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  • Writer's pictureClaudio


Updated: Feb 10

Let’s see when and how to correctly use the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto (Past Perfect) in Spanish.

People guessing what the pretérito pluscuamperfecto is in Spanish

In Spanish we have this “not so used” but surely useful tense called PRETÉRITO PLUSCUAMPERFECTO (Past Perfect).

As with the Past Perfect in English, we use the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto in Spanish to describe past actions (that had already occurred) before another action, always in the past. BOTH ACTIONS HAVE TO BE ACTUALLY IN THE PAST.


- Ayer, Juan no necesitó preparar la cena, porque ya HABÍA COMIDO.

- The initial focus is on the past, YESTERDAY he didn’t need to prepare dinner. So, with everything in the past, here you can use the Past Perfect (HAD EATEN).

It will be different if it was:

- Juan no necesita preparar la cena, porque ya HA COMIDO.

- The initial focus is on the present moment, NOW he doesn’t need to prepare dinner. NOT in the past.

Just for a wider context, in this last case, you have the first action on the PRESENT…., and the second action in the past “RELATED to the present”. Because of this, here you need to use the Pretérito Perfecto (Present Perfect), and NOT the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto (Past perfect).


Let’s see how to use the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto (PAST PERFECT) correctly…

As we’ve said before, in Spanish we use this tense to describe past actions (that had already occurred) before another action, always in the past.

To form the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto, you have to conjugate “HABER” in its Imperfect form (this will be your Auxiliary Verb), and then just ad the past participle of the main verb.


Let’s take a closer look at it…

Imperfect form of “HABER”:

- Yo había (I had)

- Tú habías (You had) INFORMAL*

- El / Ella había (He, She had)

- Usted había (You had) FORMAL*

- Nosotros/as habíamos (We had)

- Vosotros/as habíais (You all had) INFORMAL*

- Ellos/Ellas habían (They had)

- Ustedes habían (You all had) FORMAL*


Past Participle:

a) Verbs finishing in AR

- We have to cancel -AR and ad -ADO at the end of the verb

- amAR > amADO

- to love > loved


b) Verbs finishing in ER

- We have to cancel -ER and ad -IDO at the end of the verb

- comER > comIDO

- to eat > eaten


c) Verbs finishing in IR

- We have to cancel -IR and ad -IDO at the end of the verb

- vivIR > vivIDO

- to live > lived

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So.., putting all this together:

  • Mis amigos ya habían llegado a la clase cuando yo llegué

  • My friends had already arrived at the class when I arrived

  • Ella había comido antes de llegar a la cena

  • She had eaten before arriving at the dinner

That being said, in case you want to push yourself beyond the correct use of the PRETÉRITO PLUSCUAMPERFECTO in Spanish, maybe finding new and powerful resources, plus the opportunity to practice your Spanish by talking in a professionally managed environment, if you want, you can take a look at our Live Conversation Classes (384 Classes available per YEAR — 1 to 6 students per class) 🙂

Complete Spanish Courses — from Zero to HERO in 6 months — can be found through our homepage 🚀

Qué tengas un maravilloso día!


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