Present Perfect Subjunctive and the Past Perfect Subjunctive in Spanish
Present perfect subjunctive
Recall how the past participle is formed:
For example, let us take the verb “hablar” which means to speak. Since “hablar” ends in “–ar”, we need to add –ado, after dropping the “–ar”, so that the past participle of hablar is “hablado”. Another verb which has regular past participle is vivir (to live). It ends in “–ir”, so drop the –“ir” and add the “–ido” to form the past participle as “vivido”. An example for an “-er” verb which has regular past participle is comer (to eat). Drop the “-er” and add the “-ido”, the past participle is comido. Note also that when a past participle is used as adjective you need to modify it according to the gender and the noun. But, if it is used as auxiliary verb, it’s used always as singular and masculine. For example "has estudiado (you studied)".
Let us have a look at the first part of the conjugation: the verb haber.
Haber is irregular in the present subjunctive. Its conjugation reads
(tú ) hayas
(él/ella, usted) haya
(ellos/-as, ustedes) hayan
For example "I have spoken" is said in this tense like
(yo) haya hablado I have spoken
(tú ) hayas hablado you have spoken
(él/ella, usted) haya hablado he/she has spoken; you have spoken
(nosotros/-as) hayamos hablado we have spoken
(vosotros/-as) -hayáis hablado you have spoken
(ellos/-as, ustedes) hayan hablado they have spoken
Another example for llegar
(yo) haya llegado I have arrived
(tú ) hayas llegado you have arrived
(él/ella, usted) haya llegado he/she has arrived; you have arrived
(nosotros/-as) hayamos llegado we have arrived
(vosotros/-as) -hayáis llegado you have arrived
(ellos/-as, ustedes) hayan llegado they have arrived
When to use the present perfect subjunctive
If the main verb is one of the following tenses and the subjunctive verb refers to an action that has completed, use the present perfect subjunctive:
present indicative tense, future tense or present perfect tense or imperative.
dudo que él haya llegado (I doubt he has arrived)
Present perfect vs. present
The present subjunctive and the present perfect subjunctive are used with the following tenses in the main sentence.
Present indicative tense
Present perfect indicative tense
You will decide which one to use depending on if the action is completed in the past or yet to be completed in the future.
Past perfect subjunctive
To form the past perfect subjunctive, take the imperfect subjunctive of the verb haber and the past participle.
(tú ) hubieras
(él/ella, usted) hubiera
(ellos/-as, ustedes) hubieran
For example, sentences similar to I had spoken is in this tense said like
(yo) hubiera hablado I had spoken
(tú ) hubieras hablado you had spoken
(él/ella, usted) hubiera hablado he/she had spoken; you had spoken
(nosotros/-as) hubiéramos hablado we had spoken
(vosotros/-as) hubierais hablado you had spoken
(ellos/-as, ustedes) hubieran hablado they had spoken
(yo) hubiera llegado I had spoken
(tú ) hubieras llegado you had spoken
(él/ella, usted) hubiera llegado he/she had spoken; you had spoken
(nosotros/-as) hubiéramos llegado we had spoken
(vosotros/-as) hubierais llegado you had spoken
(ellos/-as, ustedes) hubieran llegado they had spoken
When to use the past subjunctive
The past subjunctive is used if the main verb is in the following tenses and if the subjunctive verb refers to an action that had been completed:
preterite tense, imperfect tense, past perfect tense, conditional.
When deciding which subjunctive tense to choose, you need to look first at the main verb. If it is in a present or future tense, you should choose either the present subjunctive or the present perfect subjunctive, depending on the action is completed or not. If the main verb is in a kind of past tense or in conditional, you should choose either the past perfect subjunctive or the imperfect, again whether the action is completed or not.
In the next lesson, we will review other important points and main uses of subjunctive mood.