Spanish Grammar Tip

Do you know the pretérito pluscuamperfecto?

El pretérito pluscuamperfecto (the pluperfect) in Spanish is used to talk about the past in the past, that is, to describe what someone had done or what had happened at a specific time in the past before something else occurred.

Therefore, although both actions took place in the past, one preceded the other. To express the former the pluperfect is used in Spanish, same as with the past perfect in English.

The Spanish pluperfect is formed using the imperfect tense of haber followed by the past participle of the verb whose action is being described.

Present Tense of Haber Past Participle of the Verb

había (I had)

habías (you had)

había (he/she/it had)

habíamos (we had)

habíais (you lot had)

habían (they had)


+ hablar → hablado (talked)

+ beber → bebido (drunk)

+ vivir → vivido (lived)


As a reminder, the past participle is, in turn, formed, by taking the infinitive, removing -ar, -er, -ir and adding the endings –ado, -ido, -ido, respectively.

Let’s look at some examples:

Cuando llegaron, ya me había ido. → When they arrived, I had already left.

Cuando el incendio se produjo, todos se habían marchado de sus casas. → When the fire happened, everyone had left their homes.

No fuisteis al cine porque ya habíais visto esa peli. → You didn’t go the cinema as you’d already watched that movie.

As seen for the Spanish pretérito (perfect tense), several high frequency Spanish verbs feature an irregular past participle, the most common ones being:

abrir (to open) → abierto (opened) morir (to die) → muerto (died)
decir (to say) → dicho (said) poner (to put) → puesto (put)
descubrir (to find out) → descubierto (found out) romper (to break) → roto (broken)
escribir (to write) → escrito (written) ver (to see) → visto (seen)
hacer (to do) → hecho (done) volver (to return) → vuelto (returned)


Lastly, all negatives and pronouns of any kinds (object, indirect, reflexive) must come before haber as nothing can go between haber and the past participle

Here are some examples:

Te quedaste en casa porque no te habías duchado. → You stayed home since you had not taken a shower.

No ganó porque no les había hecho caso. → He didn’t win because he hadn’t listened to them.

Como no te lo había devuelto le dejaste de hablar. → Since she hadn’t returned it to you, you stopped talking to her.

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