10.8 The Past Perfect Tense

Just as the present tense of haber + past participle are used to form the present perfect tense, the imperfect tense of haber + past participle are used to form the past perfect tense. You  have already seen one form of the imperfect tense of haber, había, which stands alone to mean “there was” or “there were.” The past perfect tense is as follows:

YO había dicho I had said/ told
habías dicho you (fam.) had said/ told
ÉL, ELLA, UD. había dicho  he/she/you (form.) had said/told
NOSOTROS habíamos dicho we had said/told
VOSOTROS habíais dicho you (fam. pl.) had said/told
ELLOS, ELLAS, UDS. habían dicho they/you (form. pl. [fam. pl. in L.A.]) had said/told

The past perfect tense (also called the pluperfect tense) in Spanish has the same meaning as in English and in both languages it is used to refer to the more distant in time of two past events:

Cuando vinimos a casa, vimos que se había limpiado. When we came home, we saw that it had been cleaned.

In the above example, the past perfect tense communicates that the two past actions were not simultaneous, but rather that the cleaning of the house took place prior to the arriving at home.

At times there is a specified past point of reference (instead of a conjugated verb in the past); other times this point of reference is unexpressed and simply understood:

A los diecinueve años, Alfonso nunca había manejado un automóvil. At age 19 Alfonso had never driven a car.
Habíamos estado en Ibiza ocho días. We had been in Ibiza for a week.*

* Be aware that ocho días often translates as “a week” in Spanish. (When days are counted, starting with, for example, Monday, it is counted as day one and day eight). Likewise, quince días at times translates as “two weeks” rather than 15 days.

Remember that the last example can be expressed with the non-systemic use of hacer:

Hacía ocho días que estábamos en Ibiza. We had been in Ibiza for a week.

Vocabulario básico


cambiar- to change
desobedecer- to disobey
dibujar- to draw
dotar- to endow
equivocarse- to make a mistake (false friend)
hallar- to find
llorar- to cry
merecer- to deserve
obedecer- to obey
poseer- to possess, to own


el/la abogado/-a- lawyer, attorney
el amo/-a de casa- stay-at-home dad/mom
el banco- bank, bench
el cero- zero
el cura- priest (versus la cura- cure)
el derecho- right, law (field of study)
el/ la juez/ jueza- judge
el juicio- judgment, trial, verdict; opinion (a mi juicio)
la monja- nun
la muchedumbre- crowd
las noticias- news (la noticia- piece of news)
el papel- role
el/la periodista- journalist
el/la rabino/-a- rabbi
el testigo- witness
el traje- suit (clothing)
Varsovia- Warsaw


súbitamente- suddenly


puesto que- because, as, since
ya que- because, as, since


cambiar de idea- to change one’s mind
dar lo mismo- to make no difference
en cambio- on the other hand
hacer hincapié en- to stress, to emphasize, to insist on
por excelencia- par excellence
por otra parte- on the other hand

Last revised on June 18, 2021.