Spanish Grammar Guide

Past Perfect (e.g.: había hablado)

In this section: Description, Questions, Exercises


An Overview of the Past Perfect

The present perfect (or pluscuamperfecto) is used to describe a past action that precedes another past action. In grammar the word "perfect" simply mean "past". So, the term past perfect simply means "further back in the past (than some other relevant past action)". English uses this as well, for example, "When I arrived, he had already finished eating."

How to Form the Past Perfect

The pluscoamperfecto is formed by using the imperfect of haber, followed by the past participle. This is illustrated in the following table:

Past Perfect Translation
había hablado "I had spoken"
habías hablado
"you had spoken"
había hablado "he, she, one, you had spoken"
habíamos hablado "we had spoken"
habíais hablado "you had spoken"
habían hablado "they, you had spoken"

Given the meaning of the past perfect, it is common to finding it used alongside the word ya ("already"), e.g.: Cuando llegó, ya habían encontrado la solución.

Another common structure is the use of the past conditional verb after the past perfect, e.g.: Si había entendido, no lo habría hecho. In this structure, it is important to remember that only the past perfect, NOT the past conditional, directly follows si.

Tags: verbs past conditional si conditional mode tense past perfect auxiliaries
In this section: Description, Questions, Exercises
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