Spanish Verbs: Past Perfect

The past perfect, also referred to as the pluperfect, expresses an action in the past that occurred before another past action. It describes what a person, or persons, "had" done prior to something else that happened. It is created by combining the imperfect tense of the verb haber with the past participle.

The imperfect tense of the verb "haber" is conjugated as follows:

  • había
  • habías
  • había
  • habíamos
  • habíais
  • habían
The past participle is formed by dropping the infinitive ending and adding -ado (for -ar verbs) and -ido (for -er/-ir verbs). However, don't forget, some past participles are irregular. The following are examples of the past perfect created by combining the imperfect tense of haber with the past participle of the verb "comer" (to eat). Read and listen to each example, then repeat each out loud.

I had eaten.
(yo) Había comido.
You had eaten.
(tú) Habías comido.
He had eaten.
(él) Había comido.
We had eaten.
(nosotros) Habíamos comido.
You had eaten.
(vosotros) Habíais comido.
They had eaten.
(ellos) Habían comido.


Remember, the past perfect is formed by combining the imperative haber + past participle. Read and listen to the following examples, then repeat each out loud. In each of the examples below notice how the past participle, within the past perfect, does not change gender or plurality to agree with the noun it modifies.

I had already seen the movie.
Había visto ya la película.
You had already arrived at the party when she arrived.
Habías llegado a la fiesta cuando ella llegó.
You had read the report before her.
Usted había leído el informe antes que ella.
He had taken off his shoes before entering the chapel.
Él había sacado sus zapatos cuando entró a la capilla.
She had eaten before arriving at the party.
Ella había comido antes de llegar a la fiesta.
We had left when it began to smell.
Nos habíamos salido cuando comenzó a oler.
You had not heard the beautiful music before now.
No habíais oído la música hermosa antes de ahora.
You had returned after she came home.
Ustedes habían vuelto cuando ella regresó a casa.
They had put the papers on the desk before the teacher arrived.
Ellos habían puesto los papeles en el escritorio antes que llegara el maestro.
They had talked a lot after the ceremony ended.
Ellas habían hablado mucho después que la ceremonia terminó.


Remember, the past perfect is used when a past action was completed before another action in the past. Words including "antes", "ya", "todavia", "nunca" and "después" are often indicators that one action was completed before another. Read and listen to the following examples, then repeat each one out loud.

I had already arrived prior to them leaving.
Yo ya había llegado antes que se fueran.
When the waiter returned, the family had already left.
Cuando el camarero volvió, la familia ya había salido


Object pronouns (ie. me, te, le) are place immediately before the conjugated verb "haber" when employing the past perfect. Read and listen to the following examples, then repeat each out loud.

Maria had sent a lot of money to her mom.
María le había mandado mucho dinero a su madre.
They had given me a lot of money too.
Ellos me habían dado mucho dinero también.


When making a sentence negative that uses the past perfect, just add the word "no" before the the imperfect "haber" followed by the past participle. In the past perfect, haber and the past participle are never separated. Read and listen to the following examples, then repeat each out loud.

I had not arrived.
(yo) No había llegado.
They had not left.
(ellos) No habían salido.


Object pronouns (ie. me, te, le) are place immediately before the imperfect tense "haber" when used with the past perfect. Read and listen to the following examples, then repeat each out loud.

Juan had given a lot of money to his family.
Juan le había dado mucho dinero a su familia.
Juan had not given a lot of money to his family.
Juan no le había dado mucho dinero a su familia.


The past perfect can also be used with reflexive verbs. When using the past perfect with reflexive verbs, the reflexive pronoun is placed immediately before the imperfect form of the verb haber. Read and listen to the following examples, then repeat each out loud.

I had combed my hair.
Me había peinado el pelo.
They had not combed their hair.
No se habían peinado el pelo.