Today you’re going to be getting down and dirty with some grammar – you’re learning everything there is to know about the past participle in Spanish.
But the best part about this entire situation is that the past participle (or better yet, the past participles) is actually a relatively simple Spanish grammar tense.
Sure, there are a few irregular verbs to use and you can use the past participle in conjunction with other tenses, but you’ll be a master at it in no time!
So let’s get down to it! Here is a guide for absolutely everything you need to know about the past participle in Spanish.
What is the past participle?
The past participle is a verb conjugation that is typically used in conjunction with another verb. In other words, it’s a verb tense that always goes together with another verb.
This means that in order to understand other verb tenses, the first thing you’ll need to do is master this participle.
The only exception to the rule, when the Spanish past participle is not used in conjunction with another verb, is usually in a perífrasis verbal. But that’s a topic we’ll cover another day.
If you look into any Spanish language grammar tense, you’ll hear this commonly called the “participio”, which is normally used within other grammar tenses (like the dreaded pluscuamperfecto)
The past participle in Spanish is actually very similar to the one in -ed ending in English. However, in English, the most common verb tense is the present perfect. This is why you will sometimes hear people refer to the past participle as the perfect tense.
However, there’s something important to note here. The -ed ending in English can be both the simple past or the present perfect (el participio), depending on the verb. Here are some examples:
- I jumped high vs I have jumped high
- I gave him flowers vs I had given him flowers
Both of the sentences on the right are the participle forms (have jumped and had given). However, jumped and gave (on the left side) are both the simple past. So make sure to remember this as we’re going forward. In today’s article, we are only focusing on the verbs on the right-hand side.
How to form the past participle in Spanish
Forming the past participle verbs in Spanish is actually one of the easiest verb tenses to conjugate. In fact, it doesn’t matter if it’s yo, tú, etc., since it’s always the same. This is because the participle always functions together with another verb or as an adjective (more on that later).
Now, let’s look at all the ways you can create a past participle:
For -ar ending verbs, it couldn’t get any easier. All you need to do is remove the -ar ending of the infinitive verb, then add -ado to create the past participles.
|Hablar||Hablado||Speak / Spoken|
|Caminar||Caminado||Walk / Walked|
|Tomar||Tomado||Take / Taken|
|Jugar||Jugado||Play / Played|
|Cantar||Cantado||Sing / Sung|
So as you can see, the Spanish past participles for -ar verbs aren’t too complicated. In fact, you should be able to have them memorized quickly!
Just remember, the past participles are equivalent to the second form of English words in the table.
Luckily, the past participles for -er verbs aren’t too difficult, either! Especially for the regular verbs. Here, you’ll remove the -er ending from the infinitive verb, then add –ido to end up with the Spanish past participle.
|Correr||Corrido||Run / Run|
|Mover||Movido||Move / Moved|
|Tender||Tendido||Hang / Hung|
|Vender||Vendido||Sell / Sold|
|Caber||Cabido||Fit / Fit|
As you can see, the verb form for –ed past participles isn’t too complicated, either. This is great news considering Spanish conjugation usually makes things difficult.
Finally, for -ir verbs you’ll see that the past participle in Spanish will be your new favorite verb form. To form the past participles, you just remove the –ir ending from the infinitive verb, then add –ido.
So whether you have –er or –ir verbs, the process is exactly the same!
|Vivir||Vivido||Live / Lived|
|Partir||Partido||Divide / Divided|
|Recibir||Recibido||Receive / Received|
|Unir||Unido||Join / Joined|
|Permitir||Permitido||Allow / Allowed|
So the great news is that it’s exactly the same procedure to form past participles for –er and –ir verbs.
The bad news, though, is that there are an enormous amount of irregular verbs. Let’s check those out
So it wouldn’t be Spanish if there weren’t a ton of common irregular past participles, as well. Let’s take a look at some of these Spanish past participle problem areas before moving forward.
|Escribir||Escrito||Write / Written|
|Morir||Muerto||Die / Dead|
|Romper||Roto||Break / Broken|
|Volver||Vuelto||Return / Returned|
|Abrir||Abierto||Open / Opened|
|Poner||Puesto||Put / Put|
|Ver||Visto||See / Seen|
|Hacer||Hecho||Do / Done|
|Decir||Dicho||Say / Said|
|Satisfacer||Satisfecho||Satisfy / Satisfied|
Your saving grace to remember the irregular past participle forms is that there are two main types – words that end it –to and words that end in –cho.
Unfortunately, some of the stems of the words change and there’s not a clear pattern for this. You’ll just have to keep practicing at it until you have them all memorized.
Verbs that are regular and irregular
So, the fun part. There are actually so many irregular past participles that some verbs have acceptable irregular and regular past participles.
This is because native speakers had so many problems with the irregular verbs, that eventually they started using the regular form instead in some regions. Or sometimes because they use both versions with different meanings. Or sometimes some regions simply prefer one form to the other.
So let’s look at a list where technically either form is correct, but it’s just that everything depends on context.
|Freír||Frito / Freído||Fry / Fried|
|Imprimir||Impreso / Imprimido||Print / Printed|
|Suspender||Suspenso / Suspendido*||Fail / Failed|
|Confundir||Confuso / Confundido*||Confuse / Confused|
|Despertar||Despierto / Despertado*||Sing / Sung|
These can be tricky. In some cases, one form (the ones with the *) is used with the auxiliary verb haber, while the other is the adjective.
However, for the first two, frito was always the preferred term, but so many people started using freído that the dictionary accepted its usage.
Either way, there are many past participles and many more irregular ones, so just stay on your toes as you learn them!
