How to Form and Use Past Participles in Spanish
Hands down, past participles are one of the most useful pieces of Spanish grammar you can learn.
You may argue that you have no idea what a past participle is—and that’s fair, so I’ll make sure to start there—after which you’ll see how truly useful these functional words are.
Past participles have many uses and by learning to use them properly, you’ll improve your Spanish speaking and writing skills.
In this blog post, you will learn:
- What past participles are
- How you can form them with regular and irregular verbs
- The most common uses of past participles in Spanish, including perfect tenses, as adjectives, as nouns, and combined with other verbs.
What are Past Participles?
Past participles are verb forms that don’t change according to when an action takes place. In other words, past participles don’t show any tense.
These useful verb forms are commonly used with perfect tenses and can play different roles in a sentence, as we’ll see in a moment.
How to Form Past Participles
A good thing about past participles is that they never change and that they’re quite easy to form. There only exist two endings for past participles of regular verbs: -ado and -ido.
All Spanish verbs that as infinitive end in -ar, in past participle end in -ado:
Trabajar – trabajado
To work – worked
Ganar – ganado
To win – won
Hablar – hablado
To talk – talked
All Spanish verbs that as infinitive end in -er or -ir, in past participle end in -ido:
Correr – corrido
To run – ran
Ser – sido
To be – been
Dormir – dormido
To sleep – slept
Reír – reído
To smile – smiled
Irregular Past Participles
As usual in Spanish, even the most straightforward grammar situations have exceptions and peculiarities. In the case of past participles, these come in the form of irregular verbs.
However, even irregular verbs have easy-to-remember past participle endings. Instead of adding -ado, -ido, these verbs include one of the following endings: -to, -so, -cho.
How do you know when to use which ending? Well, I wish there was more I could tell you about it, aside from “It’s just the way it is.” Ultimately, the only way to learn these irregular past participles is to memorize them and frequently inject them into your daily conversations in Spanish.
Abrir – abierto
To open – opened
Romper – roto
To break – broken
Decir – dicho
To say – said
Hacer – hecho
To make – made
The Strange Case of Verbs with Two Past Participles
Some verbs have two accepted past participles. This is due to the common usage people have given to these verbs throughout the years. They mean exactly the same—it’s just that you can use them in different ways, which we’ll explore below.
Imprimir – impreso, imprimido
To print – printed
Confundir – confuso, confundido
To confuse – confused
Confesar – confeso, confesado
To confess – confessed
Proveer – proveído, provisto
To provide – provided
Uses of the Past Participles in Spanish
You can use the past participle in perfect tenses, as an adjective, as a noun, and with other verbs. Let’s go into more detail.
In Spanish, perfect tenses use the auxiliary verb haber, while in English it’s formed with the verb “to have.”
These tenses are used to indicate a completed or “perfect” action or condition, as well as a continuous action that began in the past and is still happening in the present.
As you can see in any Spanish verb conjugation set, many perfect or compound tenses exist. They all use a different version of a perfect construction with the verb haber + the past participle.
He firmado el contrato.
I have signed the contract.
¿Habías jugado fútbol antes?
Had you ever played football before?
Mañana a esta hora, ya habrá despegado tu avión.
Tomorrow at this time, your plane will have taken off.
Present Perfect Subjunctive
Espero que Miguel haya llegado bien a casa.
I hope Miguel has arrived home safely.
Past Perfect Subjunctive
Si tú hubieras llegado temprano, esto no habría pasado.
If you had arrived early, this wouldn’t have happened.
This last example includes two different past participles. In the first element (hubieras llegado), you can see the past perfect subjunctive form, meanwhile in the second element (habría pasado), you can see the verb haber conjugated in its conditional form.
The conditional form of the verb haber is another of the uses you can give to past participles.
The formula is as follows:
If + haber (past perfect subjunctive) + past participle + context + haber (conditional) + past participle.
Past Participles as Adjectives
One of the main uses of past participles is as adjectives. You just need to match the number (add –s for plural) and gender (-ado, -ada) of the noun that it’s modifying.
You can use past participles as adjectives after the verb estar (to be) and accompanying the noun.
After the Verb Estar
Carlos está dormido.
Carlos is sleeping.
María está cansada.
María is tired.
Mis hermanos están aburridos.
My brothers are bored.
Mis hijas están preparadas.
My daughters are prepared.
Notice how in the previous examples the past participles vary to match the number and gender of the noun.
Accompanying the Noun
If you add a past participle right after the noun, it works as an adjective.
Los niños perdidos ayudaron a Peter Pan.
The lost boys helped Peter Pan.
La casa embrujada me asusta.
The haunted house scares me.
Past Participles as Nouns
Sometimes you’ll see past participles used as nouns. This occurs when a characteristic of the noun is so important that it defines it.
Él es el elegido.
He’s the chosen one.
Los hechos no mienten.
Facts don’t lie.
Que pase el acusado.
Let the accused pass.
Connect Past Participles to Other Verbs
Finally, you can also use past participles with other verbs and produce different kinds of results.
El niño fue mordido por el perro.
The boy was bitten by the dog.
Notice how in the previous example, when you use a past participle with the verb ser (to be), you form the passive voice.
Los niños corren desenfrenados.
Children run wild.
Added after an action verb, as in the previous example, past participles function as adverbs modifying the verbs.
Llevamos reunidos más de $10,000 dólares.
We’ve already collected over $10,000 dollars.
If you add a past participle after the verb llevar, it indicates the accumulation of a continuous action.
Hoy Has Aprendido el Pasado Participio
“Today, you have learned the past participle,” and right there you have another example of how to use it. The truth is that past participles are useful in many ways and come handy when you start having conversations in Spanish. Sign up today for a free trial class with one of our certified teachers from Guatemala, and apply the different uses of past participles in a real-life conversation with a native Spanish speaker!
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