10.1 Non-Systemic Use of Verbs: Hacer

Non-systemic uses of hacer in the present

The verb hacer is regularly used under certain conditions in the present tense to communicate present perfect meaning (“have done,” “has spoken,” “have been reading,” etc.). As the actual tense and the translation do not correspond to each other, this use of hacer may be called non-systemic, as it does not conform to the verb systems of Spanish or English.

A recent past action that continues into the present or has bearing on the present typically is expressed by the present perfect in English (e.g., “My mother has been ill recently.”) This would also take a present perfect tense in Spanish (see section 10.6), but it is equally common to see this expressed as:

hace + duration of time + que + verb in the present tense

Hace dos días que ella no quiere comer. She has not wanted to eat for two days.

(Avoid the literal translation: “It makes two days that she does not want to eat.”)

The word order may also vary and in this case the word desde is added without changing the meaning:
verb in the present tense + desde hace + duration of time

No quiere comer desde hace dos días. She has not wanted to eat for two days.

Non-systemic uses of hacer in the past

Hacer may be used in the third-person singular of the imperfect tense, following the same formula to render past perfect meaning (“had done,” “had spoken,” “had been reading,” etc.):
hacía + duration of time + que + verb in the imperfect tense

Hacía dos días que no quería comer. She had not wanted to eat for two days.

Again, the word order may vary and when this occurs the word desde is added without changing the meaning:
verb in the past tense + desde hacía + duration of time

No quería comer desde hacía dos días. She had not wanted to eat for two days.

As this construction is extremely frequent in Spanish, learn the following formulas:

hace + duration of time + que + present tense = present perfect meaning
hacía + duration of time + que + imperfect tense = past perfect meaning

In other words, when both tenses match in the present or imperfect tenses, and all other necessary elements are present, the meaning or the translation of the sentence will be non-systemic, i.e., it will not correspond to the tenses used to achieve it:

Hace cuatro años que viven en Suiza. They have lived (have been living) in Switzerland for four years.
Hacía muchos veranos que pasaban vacaciones en Sitges. They had spent (had been spending) vacations in Sitges for many summers.

As seen above, you have the option of translating this construction in a progressive form whenever it sounds appropriate or better than the non-progressive rendering.

Ago in Spanish

Hace also means “ago.” This occurs, unlike in the above cases, when the tenses of the sentences or clauses do not correspond. (Remember that, grammatically, hace, although not translated as such, is still a verb.) In theory, when meaning “ago,” hace may combine with any logical tense, though it is most frequently seen with the preterite:

Terminé el proyecto hace dos horas. I finished the project two hours ago.

If the word order is changed so that the sentence begins with hace, the word que is normally inserted after the expression of duration of time and is not translated:

Hace dos horas que terminé el proyecto. Two hours ago I finished the project.

I finished the project two hours ago.

To repeat, when the two tenses match (are in the same tense) and the other conditions mentioned are present, the non-systemic meanings will be invoked. When the verb tenses do not match, hace means ago.

¡Ojo! Be careful not to confuse the preposition hacia (no accent) (“toward”) with hacía. Context should leave no doubt as to meaning:

Venía hacia mí. She was coming toward me.
Venía aquí desde hacía años. She had been coming here for years.

Remember that hacer is also used in the third person in a number of weather expressions (section 4.2).

Vocabulario básico


inundar- to flood, inundate
tronar (ue)- to thunder


el cielo- sky, heaven (cognate: celestial)
la estrella- star (cognate: stellar)
la inundación- flood, inundation
la luna- moon
los relámpagos- lightning
la tempestad- storm
la tormenta- storm
el trueno- thunder


templado- mild (cognate: temperate)

Last revised on June 25, 2021.

10.2 Other Verbs Used Like Hacer

Two other common verbs are also used non-systemically.


Acabar (“to finish,” “to end”) is used in the present tense, followed by de + infinitive, and translates as “to have just done something”:

Acaban de firmar el tratado. They have just signed the treaty.

As with hace when combined with a present tense verb, the present tense equals present perfect meaning in the above example.

Just as we saw when hacía combines with a past tense verb, usually the imperfect, the imperfect tense of acabar equals past perfect meaning:

Acababan de firmar el tratado. They had just signed the treaty.


The verb llevar plus duration of time often translates as a form of “to be” and when combined, as it often is, with a present participle, means “to have been doing (something)”:

Llevo cinco años en este pueblo deprimente. I have been (living) in this depressing town for five years.
Lleva veinte minutos tronando. It has been thundering for twenty minutes.

The first example above is merely another way of expressing Hace cinco años que vivo en este pueblo deprimente.

