present perfect tense spanish

Present Perfect Tense in Spanish: The Ultimate Guide to Using It with Ease

He perdido mi cartera. (I have lost my wallet.)

This simple sentence reveals so much information about what has happened.

If I want to tell you about an action that started recently and is still continuing now, the only way to convey all this information in one sentence is by using the present perfect tense.

In this post, you will learn everything about the Spanish present perfect tense, including how to use it, how to conjugate it and what words trigger it.


What Is the Spanish Present Perfect Tense?

The Spanish present perfect tense uses a conjugation of the verb haber (to have) plus the past participle to talk about situations that happened in the past but are still happening or affecting the present.

Take the first sentence of this post as an example:

He perdido mi cartera. (I have lost my wallet.)

This sentence uses the present perfect because although I lost my wallet in the past, that action is still affecting the present (I still don’t have it).

How to Form the Present Perfect Tense in Spanish

The Spanish present perfect is one of what I call “the easy tenses” because it’s used in very specific situations, is quite easy to conjugate and its similarities with English are remarkable.

The basic formula for conjugating the present perfect tense in Spanish is:

Haber (in present simple) + past participle

For example:

Ella ha comido la manzana. (She has eaten the apple.)

Yo he estudiado por tres horas. (I have studied for three hours.)

Conjugating Haber in Simple Present Tense

First, we’ll learn the conjugations of haber in the simple present tense, then how to conjugate the past participle.

YoHe (I have)
Has (you have)
Él/Ella/UstedHa (he/she has, you have [formal])
Ellos/Ellas/UstedesHan (they have, you have [plural, formal])
NosotrosHemos (we have)
VosotrosHabéis (you have [plural])

Conjugating the Past Participle

Here’s a quick refresher on how to conjugate the past participle:

1. Verbs ending in -ar change their ending to -ado

2. Verbs ending in -er and -ir change their ending to -ido

Here are some examples of verbs in their past participle form:

VerbPast participle
(to sing)
(to dance)
(to call)
(to eat)
(to drink)
(to break)

If you haven’t mastered the past participle yet, check out our in-depth blog post here:

Important Notes About the Present Perfect

There are a couple of small things you should know about the present perfect tense:

1. Never separate haber from the past participle. This is one of the main differences between Spanish and English when it comes to the present perfect tense. You simply can’t add any word to the tense and break it apart.

Nunca he bebido alcohol en mi vida. (I have never drunk alcohol in my life.)

Ya he desayunado hoy. (I have already eaten breakfast today.)

2. Pronouns always go before the present perfect, never after:

Ya les he dicho la verdad. (I have already told them the truth.)

Se los he comprado yo. (I have bought them for him.)

When to Use the Present Perfect

There are three main scenarios when you’d need to use the present perfect tense:

1. Something has happened recently and it has consequences or effects in the present. (Note: this is pretty much limited to Spain, as the preferred tense for this case in Latin America is the preterite). 

Hemos comprado una casa. (We have bought a house.)

2. Something happened or started to happen in the past and continues today (similar to the present perfect continuous in English).

He sido profesor de idiomas desde 2002. (I have been a language teacher since 2002.)

3. Something has happened a certain number of times in your life, or you are expressing whether or not you have ever done something.

He oído que se ha casado cinco veces ya. (I have heard he has been married five times already.)

Present Perfect vs. Present Simple

The biggest difference between the present simple and present perfect tenses is that the present simple talks about actions that happen in the present habitually or routinely, whereas the present perfect is used for completed actions that still affect the present.

Look at these sentences in the present tense:

Me levanto a las 8 de la mañana. (I get up at 8 o’clock in the morning.)

Ella aprende español. (She learns/is learning Spanish.)

Now, see how conjugating the same verbs in the present perfect changes the meaning:

Me he levantado a las 8 de la mañana. (I had gotten up at 8 o’clock in the morning.)

Ella ha aprendido español por tres meses. (She has learned Spanish for three months.)

Words That Trigger the Present Perfect

There are some words and expressions that trigger the present perfect tense—meaning, when you see these words, usually the present perfect follows.

For example, the present simple is often seen with Spanish adverbs like “always,” “sometimes,” “often” or “never.” And the preterite is triggered by words like “yesterday,” “last” and “ago.”

The present perfect is triggered by these words:

  • Nunca (Never) — No hemos visto esa película nunca. (We have never watched that movie.)
  • Últimamente (Recently, lately) — Ellos han estado trabajando últimamente. (They have been working lately.)
  • …veces (…times) — Ya te lo he dicho tres veces. (I have already told you three times.)
  • Hoy (Today) — Hoy he desayunado cereales con leche. (I ate cereal with milk for breakfast today.)
  • Esta mañana/tarde/noche (This morning/afternoon/tonight) — He comido mucho esta noche. (I have eaten a lot tonight.)
  • Esta semana/mes/año (This week, this month, this year) — Esta semana no he podido trabajar. (I have not been able to work this week.)
  • Ya (Already) — Ya hemos llegado a casa. (We have already arrived home.)
  • Aún (Yet) — No he decidido qué hacer aún. (I have not decided what to do yet.)
  • Todavía (Still) — No hemos pagado las facturas todavía. (We have still not paid the bills yet.)
  • En mi vida (In my life) — En mi vida he hablado con él. (I have never talked to him in my life.

Practicing the Present Perfect Tense

1. Immerse Yourself in Spanish Media

Supplementing daily practice and language exchanges with immersion is a surefire way to make conjugating the present perfect more second nature.

Language learning programs like FluentU let you watch authentic Spanish videos with interactive subtitles, which makes it easy to spot instances of the present perfect.

Plus, you can click on words and structures you don’t know to get instant definitions, pronunciations, examples and more videos that use it in context.

2. Talk with a Language Partner

If you want the present perfect tense to become second nature, you’ll need to practice using it and hear how it’s used.

One of the best ways to do this is to talk with a native speaker who can use it for you in real life plus help you master it in conversations.

Thanks to technology, it’s easy to start talking with a language partner by downloading free language exchange apps.

3. Take Quizzes and Practice with Exercises

There’s an abundance of free online practice drills for Spanish grammar points.

By simply Googling “present perfect spanish quiz,” you’ll find several exercises like this quiz from, which requires you to conjugate haber and the past participle of verbs they give you.


The present perfect is an easy tense that we use every day in lots of contexts and situations.

Add it to your Spanish lore and make your friends go “woah!” with your fantastic use of it!

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