Creating Compound Verb Tenses in Spanish
Each simple tense of a Spanish verb has a corresponding compound tense — seven simple tenses, seven compound tenses. The compound tenses make actions perfect or complete. The compound tenses are:
Present perfect: When you just recently finished doing something, or when an action is ongoing, you use the present perfect construction. For example: We have prepared a feast for the celebration.
Pluperfect: When you want to express an action that was completed in the past, you use this verb tense. You use this construction when you’re speaking. For example: My father had gotten a job before we moved.
Preterit perfect: This tense also expresses an action that was completed in the past. It’s mainly used in formal writing and literature. For example: You have traveled.
Future perfect: When you’re almost entirely sure something is going to happen in the future, you use this compound construction. For example: My mother will have prepared dinner by 6 p.m.
Conditional perfect: This verb explains that something would have happened if certain conditions had been met. For example: The students would have studied more if they had had more time.
Present perfect subjunctive: This compound combination expresses the idea that something may have happened. For example: I don’t believe that I have read this book before.
Pluperfect subjunctive: You use this when you hoped or expected that something had happened. For example: She wasn’t sure that they had bought the correct size.
Forming any compound tense in Spanish is essentially a two-step process:
Begin with the helping verb haber, which translates as to have, in the desired tense:
Imperfect (which becomes pluperfect)
Imperfect subjunctive (which becomes pluperfect subjunctive)
Voilá! You have the main verb expressed in the desired compound tense.