Likewise, llevar is used in the same circumstance but in the imperfect tense and translates as “had been” (past perfect tense) or, with the present participle, “had been doing” (something):

Su familia llevaba más de ciento quince años en este país. Her family had been (living) in this country for more than 115 years.

Desde = since

As is often the case in English, the mere inclusion of the word desde (“since”) in a sentence with a present tense verb normally renders the meaning to be present perfect. Likewise, when desde appears in a sentence in the imperfect tense, the meaning routinely shifts to past perfect tense.

Mi tío está aquí desde enero. My uncle has been here since January.
Trabajaban en esa fábrica desde junio. They had worked (had been working) in that factory since June.

Vocabulario básico


aumentar- to increase (cognate: augment)
fabricar- to manufacture (cognate: to fabricate)
invertir (ie)- to invest
lograr- to manage (to do something), to obtain, to achieve
montar- to put together, to assemble
realizar- to achieve, to carry out (false friend); to realize


las acciones- stock (stock market-false friend in this usage)
el ascenso- promotion, ascent
el asunto- matter, issue, question (not interrogative)
el aumento- increase (cognate: augmentation)
la bancarrota- bankruptcy
la Bolsa- stock market
la catarata- waterfall
el comercio- business, commerce
el corredor/ la corredora de bolsa- stockbroker
la cuestión- issue, question (not interrogative)
la empresa- company, business, enterprise, undertaking
la fábrica- factory
la ganancia- profit, gain, (pl.) earnings, winnings
la gerencia- management
el/la gerente/-a- manager
la huelga- strike
el negocio- company, business
la nuera- daughter-in-law
el/la obrero/-a- worker
la pérdida- loss
el préstamo- loan
el principio- beginning, principle
el salto- waterfall; jump
el sueldo- salary
el yerno- son-in-law


débil- weak (cognate: debility)
deprimente- depressing


aún- still, yet
ni siquiera- not even


ir a la bancarrota- to go bankrupt
en obras- under construction
montar una empresa- to start a company/ business
pedir prestado- to borrow*

*The past participle here functions as an adjective and agrees in number and gender with what was borrowed. Spanish has no one verb meaning “to borrow.”

Last revised on January 5, 2021.

10.3 Shortened Forms of Adjectives

Various adjectives drop the final -o before masculine singular nouns or adjectives preceding it. This shortened (apocopated) form should not cause any comprehension difficulty.


algún día – some day


un buen hombre – a good man


un mal examen – a bad exam


ningún dinero – no money


el primer día – the first day


el tercer mes – the third month


un buen ejemplo – a/one good example

Bueno and malo may also follow the noun without any change in meaning:

El señor Barrales es un muy buen hombre.

El señor Barrales es un hombre muy bueno.

Mr. Barrales is a very good man.

The adjective cualquiera (“any”) drops the -a before any singular noun:

Te veo cualquier día. I can see you any day.
Lee cualquier novela que encuentra. He reads any novel he finds.

Cualquiera is also used as a pronoun to mean “anyone”:

Cualquiera puede comprender eso. Anyone can understand that.
Last revised on June 29, 2021.

10.4 Forms of el que

The definite articles combine with que to give the meaning “he who,” “she who,” “the one(s) who/that,” and “those who/ that”:

El que trabaja más, no siempre gana más. He who (The one who) works more (the most) doesn’t always earn more (the
La que ganó es mi amiga Belisa. She who (The one who) won is my friend Belisa.
Los que no pueden ayudarse a sí mismos, no pueden ayudar a otros. Those who can’t help themselves can’t help others.
Las que ocurrieron en agosto fueron las peores tempestades. Those that occurred in August were the worst storms.

Less commonly, the singular forms may be replaced by quien and the plural, by quienes without changing the meaning:

Quien no coopera, no va a tener éxito. He who doesn’t cooperate isn’t going to be successful.
Quienes tienen la culpa deben confesársela. Those who are at blame should confess it.

El que and its forms may refer to people or to objects, whereas quien and quienes only refer to people.

El que also has a neuter form, lo que, which in addition to meaning “what” (as in “that which”), means “which” when preceded by a comma. In this case it has no specific one-word antecedent, but rather refers to the entire preceding clause:

Estela llegó tarde a la cena, lo que les desagradó a sus padres. Estela arrived late to dinner, which displeased her parents.

The neuterlo cual is equally common in this meaning:

Perdieron bastante dinero en la Bolsa, lo cual les enfadó. They lost a fair amount of money in the stock market, which angered them.

Remember that lo que also means “what.” In this case it is not preceded by a comma and joins two clauses:

No ganó lo que quería. He didn’t earn (win) what he wanted (to).

Of the two, only lo que can begin a sentence:

Lo que necesito es ganar más dinero. What I need is to earn more money.

