Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto

(Use of the Spanish pluperfect – past perfect)

Table of contents – Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto
  2. Formation of the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto
  3. Further explanations and exercises

How is the Pluscuamperfecto used?

The Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto describes processes and events that have already occurred before a point in time in the past. It expresses the past perfect (and is used similarly to the corresponding English tense). In the sequence of tenses, the event described by the Pluscuamperfecto comes first, followed by an action described, for example, with the Indefinido, and only then, by the present tense. Compare the following sentences to clarify the usage:

  1. As a rule, the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto is generally used in connection with a subsequent tense in chronological order. Possibilities:
    • The Pluscuamperfecto linked to the Indefinido:
      • “Cuando llegó Sabrina al final, ya habíamos salido.” (When Sabrina finally arrived, we had already left.)
    • In conjunction with the Imperfecto:
      • “Ella había tocado el piano cuando era joven.” (She used to play the piano when she was young.)
        • Note that the English translation of this example sentence is more suitable with the phrase ‘used to’ instead of the past perfect.
    • Combined with a process in the past:
      • “Antes de mudarse a Australia, Pedro ya había estado cinco veces allí.” (Before moving to Australia, Pedro had already been there five times.)
    • In the context of a past event:
      • “Antes del terremoto en el año 2001, nadie había esperado una catástrofe natural.” (Before the earthquake in 2001, nobody had expected a natural disaster.)
  2. Furthermore, typical clues or keywords are frequently utilized together with the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto. Some of them are:
    • antes (before)
    • ya (already)
    • nunca (never)
    • todavía no (not yet)

How is the Pluscuamperfecto formed and conjugated?

Regarding its formation, the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto is not very complicated. All that is needed is the Imperfecto form of the auxiliary verb ‘haber’ and the past participle (participio pasado) of the main (lexical) verb used. Note that the participle never changes its form and, therefore, does not get a different ending—no matter in which grammatical person. Accordingly, the following rule applies to the conjugation of the Spanish past perfect:

Formation of the Pluscuamperfecto (pluperfect)

Imperfecto of ‘haber’ (auxiliary verb) + past participle of the main verb

Example sentences

  • “Yo había comprado.” (I had bought.)
  • “Tú habías entendido.” (You had understood.)
  • “Él había leído.” (He had read.)
  • “Nosotras habíamos entendido.” (We had understood.)
  • “Vosotros habíais salido.” (You had left.)
  • “Ustedes habían escrito.” (They had written.)

Explanations relating to the ‘Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto’

The following articles are related to the topic ‘Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto (pluperfect) in the Spanish language’ and may be helpful too: