with the verb haber in the present subjunctive plus a past participle.

Present Perfect Subjunctive Formula:

present subjunctive of haber + past participle

Let's take a look at some examples that use the present perfect subjunctive.

Me enoja que hayan dejado a su perro en el carro caliente.
I'm angry that they left their dog in the hot car.
 
No es probable que mis papás vayan de vacaciones en agosto.
It's not likely that my parents are going on vacation in August.
 

Want to learn more? Check out our article about the the present perfect subjunctive.


The Past Perfect Subjunctive

El pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo, or the past perfect subjunctive in English, is used to talk about hypothetical situations in the past, past conditionals, and past actions that preceded other past actions. It is formed with the verb haber in the imperfect subjunctive plus a past participle.

Past Perfect Subjunctive Formula:

imperfect subjunctive of haber + past participle

Let's take a look at some examples that use the past perfect subjunctive in action!

Si hubiera venido al cine a tiempo, no habría perdido los tráilers.
If I had gotten to the theater on time, I wouldn't have missed the previews.
 
Mi profesor dudó que mi perro se hubiese comido mis deberes.
My professor doubted that my dog had eaten my homework.
 

Want to learn more? Check out our article about the the past perfect subjunctive.


The Future Perfect Subjunctive

El futuro compuesto del subjuntivo, the future perfect subjunctive in English, is used to indicate actions that will have happened in the future at a certain point. It is rarely used in modern Spanish, save for in literature and in legal documents. In modern conversational Spanish, the past perfect subjunctive is used instead of this tense. The future perfect in Spanish is formed with the verb haber in the future subjunctive plus a past participle.

Future Perfect Subjunctive Formula:

future subjunctive of haber + past participle

Let's take a look at some examples that use the future perfect subjunctive.

Hubiere tomado el examen final a este hora mañana.
I will have taken the final exam this time tomorrow.
 
Cuando por fin llegues, hubiéremos terminado la película.
When you eventually get here, we will have finished the movie.
 

Want to learn more? Check out our article about the the future perfect subjunctive.

The Conditional Perfect Tense

The conditional perfect (el condicional anterior ) describes an action in the past that would have happened but did not due to some other event. It is formed with the verb haber in the conditional plus a past participle.

Conditional Perfect Formula:

haber in the conditional + past participle

Let's take a look at a couple of examples that show the conditional perfect tense in action:

Te habría regalado algo si supiera que era tu cumpleaños.
I would have gotten you something had I known that it was your birthday.
 
Mis papás habrían estado dormidos cuando regresé a casa.
My parents must have been asleep when I got home.
 

Want to learn more? Check out our article about the the conditional perfect.

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