We know Spanish tenses are plentiful and complicated. They all take some time to learn, which is why, in this article, we’ll be focusing on one particular form that didn’t get much attention yet: the pretérito perfecto compuesto, antepresente or present perfect. This indicative mood tense is used to talk about the past and, below, we’ll go over how to form the present perfect Spanish tense and when to use it, as well as how it is different from other past tenses.
The present perfect in Spanish is formed with the verb haber (to have) in the present tense and the participle of the verb in question. The verb haber is used here as an auxiliary.
You can take a look at the entire haber conjugation in this article, but let’s see an example of the present perfect Spanish tense below:
Vos (Latin America)
|Usted (You, formal)
|Vosotros (You, plural)
Ustedes (Latin America)
As you can see, you have the conjugation of the verb haber for each person in the present tense and, in this case, the participle for the verb salir (to go out). Let’s focus on the participle next.
You may have some doubts when it comes to the participle, particularly as there are three verb endings in the Spanish language (-ar, -er, and -ir). To form the participio you will need to drop these endings from the infinitive form and then add -ado for those verbs ending in -ar and -ido for the verbs ending in -er and -ir. Let’s see an example for each verb ending:
- caminar (to walk) → caminado
- entender (to understand) → entendido
- dormir (to sleep) → dormido
For a more detailed explanation, check out or article on the past participle in Spanish.
Both the auxiliary verb haber and the participio are used in all compuesto tenses in Spanish, in both the indicative and subjunctive moods.
Now let’s see a few examples with the present perfect Spanish form of salir, ir and cocinar :
- He salido poco últimamente (I’ve not gone out much lately.)
- Hemos ido a la playa. (We’ve gone to the beach.)
- Esta noche han cocinado paella. (They’ve cooked paella tonight.)
Now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s take a look at when to use the present perfect in Spanish. To begin with, let’s take a look at the most common past tenses in Spanish for reference and to avoid confusion.
A past event can be one that:
This describes the use of the present perfect in Spanish best. This means we are talking about something that started in the past and ended in the present. The actual tense is more nuanced than that, but we’ll look at it in more detail below.
For now, let stick to this concept and take a look at another example:
- Hoy he ido al supermercado. (I went to the supermarket today.)
This action has started and ended, but is quite close to the present as the day is not over yet, which is why we use present perfect or pretérito perfecto compuesto here.
This would be the past simple tense (or pretérito perfecto simple in Spanish) which covers an event or action with a clear start and end that both took place in the past.
Let’s see a few examples:
- Anoche salí a bailar (I went out to dance last night.)
We know that the action started and ended the previous night, therefore, this is the proper tense to use.
- El año pasado viajé a Paraguay. (I travelled to Paraguay last year.)
Here the events took place the previous year.
- ¿Fuiste a la playa el fin de semana pasado? (Did you go to the beach last weekend?)
And here the sentence refers to the previous weekend, which is clearly in the past.
This last one would be reflected in the past imperfect tense (or préterito imperfecto in Spanish) and is a bit more complex.
Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
- Pensaba que tenías dos hermanos. (I used to believe you had two brothers.)
In this case, we don’t know when the event took place, i.e., when this person started and stopped believing this fact.
- Cuando era chico jugaba mucho a la pelota. (When I was a little, I used to play ball a lot.)
Here we have a rough idea as the events took place when the speaker was young, but we don’t have enough information for the exact timeline.
If you are interested in learning more about the past simple and past imperfect tenses in Spanish, you can check out this video. And, of course, if you want to review all Spanish tenses, you can check out our article on this subject!
Now that we are mostly clear on the time frame for the present perfect, we’re going to take a look at specific examples to help us understand all of the context in which this Spanish tense is used.
Here are some of the most common words and expressions that can help you figure out when to use the present perfect. Moreover, this will help show you that this tense has no one crystal clear translation into Spanish. Depending on the context, the pretérito perfecto compuesto may need to be translated into present perfect or past simple in English. Let’s take a look:
Since the action has finished, but the day is not over yet, hoy qualifies for the present perfect in Spanish:
- Hoy han salido a caminar. (They went out for a walk today.)
The same goes for these phrases as they refer to something that has happened on the same day you are referring to, as you can see below:
- Esta mañana he desayunado tarde. (This morning, I had a late breakfast.)
The present perfect in Spanish also applies to something that has been happening in recent times.
- Últimamente, me he sentido mal. (I’ve been feeling unwell lately.)
We don’t need to restrict ourselves to such a short timeline as a day, it could be something within the course of a week, month or years as well.
- Este año han trabajado mucho. (They’ve worked a lot this year.)
We also use the present perfect in Spanish when talking about the number of times we’ve carried out an action.
- He ido a ese restaurante varias veces. (I’ve gone to that restaurant several times.)
Things that you already did or still haven’t done are usually present actions and, therefore, also carry the present perfect in Spanish.
- ¿Todavía no terminaste de comer? (You still haven’t finished dinner?)
The present perfect Spanish tense also applies to something that has never taken place since if you, for example, have never tried something, this it is true from the moment you are born until the present day.
- Nunca ha fumado. (He/She’s never smoked.)
This one is quite similar to the previous case of nunca and jamás.
- En la vida he conocido a nadie como a ti. (I’ve never met anyone like you in my life)
As you can see, the present perfect in Spanish is quite flexible and can apply to a variety of situations. It can be something that has taken place within the specified time frame, a situation repeated over time, something that has been going on for a long time and is still true today, or even something that has yet to take place.
Although the present perfect Spanish tense is taught in all Spanish-speaking countries, you should know it is not used exactly the same all across them. In some countries, like Argentina and Uruguay, the use of the past simple tense predominates, while in others the opposite is true. Moreover, different rules may apply.
We have tried to cause the least confusion by giving you the general rules of this tense, but you should be aware that local Spanish varieties abound, and you may come across different uses. As you know, us Spanish speakers love to give language learners a challenge!
However, we hope this guide has covered as much as possible of the present perfect Spanish tense and has left you with more answers than questions!