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14.7: Presente perfecto

  • Page ID
    50013
  • Objetivos

    • Recognize and understand the present perfect tense
    Photo of waves crashing against rocks.
    “El que ha naufragado, teme a la mar, aún calmada.”

    The present perfect is an example of a compound tense, that is a verb tense that consists of two words: one auxiliary or “helping” verb plus one participle. The verb “haber” is the auxiliary verb for all the perfect tenses, and in the present perfect, you will use the present tense of “haber”. As you may imagine, if you conjugate “haber” in the past you can make the past perfect tense, and so forth for the future perfect… but for now we’ll just master the present perfect tense.

    The second word in all of the perfect tenses is the past participle of the main verb. The regular formula for creating a past participle is to remove the ending from the infinitive, and put “-ado” or “-ido” on the stem, according to whether it’s an -AR, -ER, or -IR verb. There are also quite a few irregular participles that you will have to memorize.

    Present perfect conjugation and irregular participles:

    subject haber past participle
    yo he + (regular)
    -AR → -ado
    -ER, -IR → -ido
    hablar → hablado
    comer → comido
    vivir → vivido
    has (irregular)
    abrir → abierto
    cubrir → cubierto
    decir → dicho
    escribir → escrito
    hacer → hecho
    ir → ido
    morir → muerto
    poner → puesto
    resolver → resuelto
    romper → roto
    ver → visto
    volver → vuelto
    él, ella, usted ha
    nosotros, nosotras hemos
    vosotros, vosotras habéis
    ellos, ellas, ustedes han

    Meaning of the present perfect tense

    Photo of a flower in the early morning
    “¡He perdido mi gotita de rocío!,” dice la flor al cielo del amanecer, que ha perdido todas sus estrellas. (Rabindranath Tagore)

    But what does this strange new verb tense mean? For English speakers, understanding the present perfect is easy, since it corresponds fairly neatly to the present perfect tense in English:

    • Play AudioYo he decidido no usar más la envoltura de plástico. (I have decided to no longer use plastic wrap.)
    • Play AudioTodos hemos visto las fotos horrorosas de ballenas muertas con el estómago lleno de plástico. (We all have seen the horrible photos of dead whales with their stomachs full of plastic.)

    More abstractly, the perfect tenses express actions that happened before a certain point of reference—in the case of the present perfect, the action happened before a present point of reference. The present perfect is therefore very similar to the preterit past tense, and in fact some Spanish-speaking regions use them interchangeably or even use the present perfect where standard Spanish would use the preterit. There is a difference, though: the present perfect refers to an action that was completed not long before the present moment and still has some relevance to the present time. This relevance to the present point of reference is the key to the meaning of the present perfect tense. So in the example above about the plastic wrap, the decision not to use it occurred in the past, but is still relevant because it changed the speaker’s present behavior. In the example about having seen the horrible photo, the act of seeing happened in the past, but the emotional effects are still present.

    ¡Bonus adjectives!

    Look again at the second example above, and find the adjective used to describe the whales… “ballenas muertas” (dead whales). A great many adjectives in Spanish are simply past participles, and you’ve learned quite a few already: avergonzado (embarrassed, from avergonzar, to embarrass), abierto (open, from abrir, to open), cansado (tired, from cansar, to tire), etc. So learning this new verb tense has also vastly increased your descriptive vocabulary!

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    • Gramu00e1tica: Presente perfecto. Authored by: SUNY Oneonta with Lumen Learning. License: CC BY: Attribution
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