The last past tense is the present perfect. As in English, this tense uses two verbs in combination: a form of “to have” and the past participle of the main verb, for example: “We have finished supper.” In Spanish, the auxiliary verb used is haber. Look at the next two charts to learn how to conjugate haber and form the past participle of each verb category.
The Conjugation of Haber
(yo) he (I have)
(tú) has (you have)
(él, ella, usted) ha (he or she has, you have)
(nosotros) hemos (we have)
(vosotros) habéis (you have)
(ellos, ellas, ustedes) han (they, you have)
The Past Participle
Most one-syllable verbs like ser, dar, and ir are regular: sido, dado, ido. There are, of course, some irregular past participles. Look at the following list:
decir: dicho (said)
hacer: hecho (done)
romper: roto (broken)
ver: visto (seen)
poner: puesto (put, placed)
volver: vuelto (returned)
abrir: abierto (opened)
escribir: escrito (written)
cubrir: cubierto (covered)
morir: muerto (dead)
Interestingly, the present perfect generally refers to something in the past, even though it seems to describe a present state. For example, “I have been to Spain many times” (Yo he ido a España muchas veces.
) refers to many past visits to Spain but describes the present condition of having many experiences Spain. Think about the following examples for a minute.
He desayunado. (I have had breakfast.)
Has vivido en muchos países. (You have lived in many countries.)
No hemos abierto el paquete. (We haven't opened the package.)
The verb haber cannot be used in place of tener to mean “to have.” Likewise, tener cannot be used in place of haber to form the present perfect in Spanish.
Already and Yet: Ya and Todavía
Sentences in the present perfect often include the words “already” or “yet.” The Spanish equivalents are ya and todavía. But these words are not direct translations between English and Spanish. Use ya in affirmative sentences or questions; use todavía in negative statements like this:
Ya he comido. (I have already eaten.)
¿Ya has tomado el café? (Have you had coffee yet?)
No, todavía no he tomado el café. (No, I haven't had coffee yet.)
The placement of ya and todavía in Spanish is somewhat flexible. It's most common to put these words in front of the verb, but you can also put them at the end of the sentence. However, you cannot put them in between the form of haber and the past participle.
He comido ya.
¿Has tomado el café ya?
No, no he tomado el café todavía.
The English expression “to have just done something” is not present perfect in Spanish. Use the formula acabar de + infinitive. For example, to say “Javier has just left the house” you would say: Javier acaba de salir de casa.
Listen to each question on Track 42 and answer in a complete sentence using the present perfect. (The questions are not shown here because this is meant to be a more challenging exercise.) You can see the questions and sample answers written out in Appendix D.