Haber as Auxiliary Verb   By Ron Slone

The Perfect or Compound tenses effectively double the number of tenses & moods that exist in Spanish.

The three moods, which include all tenses, are:

  • Command or Imperative (Which cannot have a perfect or compound form)
  • Indicative (all the non-subjunctive tenses)
    • 1. Present
      2. Preterite
      3. Imperfect
      4. Future
      5. Conditional
  • Subjunctive:
    • 6. Present Subjunctive
      7. Imperfect Subjunctive (aka Past Subjunctive)

    Being that there are seven simple tenses, it is then possible to create seven more compound tenses by combining the verb HABER (auxiliary verb "to have") with a past participle (a verb converted to its adjectival form.) That means that there are 14 different verb tenses/moods, plus an alternative form of the imperfect subjunctive. Add to that the five command forms and three uninflected forms, and you have a total of 98 different spellings for each verb.

    The reason for doing this is perhaps best explained by examining the Preterite and the Imperfect Past tenses together, and comparing them to the Present Perfect and Present tenses.

    It also helps to realize that the full and proper names for these four tenses we will be examining are:

    • Present Imperfect Indicative (simple present tense)
    • Present Perfect Indicative (compound present tense)
    • Preterite Perfect Indicative (simple past tense known as the Preterite)
    • Preterite Imperfect Indicative

    Preterite Perfect

    • Comí las bananas. - I ate the bananas.

    Preterite Imperfect

    • Comía las bananas. (or Comía bananas) - I was eating the bananas. (or, better yet: I used to eat bananas)

    Present Perfect

    • He comido las bananas - I have eaten the bananas.

    Present Imperfect

    • Como bananas. - I eat bananas

    The simple present is used to express actions that are occurring, or that happen habitually. The compound present, or present perfect is used to express actions that are completed or perfected some time previous to the present moment.

    The same is true of preterite and imperfect tenses, except that the reference point is in the past.

    The next step is to explain the purpose and function of the other compound tenses. The next most common compound tense is to put the verb HABER in the past tense: había comido & hube comido.

    Since the distinction between Preterite and Imperfect is extremely unclear when you get down to the point of distinguishing between the Preterite of Haber vs the Imperfect of Haber (i.e. what would be the difference between "había comido" and "hube comido"?) The use of the preterite of HABER has been eliminated from modern Spanish. It is likely that you will encounter it in written form in texts over 100 years old, but there is no usage of HUBE + past participle at this point. (This doesn't affect the usage of HABER to express existence--an idiomatic structure completely unrelated to the auxiliary use of HABER + past participle--Hubo un accidente en frente de mis ojos.)

    What exactly does it mean to use the Past Perfect, or Pluperfect (called Pluscuamperfecto in Spanish)? Well, take a close look at its full Spanish name: Plus=more, Cuam=than, Perfecto=Perfect or Past. Consequently, the pluperfect tense cannot be used in a single clause, because you have to have at least two clauses to set up one action in the past, and then the pluperfect action which came before it:
      When we arrived, he had already left.
      Cuando llegamos, ya había salido él.

      They hadn't finished the homework because they didn't understand it.
      No habían completado la tarea porque no la entendieron.

    The same is true of the future perfect and conditional perfect. The future perfect is used to refer to an action that will have been completed before some future point--hence, it requires two clauses. It could be called the past of the future.

      En cuanto llegues, ya habremos salido.
      By the time you get here, we will have already left.

    The conditional perfect refers to an action that would have been completed after some hypothetical action.

      No le habríamos dado el cheque si hubiéramos sabido que el producto era tan malo.
      We wouldn't have given him the check if we had known that the product was so bad.

    Notice that both the conditional and the future perfect tenses depend upon the usage of the subjunctive.

    The verb HABER can also be put into the Subjunctive Moods, which give the Present Perfect Subjunctive, and the Pluperfect Subjunctive. See the Subjunctive Page for more information on this.

    NOTE: With the usage of the compound tenses, the past participle is functioning as a past participle, and should not be treated as an adjective. (It does not reflect gender or number) When a past participle follows the verbs SER or ESTAR, or it is used as a direct modifier of a noun, it will change to reflect gender and number. This means that past participles following HABER will always end in "O" while those following the verbs SER or ESTAR or directly following nouns will function as adjectives that do reflect gender and number.

      Las bananas son comidas por Darren. (passive voice: The bananas are eaten by Darren.)

      Darren ha comido las bananas. Las bananas han sido comidas.

    Past Participles

    For the most part, past participles are very simple to form:
    for AR verbs, change the AR to ADO, for ER & IR verbs, change the ending to IDO.

    HABLAR--Hablado         COMER--Comido          VIVIR--Vivido
    

    Grammatically, a past participle can function as a participle when accompanying the verb HABER, and as an adjective in all other uses.

    Irregular Participles

    There are a limited number of irregular participles, just as in English:
    -STO group

           poner--puesto                      ver--visto
    

    -TO group

           abrir---abierto                    resolver--resuelto
           romper--roto                       escribir--escrito
           volver--vuelto                     morir-----muerto
    

    -CHO

           decir--dicho                        hacer--hecho
    

    Odd

                          imprimir--impreso
    

    Also, all of the verbs that end in ER or IR preceded by another vowel need accent marks on the participle in order to break the diphthong into two syllables.

           reír---reído                         oír---oído
           traer--traído                        caer--caído
           leer---leído
    
    Additional Information



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