Boning Up on Irregular Past Participles in Spanish - dummies

Boning Up on Irregular Past Participles in Spanish

The Spanish language has a hefty collection of verbs that have irregular past participles. Not all verbs can be as structured and disciplined as the regular -ar, -er, and -ir verbs. That would make life as a student of the Spanish language much too easy.

To keep these irregular past participles from becoming too unwieldy, you can divide them into two groups:

Group 1 consists of -er and -ir verbs in which a vowel immediately precedes the infinitive ending. These verbs form their past participles regularly, but you must add an accent mark over the i in the -ido ending. Verbs that end in -uir are not included. No accent mark is necessary when a verb such as construir (to construct) is put into the past participle form, construido. The following table includes some Group 1 verbs:

Irregular Past Participles for Vowel + -er/-ir Verbs
Verb Translation Past Participle
Atraer to attract atraído
Caer to fall caído
Creer to believe creído
Leer to read leído
Oír to hear oído
Poseer to possess poseído
Sonreír to smile sonreído
Traer to bring traído

You use the irregular past participles just like the regular ones: pair it up with the conjugated form of haber (to have), like this:

  • Ella ha leído aquella novela diez veces. (She has read that novel ten times.)

  • Yo no he oído aquella canción. (I have not heard that song.)

Group 2 consists of verbs with irregular past participles that follow no particular pattern and thus must be memorized. The following table includes several common verbs whose past participles follow no rules:

Irregular Past Participles that Follow No Pattern
Verb Translation Past Participle
Abrir to open abierto
Cubrir to cover cubierto
Decir to say, to tell dicho
Describer to describe descrito
Descubrir to discover descubierto
Devolver to return (something) devuelto
Dissolver to dissolve disuelto
Envolver to wrap (up) envuelto
Escribir to write escrito
Freír to fry frito
Hacer to make, to do hecho
Morir to die muerto
Oponer to oppose opuesto
Poner to put puesto
Proveer to provide provisto
Resolver to resolve resuelto
Romper to break roto
Ver to see visto
Volver to return vuelto

You can see them in action here:

  • Ella ha escrito una carta a su abuela. (She has written a letter to her grandmother.)

  • Ellos han visto todas sus películas. (The have seen all of her movies.)