A VERY PERFECT SPANISH TENSE
Actually there are several 'perfect' Spanish tenses. All perfect tenses are compound tenses, which means a sentence in a perfect tense has two parts, consisting of two verbs. The first is an auxiliary verb, haber (to have done something), and the other a past participle (done, made, said etc.). The Present Perfect Tense is probably the most used of all the perfect tenses. We speak in the Present Perfect when we want to express having done something (I have finished it.), something that has been done (the movie has finished.), questioning if something has been done (Have you finished the movie?), or something that is in the process of being done, (I have been studying Spanish), or something that has happened (It has lasted ten minutes.). If you are not already familiar with the Present Perfect, learning it will be very handy in conversation. I remember I was able to converse much better once I knew this tense.
The key to mastering this tense is to know the various present conjugations of “haber”, the Spanish verb 'to have done something' (Don't confuse it with the verb “tener”, which usually indicates possession), and knowing a lot of past participles. The good news is both are not that difficult. Also, you can use the Present Perfect in the same way you would say something in English.
Let's look at the first part of a present perfect sentence, haber, the 'have'. Remember a Spanish 'H' is always silent.
He – I have (done something).
Ha - You, he, she, it has (done something).
Has -You have, informal,(done something).
Han – They have (done something).
Hemos – We have (done something).
Now for the second part, the 'something' that has been done. The 'something' is stated by a past participle. All past participles come from a raw verb (an infinitive). Regular past participles are formed like this: For AR verbs drop the ar and replace with ado. For ER and IR verbs drop the er or ir and replace with ido. Not so difficult right? Look at a few common regular past participles:
Hablar, to speak – Hablado.
Trabajar, to work – Trabajado.
Estar, to be (located, condition) – Estado.
Ser, to be (permanent) – Sido.
Recibir, to receive – Recibido.
Comer, to eat – Comido
Estudiar, to study – Estudiado.
Now let's put haber and the past participles together and form some sentences in the Present Perfect!
I have worked a lot today. - He trabajado mucho hoy.
Have you been here before? - ¿Ha estado aquí antes?
They have been friends for along time. - Han sido amigos por much tiempo.
We have already eaten. - Ya hemos comido.
They have received the package. - Han recibido el paquete.
Have you studied Spanish today? - ¿Ha estudiado español hoy?
Have you seen it (informal)? - ¿Lo has visto?
How have you been (informal)? ¿Cómo has estado?
It has lasted ten minutes up to this point. - Ha durado diez minutos hasta este punto.
Now look at a few examples using irregular past participles. Sorry, a little bit of bad news. Irregular past participles have to be memorized. But don't worry, you will learn them faster than you think. Here are five common irregular past participles in the Present Perfect:
Escribir- to write. - I have written an article in Spanish. -He escrito un artículo en español.
Ver -to see. - She has seen him at El Rey before. - Lo ha visto en El Rey antes.
Hacer- to make or do. - They have made it before. - Lo han hecho antes.
Decir- to say or tell. - We have told him a lie. - Le hemos dicho un mentira.
Poner- to put, place, set etc. - I have put the money on the table. - He puesto el dinero en la mesa.
You can also use The Present Perfect tense to indicate that something is in the process of being done.
With this you need three parts to the sentence. Haber, usually the past participle of estar (estado), and a present participle. Present participles are “ing” words in English (going, doing, eating etc.). To form regular present participles, for ar verbs, drop the ar and add ando, for er and ir verbs, drop the the er or ir and add iendo. There are some irregular present participles, but let's save those for another time.
Now look at these examples of something in the process of being done.
I have been studying Spanish for along time. - He estado estudiando español por mucho tiempo.
They have been working a lot. - Han estado trabajando mucho.
We have been doing this for five years. - Hemos estado haciendo esto por cinco años.
I really think you will enjoy speaking Spanish a lot more when you become familiar with the Present Perfect. Plus, learning this tense will give you experience in using the present form of haber, the use of past participles, and the use of present participles. This will help you in other areas of Spanish. So good luck and always look for opportunity to speak Spanish!
Hope this helps!
Hi, my name is Fred. My background in Spanish is a year in high school
(long ago) and the last five years taking private lessons almost daily, in
the States and in Panamá'. I am not yet fluent, but maybe I can pass on
to you some tips to help your Spanish learning experience.