Pretérito pluscuamperfecto in Spanish: Formation, usage and examples

The pluperfect in Spanish is used to describe actions that occurred before another past event in the past. It is an essential verb tense for adequately expressing temporal relationships in Spanish discourse and expands the possibilities for talking about the past and its temporal sequence.

The pretérito pluscuamperfecto in Spanish at a glance

The Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto, also known as "Pluscuamperfecto de Indicativo", is a Spanish verb tense that is used to refer to actions that occurred in the past prior to another past action. That is, it is used to talk about actions that had already occurred before another event in the past. In short, it is the past of the past.

Formation of the pluscuamperfecto in Spanish

The formation of the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto is made from the auxiliary verb "haber" conjugated in the Pretérito Imperfecto (imperfect of indicative) followed by the past participle of the main verb:

Conjugation of the pluscuamperfecto

Regular verbs

Pronombre personal Verbo "haber" Verbos terminados en -ar como hablar Verbos terminados en -er como comer Verbos terminados en -ir como vivir
Yo había hablado comido vivido
habías hablado comido vivido
Él / Ella / Usted había hablado comido vivido
Nosotros / Nosotras habíamos hablado comido vivido
Vosotros / Vosotras habíais hablado comido vivido
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes habían hablado comido vivido

Examples with regular verbs:

Hablar (verb -ar): I had talked to my friend before leaving.

Comer (verb -er): They had eaten when we arrived at the restaurant.

Vivir (verb -ir): She had lived in that house before she moved in.

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Irregular verbs

Pronombre personal Verbo "haber" Abrir Decir Hacer Romper Volver
Yo había abierto dicho hecho roto vuelto
habías abierto dicho hecho roto vuelto
Él / Ella / Usted había abierto dicho hecho roto vuelto
Nosotros / Nosotras habíamos abierto dicho hecho roto vuelto
Vosotros / Vosotras habíais abierto dicho hecho roto vuelto
Ellos / Ellas / Ustedes habían abierto dicho hecho roto vuelto

Examples of irregular verbs:

We had opened the door before you arrived.

They had said they would be right back.

My sister had made a delicious cake.

My friends had accidentally broken the vase.

We were back from our vacation.

Use of pluscuamperfecto in Spanish

Sequence of events in the past: When we want to describe the sequence of actions in the past, we use the Pluscuamperfecto for the action that happened before and the pretérito indefinido (or pretérito perfecto simple) for the action that happened after. Example: I had eaten (Pluscuamperfecto) when the phone rang (pretérito indefinido).

Storytelling: In storytelling, the Pluscuamperfect is used to introduce events that happened before the main development of the narrative. Example: Before arriving in the city, we had already researched their customs.

Hypotheses in the past: To express hypotheses or imaginary situations in the past, the Pluscuamperfect Subjunctive is used in conditional sentences. Example: If I had studied more, I would have passed the exam. (Expresses a hypothetical situation in the past).

Description of past experiences before a specific time: To describe an experience that occurred before a specific time in the past. Example: I had traveled to Italy before I met my partner.

Expressing that something had "already" happened before another event: We use the Pluscuamperfect to emphasize that an action had already occurred before another past action happened. Example: We had already arrived when it started to rain.

Examples of pluscuamperfecto in Spanish

Examples of the pluperfect in SpanishThe pluperfect is used to express actions that had already occurred before another past event in the past. This temporal relationship is established by means of connectors such as "cuando", "antes de que", "después de que", among others. Let's see some examples of how the Pluscuamperfecto is used:

  1. I arrived home after my parents had left (The action of leaving my parents occurred before my arrival home).
  2. When I arrived at the movie theater, the movie had already started. (The action of starting the movie occurred before my arrival at the theater).
  3. Before they left, we had already finished the meeting. (The action of ending the meeting occurred before their departure).

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