Conjugation and usage of the Spanish present perfect (pretérito perfecto)

Video lesson + interactive exercises

In today’s article, we are going to have a very basic look at the Spanish present perfect (pretérito perfecto). I’m going to show you how to conjugate it and when to use it.

This explanation is intended for beginner’s levels (A2) and we’ll only have a look at regular verbs. If you prefer to watch this lesson, you’ll find a video lesson in Spanish at the end of this article. Remember that subtitles are available in Spanish, English and German so you can follow this lesson easily if you’re a Spanish-beginner and have problems understanding everything.

How to form the Spanish present perfect (pretérito perfecto)?

The Spanish present perfect is formed with the verb “haber” and a participle [haber + participio]. Let’s begin with the verb “haber”. This verb is auxiliary, which means that it indicates in which person and tense we are talking.
The present perfect indicative needs an auxiliary verb: he, has, ha, hemos, habéis, han. Here you have the conjugation in simple present of the verb “haber”:

1. he4.  hemos
2. has5. habéis
3. ha6. han

The participle in Spanish

All right, in order to finish forming the pretérito perfecto we now need the participle. The participle is a verb that we use to describe an action.
How to form the Spanish participle? For this, we use the infinitive form of the verb we want to use. If, for example, we want to use “viajar”, “comer” or “vivir”, we form the participle the following way:

A. Viajar: we remove -ar ➜ and we add -ado an: viajado

B. Comer: we remove -er ➜ and we add -ido an: comido.

C. Vivir: we remove – ir ➜ and we add again -ido an: vivido.

And like this we form, quite easily, the Spanish present perfect (pretérito perfecto). The result:

➜ Yo he viajado / yo he comido / yo he vivido

When to use the pretérito perfecto?

The Spanish present perfect is a tense that describes an action that happened in the past. But these actions:

  1. still have a connection with the present, although they took place in the past.
    ➜ Example: Este invierno he aprendido a esquiar.

    Usually, the person speaking (here: Ana), thinks that the action took place not too long ago or belongs to a period that’s part of the present. In our example, Ana is telling us about something she did in winter and for here it’s close to the moment when she’s telling it. That means that the action belongs to the past, but probably took place in the year that’s still not concluded. This is the connection to her present.

  2. the action or the period in which it took place is not yet concluded.
    ➜ Example: ¿Estás aprendiendo español? Sí, he comenzado este año.

    Since she started in January, she uses the verb in a past tense. But she uses the pretérito perfecto because the course hasn’t finished yet.

  3. it’s not specified when exactly in the past the action took place.
    ➜ Example: Ana is putting together a photo album and says: «He hecho tantas fotos que no sé qué elegir».

    In this example there are no tense markers, i.e. it’s not specified when the action took place. It’s not stated if it was yesterday, this morning, the day before yesterday or last month. When did Ana take the pictures? At some point in the past. Maybe yesterday, maybe this morning, or maybe last week. We don’t know, and therefore we use the pretérito perfecto.

And this is where we conclude today’s grammatical explanation of the Spanish present perfect. This explanation is intended for beginner’s levels (A2). Below you’ll find an explanatory video with examples. Watch it, and if you have problems understanding it, just activate the subtitles in Spanish, English or German. In addition, I’ll leave two exercises for you to practice what you’ve learned today.

Video lesson: the Spanish present perfect (pretérito perfecto) – conjugation and usage (with subtitles)

Interactive exercises to practice

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