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CSEC Spanish: The Past Participle and The Past Perfect Tense

A past participle is a word which, in English, would usually end in -ed, so words like talked, printed, and predicted. English has many irregular past participles (just like Spanish!) such as read, gone and sung.

Regular past participles are formed like this in Spanish:

Drop the -ar ending of the verb and add -ado (eg cantar → cant- → cantado)

Drop the -er ending of the verb and add -ido (eg comer → com- → comido)

Drop the -ir ending of the verb and add -ido (eg recibir → recib- → recibido)

Simple enough right?

However, there are many irregular forms:

1) When an -er or -ir verb end in a vowel (that is not u) then the past participle is written with an accent over the i.

atraer → atra → atraído

creer → cre → creído

poseer → pose → poseído

caer → ca → caído

leer → le → leído

2) Some verbs are just irregular for no reason- other than because Spanish decided it would be fun. (You're just going to have to memorize these)

Some common irregular forms are as follows:

abrir→ abierto

poner → puesto

romper → roto

satisfacer →satisfecho

ver → visto

morir → muerto

cubrir → cubierto

escribir → escrito

hacer → hecho

volver → vuelto

absolver → absuelto

decir → dicho

resolver → resuelto

3) There are three verbs which have two acceptable past participle forms, so you can use either one and not be confused when you see one instead of another in passages:

imprimir → impreso/imprimido

freír → freído/frito

proveer → proveído/provisto

The past participle has many uses in Spanish:

1. To form the seven compound tenses

2. To form the Perfect Infinitive: (haber hablado/to have spoken)

3. To form the Perfect Participle: (habiendo hablado/having spoken)

4. To serve as an adjective, which must agree in gender and number with the noun it modifies (eg: El señor Molina es muy respetado por todos los alumnos/ Mr. Molina is very respected by all the students; La señora González es muy conocida/Mrs. González is very well known)

5. To express the result of an action with estar and sometimes with quedar or quedarse. (eg: La puerta está abierta/The door is opened; Las cartas están escritas/The letters are written; Los niños se quedaron asustados/The children remained frightened)

6. To express the passive voice with ser. (eg: La ventana fue abierta por el ladrón/ The window was opened by the robber)

Now that you understand how to form the past participle, we can discuss how to use it in the past perfect tense. The past perfect tense is used to describe an action that took place at no definite time in the past. To form the past perfect tense, it is simply:

conjugation of haber + past participle

Haber is conjugated as follows:

Yo he


él/ella/usted ha

nosotros hemos

vosotros habéis

ellos/ellas/ustedes han

So, all you do is use the conjugation of haber that matches the subject and the past participle of the verb.

I have seen/Yo he visto.

You have spoken/Tú has hablado

My mom has written a letter/ Mi madre ha escrito una carta

We have returned/Nosotros hemos vuelto

They have read the books/ Ellos han leído los libros

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