How to use the past participle
There are several uses of the past participles in Spanish. The main ways to use them are:
- As an adjective
- In the passive voice
- With the auxiliary verb haber (perfect tenses)
- As a noun
So now that you’ve memorized all those irregular verbs, let’s put everything to the test!
As an adjective
The first (and easiest) way to use past participles is as an adjective. This is a really useful tool since you can take any verb in the Spanish language and turn it into an adjective! This makes it a really easy way to build up your adjective vocabulary.
Here are some examples of the past participle as an adjective:
- Dame la camiseta rota y te la coseré. – Give me your broken shirt and I’ll sew it for you.
- El inspector les explicó el caso resuelto. – The inspector explained the solved case to them.
- Me encanta comer papas fritas. – I love eating French fries.
Something important to notice here – whenever you use the present participle this way, you need to make sure it matches the gender and number of the noun it accompanies. If it functions as an adjective, it needs to follow the adjective rules.
So, therefore, you can get the following constructions:
|El celular roto.||The broken phone.|
|La ventana rota.||The broken window.|
|Los coches rotos.||The broken cars.|
|Las piernas rotas.||The broken legs.|
So make sure you pay attention to gender and number when using the participle in Spanish.
In the passive voice
The passive voice is also possible in Spanish and it’s done exactly the same way as you would carry it out in English.
However, it’s important to note that the Spanish passive voice is used considerably less frequently. In fact, it’s hardly ever used except for in legal documents. And in truth, overusing the passive voice is basically the same thing as wearing a sign that says “Hey I’m an English speaker!”.
Regardless, it’s still important to know so here are a few examples:
- Si la falta es cometida por la administración… – If the mistake is committed by the administration …
- Estas torres fueron construidas en el siglo XV. – These towers were built in the 15th century.
Pretérito perfecto (he visto)
Great, now that we say the past participle as an adjective and as a passive voice, it’s time to start taking a look at the perfect tenses. These are incredibly important because they’re used all the time in Spanish.
With all of these, you’ll have the auxiliary verb Haber accompany whichever verb is being used as a participle. The first one is the pretérito perfecto, used in Spain for things that happened in the recent past, but used in the rest of the world for things that happened in the past and are still affecting the present.
Here are some examples:
- Hoy he hecho la cama nada más que levantarme. – Today I made the bed as soon as I woke up. **
- Nunca ha estado en Nueva York. – She’s never been to New York.
- Siempre han querido visitar Londres. – They’ve always wanted to visit London.
** This is the usage primarily in Spain. In the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, you would hear “hice la cama” instead of a past participle. But it’s still good to be aware of regional differences as you study.
The pretérito pluscuamperfecto is one of the most difficult perfect tenses for English speakers, especially for Americans. It’s often referred to the past of the past since it’s used to talk about things that happened prior to a past event.
- Yo nunca había visto una playa tan bonita antes de ir al Caribe. – I had never seen a beach so pretty before going to the Caribbean.
- Cuando propusiste ver la película, yo ya había ido al cine. – When you proposed watching the movie, I had already gone to the movie theater.
The future perfect tense uses the auxiliary verb haber to express something that will happen in the future by a certain time. Here are some examples:
- Cuando lleguemos, ya habrán acabado el examen. – When we get there, they’ll have finished the exam.
- Antes de que termine el año, habré cumplido mis objetivos. – Before the year is over, I’ll have accomplished my goals.
Did you notice all those wonderful uses of the subjunctive? Well, we’re going to continue on with the subjunctive:
Pretérito perfecto del subjuntivo
So just like the normal pretérito perfecto (del indicativo), we can use the subjunctive version in the exact same way. In Spain, they would use it for things that happened very recently, whereas in the rest of the world it would only be for things that happened in the past that currently affect the present.
- No puedo creer que te hayas ido. – I can’t believe you left.
- Dudo que hayan estado en Colombia. – I doubt that they’ve been to Colombia.
Pretérito pluscuamperfecto del subjuntivo
So you thought the pretérito pluscuamperfecto, the past of the past, was difficult? Well, let’s throw some subjunctive into the mix to spice it up!
- Yo esperaba que hubieras llegado a tiempo. – I had hoped you would have arrived on time.
- Me molestó que no me lo hubiera contado antes. – It bothered me that you hadn’t told me beforehand.
There’s more than one way to use this kind of tense, but for today, let’s just focus on the participles.
Finally, the last way to use a participle with an auxiliary verb. You can add them together with conditional clauses, just like you do in English.
- No sé si habría hecho la cena. – I don’t know if he would have made dinner.
- Si te hubieras comprado Bitcoin en aquel momento, te habrías hecho millonario. – If you had bought Bitcoin at that time, you would have become a millionaire.
As a noun
The last use of participles is to combine and turn them into nouns. This is common since Spanish often uses adjectives as a noun with a specific quality. Check out some examples:
- La ida y la vuelta. – The way there and the way back.
- No han encontrado el cadáver del muerto. – They haven’t found the body of the dead person.
As you can see, it’s really not so hard. This is a really useful one to know for travelers since ida is the trip to somewhere and vuelta refers to the trip back. Spanish is a lot more concise for these specific terms.
¡Ya lo has hecho!
You’ve finished and now you know absolutely everything there is to know about the past participle in Spanish. You have learned how to form them and that you have a lot of irregular verbs to memorize. But most importantly, you have seen the participle in every context imaginable.
So now all that remains is to put it to work! Go ahead and sign up for a free private class or a 7-day free trial of our group classes so you can practice what you learned.
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