Spanish. Past. Participles. “Excuse me?” I hear some of you screaming at me. Even the name sounds like something important that we should not forget about. And that’s true. The Past Participle in Spanish is so crucial in your Spanish language learning journey that you must study it in order to be able to use it correctly.
Keep reading this guide and you will learn all the correct ways to use the past participle in Spanish, otherwise known as the “participio pasado”, to sound like a native Spanish-speaker in no time at all.
What’s a Past Participle?
Before you really come to terms with what a Past Participle is, you need to know what a Perfect Tense is. I know, let’s take this straight to the point:
A Perfect Tense is a Verb Tense used to indicate either a completed (therefore perfect) action or condition, or an action that is happening continuously up until the present (or the moment indicated when you are speaking). It could be stated in the Past, Present or Future. These types of forms use the word “have”, ‘‘has” or ‘‘had” as auxiliaries in accordance to what they are trying to say.
- “Eugenia has gone to the gym for the last year or so” or “Eugenia ha ido todos los días al gimnasio durante más o menos el último año”.
- “Edgar is still waiting for the pending information” or “Edgar todavía está esperando por la información pendiente”.
Moreover, the Perfect Tense can explain what a Verb Form is.
A Verb Form means that there are ways (or forms) of conjugating a verb. In the English language, there are five forms for each verb (unless they are irregular, which changes the rules): root, third-person singular, present participle, past and past participle. However, in the Spanish language, well, let’s just say it has more, plenty more. Some authors consider the number to be around 64 forms. Yes, I wrote that correctly.
Do not despair, though, as we are only going to cover what a Past Participle is in Spanish in this guide, and don’t forget to come back to it whenever you feel like practicing and deepening your knowledge.
A regular Past Participle is a verb form that is usually used with Perfect Tenses. In English, the Past Participle is formed by either adding “-ed” or “-en” to the infinitive form, for example, the Past Participle of the verb “to walk” is “walked”. More times than not, however, this just looks like the Simple Past Tense – so how do you differentiate it? The good news is that it is actually more difficult to recognize the Past Participle in English than it is in Spanish.
Furthermore the Past Participle should not be considered a conjugated form of a verb because it does not need to change to agree with the subject. In other words, the Past Participle (unless explicitly stated) will remain the same once you learn the possible endings.
How is the past participle formed in Spanish?
As you probably know in the Spanish Language, there are three verb endings. That is -ar, -er or -ir. In other words, each and every verb has one of these endings (for example, “caminar, correr y parir” or “to walk, to run, and to give birth”). So, in order to form the past participle in Spanish, all you have to do is drop the ending (-ar, -er or -ir) from the Infinitive Verb and then add either -ado (if the ending of the verb was -ar) or -ido (if the ending of the verb was either -er or -ir).
Useful Tip: If the stem of the verb ends in “-a”, “-e”, or “-o”, an accent is written to the “í” in the “-ído”, for example “leer” becomes “leído”.
Here are a few examples of the verbs in Spanish:
- caminar (to walk) → caminado
- acostar (to lay down) → acostado
- cargar (to lift) → aargado
- “Yo no he caminado por acá antes” or “I have never walked around here before”.
- ser (to be) → sido
- correr (to run) → corrido
- entender (to understand) → entendido
- “He entendido todo lo contrario” or “I have understood exactly the opposite”.
- hervir (to toil) → hervido
- ir (to go) → ido
- dormir (to sleep) → dormido
- “No he dormido nada” or “I have not slept at all’.
Useful Tip: Always remember that the past participle in Spanish is always preceded by some form of the verb “to have” (it could either be: have, has or had).
- “Yesterday, I ate” or “Ayer comí” is the Past Tense.
- “I have showered” or “Me he bañado” is the Past Participle.
- “I went into the supermarket” or “Fuí al supermercado” is the Past Tense.
- “We have discovered a new beach” or “Hemos descubierto una playa nueva” is the Past Participle.
Now you are able to differentiate between the Spanish Past Tense and the Past Participle. Let’s move on!
How can the the past participle be used in Spanish?
1. Simple Past Tense
If the past participle is being used as the only verb in the sentence then it could be translated into English as the Simple Past Tense.
- “Hoy he caminado” or “I have walked today”.
- “He tomado mucho café” or “I have drank a lot of coffee”.
- “El ha comido mucho por hoy” or “He has eaten a lot for today”.
It could also be used as an Adjective. Please note that when you use it like this, the Past Participle must be adapted to match both the number and the gender of the noun that it is modifying:
- “Esta barra de chocolate es una versión mejorada de la última” or “This chocolate bars is an improved version of the last one”.
- “Los niños están agotados” or “The children are tired”.
- “El mono está deshidratado” or “The monkey is dehydrated”.
- “La puerta está rota” or “The window is broken”.
3. Independent Adjective
Did you know you could also use the Past Participle as an Independent Adjective? It is usually used when you must make an exclamation or when you are referring to a state of being of a person or situation.
- “¿Muerta? ¿Dices que ella está muerta?” or “Dead? You say she is dead?”
- “¿Molestada yo? ¡Eres tú el que se molestó!” or “Me, angry? You are the one who’s angry!”.
Useful tip: Pretty much every single verb in the Spanish language can be made into an Adjective if you use its Past Participle form.
The Past Participle could also be used as a Noun. For you to successfully recognize the Past Participle in Spanish as a Noun, I recommend you to pay attention to this rule: the Past Participle usually corresponds to the Object Nouns that finish in -ed in the English language.
- “El pintado” or “The painted one”.
- “El sandwich tostado” or “A toast sandwich”.
- “El ahogado” or “The drowned one”.
Useful tip: When you learn the Past Participles of verbs in Spanish you are also learning a great number of other words that are derived by the stem of the verb, as they all have a common root. So you could potentially be learning 3 words at once!
- “Amar” or “To love”.
- “Amado, amada” or “The loved one” [He or she] and is also the Past Participle.
- “Amante” or “Lover”
- “Decir” or “To say” → “El dicho” or “The saying”
- “Acusar” or “To accuse” → “El acusado” or “The accused”
- “Herir” or “To hurt” → “Herida, herido” or “The injured”
5. Compound Verb
The Past Participle could also be used with the helping or auxiliary verb “to have” in order to form the Past Participle as a Compound Verb (which is a Verb Tense that requires more than one verb or word in order to be created).
- “Ellos se han conectado al Internet ahora” or “They have connected to the Internet now”.
Let’s have a look at some English sentences so you can see it clearly, for example:
- “I have eaten my dinner tonight”. In this sentence, “have” is the Auxiliary Verb (the verb that helps), and ‘eaten’ is the Irregular Past Participle of “to eat”.
- “We have called him”. Again, “have” is the Auxiliary form of the Verb and “called” is the Regular Past Participle of “call”.
In general Compound Verbs work the same way in Spanish. Of course, there are some exceptions – as always. But let’s stick to the regular forms for the time being.
Using the above English examples, let’s translate them to Spanish to see the way the sentences are formed.
- “[Yo] he comido mi cena esta noche”. The word ‘He’ comes from the Verb ‘haber’ which is the Auxiliary Verb in the sentence, while the word “comido” is in the Past Participle form and comes from the verb ‘comer’.
- “[Nosotras] lo hemos llamado”. The word ‘hemos’ comes from the Verb ‘haber’ which works as the Auxiliary Verb in this sentence, while the word ‘llamado” is in the Past Participle form and comes from the verb “llamar”.
6. Use the Past Participle with other Verbs
Even though the most used verb to pair the Past Participle with is “Haber” or “To Have”, you could always use the Verb “Ser” or “To Be” as well, especially when you want to form the passive voice in Spanish.
- “La joyería fue robada” or “The jewelery was stolen”
- “El bebé fue mordido por el perro” or “The baby was bitten by the dog”
Similarly, when you want to express an action made by the verbs, you must use the Past Participle. In other words, it could be used to indicate how the action is done or what the results of the action are.
- “Cristina nunca llega angustiada” or “Cristina never arrives anguished”.
- “Los gatos están obsesionados con la comida” or “The cats are obsessed with the food”.
Useful tip: In this case, the Past Participle has the same gender and quantity as the Noun it is referring to because you will use it as an Adjective.
Irregular Past Participles in Spanish
Now the Irregular Past Participles:
In English pretty much all Past Participles are simply formed by adding ‘ed’ or ‘en’ to the infinitive form. Nonetheless, there are a couple of verbs that have Irregular Past Participles, such as ‘To Do’. We don’t say ‘doed’ as the rule suggests, we say ‘done’.
In Spanish the Irregular Verbs are also present, sometimes more than in English.
Some of the Irregular Verbs are the following:
- escribir (to write) → escrito
- hacer (to do) → hecho
- morir (to die) → muerto
- romper (to break) → roto
- volver (to go back) → vuelto
- abrir (to open) → abierto
- decir (to say) → dicho
- poner (to put) → puesto
- ver (to see) → visto
- cubrir (to cover) → cubierto
- descubrir (to discover) → descubierto
Is the past participle in Spanish really useful?
Of course, it is. To recognize a Past Participle is just the halfway point of truly learning it. Once you start integrating this form in your daily Spanish language practise then you will soon discover many more natural ways of coming across and expressing yourself. Ready to get started? Quiz yourself on the Past Participle in Spanish with Clozemaster.
We have now learned the different ways of using the Participio Pasado, and hopefully now you will be able to implement new ways of speaking and writing in the Spanish language. Be sure to remember that once you learn the Past Participle, you will also know at least two other words since they go back to the same root. And remember that forming the Part Participle in Spanish is easier than it is English?
Ready to take your Spanish to the next level? Practice the past participle and learn thousands of words in context with Clozemaster. Get started today!