Spanish past tenses III As you know this month has been all about the past tenses in Spanish. To wrap it all today we are going to review the tenses we have seen, and learn two new ones.

I think a lot of Spanish learners struggle to get the past tense right. Most of the time, a lot of my students ask me if they just used the right tense when we talk , that is why I am writing about this topic,  that I hope it save you a lot of learning time, and hopefully will make your learning life easier too.

In this blog we are going to see 4 types of past tenses,  “pretérito compuesto”, “pretérito indefinido”, -we have already seen them in the previous blogs- “pretérito imperfecto” and  “pretérito pluscuamperfecto” all these tense in the indicative mode, let’ s keep  the subjunctive for another article, as  this is quite complex itself to add something else. So as you say Spanish tense III is quite full on, but nothing you can’t handle!


Spanish past tenses III

We will have a look to the conjugations first, and see a couple of examples afterwards.


Use-We use this tense when the action is ended  but the time is not.

-AR                                         -ER=IR

YO                                          HE

TÚ                                          HAS                                                        +ADO                                    +IDO

ÉL/ELLA                                 HA                                                          (cantado)                            (comido)

NOSOTROS                         HEMOS                                                                                                 (vivido)

VOSOTROS                         HABÉIS

ELLOS                                    HAN

Using this tense the temporal  markers  are important as if we are talking about  something we have done this week, we will use this tense, because this week has not  finished yet, but if instead of saying this week, we mention “yesterday” in our sentence, even if today is Wednesday and  yesterday is part of this week,  yesterday means  the time is gone as well, so we will need the “indefinido”instead.

“He ido al cine esta semana”  but “Fui al cien ayer” not “he ido al cine ayer” NEVER.

p.s. we always ask ¿has estado en Nueva York? Because the action is ended , if you have visited you are not there anymore but the time here is your life and it is still going, that is why we use this tense in this kind of sentences.

This tense has a link with the present, and this link is the time.


Use-When the action is a finished action and the time is finished too. It is a specific action in a specific time.

-AR                                                                         -ER=IR

YO                                                                          -é                                                                            -í

TÚ                                                                          -aste                                                                      -iste

ÉL/ELLA                                                                -ó                                                                            -ío

NOSOTROS                                                         -amos                                                                   -imos

VOSOTROS                                                         -astéis                                                                   -istéis

ELLOS                                                                    -aron                                                                     -ieron

The big problem  with this tense is that as usual in Spanish most of the most common verbs are irregulars.

We could think about this time as something closed in the past. It started and finished in a particular time and it stayed there.



Use-We use this tense when we talk about long actions in the past such as routines, we used it as well when we describe something in the past, like a story.


-AR                                                                         -ER=IR

YO                                                                          -aba                                                                       -ía

TÚ                                                                          -abas                                                                     -ías

ÉL/ELLA                                                                 -aba                                                                       -ía

NOSOTROS                                                         -ábamos                                                              -íamos

VOSOTROS                                                         -abais                                                                    -íais

ELLOS                                                                    -aban                                                                    -ían



Use-When things happened before a certain point in the past, we use “pluscuamperfecto”


HABER (pto imperfecto)               + past participle


Yo                     había                                                  –AR                 -ER/IR

tú                    habías

él/ella               había                                                   +ado                +ido

nosotros          habíamos                                            (cantado)         (comido)

vosotros          habíais

ellos                 habían


It is mostly use when we are telling a story and we want to say something happened before the thing we are talking about.

Example-“Cuando entré al cine la película ya había empezado”. When I enter into the cinema  the movie had already started.



When we are describing two things that, if both actions are long we will use the imperfecto, but if one of them is a long action, and it is cut off for another the long action will be in imperfecto and the short one in indefinido.


“Carlos veía la televisión y Marta leía” Carlos was watching tv and Marta was reading, both long actions but

“Carlos veía la televisión cuando Marta llegó a casa” Carlos was watching tv when Marta arrived home–a long action interrupt by a short one

One action is long and the other just happens once, it is something quick, specific, and it happens when the other is taking place.


ALMOST THE END-Now we are going to take a sentences and use it for each type of past we have seen. I will use a regular verb so you can see the conjugations we have seen above.



Yo he vivido en España I have lived in Spain

Even when we do not say when, we use this tense as it means I have not longer there, but my life(the time) is still going, there is a link with the present.



Yo viví en España  I lived in Spain

With this sentences, we will understand you lived in Spain, for a specific period of time, it is well situated in the past



Yo vivía en España I used to live in Spain

You used to live in Spain, and the period of time is longer than in the previous sentences



Yo había vivido en España antes de aprender español I had lived in Spain before I learned Spanish

The action we are talking about is learning Spanish and we want to say that before doing that we already lived in Spain.


And to sum up as I am quite a visual person so I created  this as I thought it could be useful for you too.


Hope you find it helpful and is your time, you have the info, it is time to practice as much as you can,  because you know what they say “practice makes perfection”, and it is right.


Remember we are still on mood, challenge on! Leave a comment below with a sentence using once of the Spanish past tenses for your chance to win the Spanish book of idioms.



As always I hope you enjoy today’s blog, any questions about the past let me know, I am here to help.

Talk you pronto


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