Vocabulario básico


agradecer- to thank, to be grateful for
apoyar- to support (politically, emotionally), to lean (physically)
comportarse (bien/mal)- to behave (well/badly)
deprimir- to depress*
juzgar- to judge
meter(se)- to put (to meddle)
molestar- to bother (false friend)


el gusto- (sense of) taste, pleasure
el premio- prize
la revista- magazine
la voluntad- (free) will, disposition (cognate: volition)


agotado- exhausted; sold out
tinto- red (wine), dyed, tinted


acá- here (used for motion toward the speaker)
ahí- there (nearby)
allá- there (far away)


con (mucho) gusto- with (much) pleasure, gladly
estar de buen (mal) humor- to be in a good (bad) mood
tener voluntad- to be willing, to feel like

*Almost all verbs ending in -primir correspond to those in English ending in “-press”: The meanings of reprimir, oprimir, suprimir, etc. should now be readily deducible. One exception is imprimir, which means “to print” (or “to imprint”) not to “impress,” which is rendered by impresionar.

Last revised on June 18, 2021.

10.5 The Past Participle

The past participle corresponds to the English “been,” “done,” “eaten,” “spoken,” etc., all irregular participles that stand out, as well as to regular past participles, that take the same form as the English simple past tense, as in “walked,” “desired,” “opened,” etc.

The regular past participles of verbs in Spanish are:

Infinitive pasar comer venir
Past Participle pasado comido venido

Like English, Spanish employs a number or irregular past participles. (These do not always correspond to verbs that are irregular in other tenses.)

Infinitive Past Participle
abrir abierto (opened [open])
cubrir cubierto (covered)
decir dicho (said, told)
descubrir descubierto (discovered, uncovered)
escribir escrito (written)
hacer hecho (done, made)
morir muerto (died [dead])
poner puesto (put)
resolver resuelto (solved, resolved)
romper roto (broken)
ver visto (seen)
volver vuelto (returned)

Compound forms of these verbs, such as suponer (“to suppose”) and devolver (“to return”), have the same irregularity in their participles: supuesto, devuelto.

As in English, past participles may serve as adjectives and in this case they agree with the noun they modify. Sometimes they immediately follow the noun; others, they are separated from it, usually by ser or estar:

Nos dio una respuesta bien pensada. He gave us a well-thought answer.
La lámpara está rota. The lamp is broken.
El poema “Y colgaríamos naranjas en cada nube” fue escrito por la costarricense Ana Istaru. The poem “And We Would Hang Oranges on Each Cloud” was written by the Costa Rican Ana Istaru.

The feminine forms of some past participles, as well as some masculine ones, may form nouns of related meaning, as these below that you have already seen:

la comida food, meal, evening meal
la llegada arrival
el puesto position, job, placement, stand (where something is sold)
la salida exit, departure

Additional nouns formed from past participles include:

la bebida beverage
la dicha happiness, good fortune
el dicho refrain, proverb
la entrada entrance, entrée, ticket
los escritos writings
el hecho fact, deed
el/la muerto/-a dead person
el pasado past
la vista view
la vuelta return

Vocabulario básico


elegir- to elect


el cabo- cape
la caña- reed, cane
la esperanza- hope
el/la ganador/-a- winner
el/la navegante- navigator
los restos- remains
la zampoña- reed flute, panpipe


vinícola- wine-making, pertaining to wine

Last revised on June 18, 2021.

10.6 The Present Perfect Tense

The present perfect tense is formed by the present tense of the auxiliary verb haber (which gives the forms hay [an alternate form], había, and hubo [all already studied]), + the past participle, studied in section 10.5. Haber, not tener (which means “to have” in the sense of “to own” or “to possess”), is the auxiliary verb used to form all compound tenses in Spanish.

he ido I have gone
has ido you have gone (fam.)
ha ido he/she/you (form.) has/have gone
hemos ido we have gone
habéis ido you (fam. pl.) have gone
han ido they/you (form. pl. [fam. pl. in L.A.]) have gone

In most of the Spanish-speaking world, the present perfect tense is used in a very similar manner to its English counterpart, and in both languages refers to a recent past event that continues into the present or has bearing on it:

El pobre ha estado desempleado recientemente. The poor (unfortunate) man has been unemployed recently.
El número de muertos ha aumentado este año por razones desconocidas. The number of dead (people) has increased this year for reasons unknown.
Han vivido en Egipto por un año. They have lived in Egypt for one year.

The last example, in which a duration of time is expressed, is also commonly rendered by the non-systemic construction using hace (section 10.1):

Hace un año que viven en Egipto. They have lived in Egypt for one year.

The present tense forms of haber occasionally occur followed by de + infinitive and translate as “to be to,” “to be supposed to,” or “must” (when referring to probability):

Hemos de etudiar esta noche. We are (supposed) to study tonight.
Ha de llover mañana. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow.
Han de saber la respuesta. They must know the answer.

Vocabulario básico


chocar- to collide, to crash, to shock
desmentir (ie)- to prove false, to disprove
estacionar- to park
llenar- to fill
manejar- to manage, to handle, to drive
significar- to mean


la acera- sidewalk (Sp.) (la banqueta, la vereda, el andén are common in Latin America)
el ave (f.)- bird
el baúl- trunk
el carnet/ permiso de manejar/ conducir- driver’s license
el choque- collision, crash, shock
los frenos- brakes
la goma- tire, rubber
el ladino- Old Castilian (lang.)
el letrero- sign
el licor- liquor
la llanta- tire
la multa- fine
el/la peatón/-ona- pedestrian
el pisco- grape brandy
la rueda- wheel
el seguro- insurance
el semáforo- traffic light
el taller- body shop, artist’s studio
la uva- grape


sefardita- Sephardic
supuesto- supposed


a su vez- in (his, her) turn
en lugar de- instead of, in place of
poner una multa- to fine, to give a fine
todo derecho- straight ahead

Last revised on June 18, 2021.

10.7 Ellipsis of Nouns

The forms of the definite article (el, la los, las) + de often take the place of a previously mentioned or understood noun. As long as you know which is the noun antecedent, this should not pose comprehension problems. Note in the examples below the differing translations in English.

No sólo encontré mi pasaporte, sino también el de Katia. I not only found my passport, but Katia’s too. (literally, “that of Katia.”)
Prefiero esta camisa y la gris. I prefer this shirt and the gray one.
Los de color blanco son de Patricia. The white ones are Patricia’s. (antecedent understood)
Su esposa es la del vestido largo. His wife is the one in the long dress.
Nuestra hija es la del pelo negro. Our daughter is the one with the black hair.


Last revised on June 18, 2021.

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.

10.9 Emphatic Forms of Possessive Pronouns

All of the possessive pronouns already studied (mi, tu, su, nuestro, vuestro and their feminine and plural forms, as appropriate) also have corresponding emphatic or “long” forms, which have one of two meanings:

Possessive Pronouns Translation
1st person sing. mío of mine, mine, my (emphatic)
2nd person sing. tuyo of yours (fam.), yours, your (two emphatic)
3rd person sing. suyo of his, of hers, of its or yours (form.), his, hers, its, yours, her, your (emphatic)
1st person Plural nuestro of ours, ours, our (emphatic)
2nd person plural vuestro of yours (fam. pl.), yours, your (emphatic)
3rd person plural suyo of theirs, of yours (form. pl. [fam. pl. in L.A.]), their, yours, your (emphatic)

All of these possessives have four forms each: masculine and feminine in both the singular and plural. Note that the first and second persons plural (nuestro, vuestro) are identical to the simple possessives already studied:

Es nuestra casa It’s our house.
Es una casa nuestra. It’s a house of ours.

It’s our house. (emphatic)

In English, emphasis is communicated via information and stress (when spoken) while in Spanish the use of the long form of the possessive plays this role:

Esta es la casa nuestra, no la suya. This is our house, not his.

If, out of context, the above meaning is not clear, the form of suyo is replaced by the corresponding definite articles and a prepositional phrase:

Esta es la casa nuestra, no la de él. This is our house, not his.

Study these further examples:

El coche azul es mío y el blanco es suyo (el de ella). The blue car is mine and the white one is hers.
Rosa no es amiga mía. Rosa isn’t a friend of mine.
No son papeles suyos (de Ud.). They’re not papers of yours.
¿Todas estas llaves son tuyas? Are all these your keys? (emphatic)

Are all these keys of yours?

The minimal ambiguity of the last sentences is negligible and both translations are accurate renderings of the Spanish.

Vocabulario básico


ahorrar- to save (money)
carecer- to lack
cargar- to charge (to an account), to load
cobrar- to cash (a check), to charge (for a service)
guardar- to save (something for someone)
renunciar (a)- to resign (from) (false friend)
solicitar- to apply for, to solicit


el efectivo- cash (false friend)
la factura- bill (to be paid)
la falta- lack (false friend)
el presupuesto- budget
la rama- branch (tree)
la solicitud- application (form)
el sucursal- branch (office)


moreno- brunette, dark-haired
rubio- blond
único- only, unique


infelizmente- unfortunately


estar de acuerdo (con)- to be in agreement, to agree (with)
quedar en (+inf.)- to agree (to do something)
quedarse con- to keep (something)

Last revised on February 17, 2021.