In today’s post we are going to cover the Spanish past participle. Some students may not know what we are talking about but we can assure you that it is a very important verb form that we use all the time. More than you can imagine!
With the past participle, Spanish and English are actually quite similar in terms of its uses and functions. In this post we’ll start off with a quick review of what is a participle, then we’ll get into how we form the participle with Spanish verbs. Finally, we’ll get into the various uses of past participle Spanish, from perfect tenses to passive voice, to their uses as adjectives and nouns.
Let’s get started!
What Is a Participle
The past participle is a verb form that doesn’t change with a verb tense. This is because the participles are always used in combination with other conjugated verbs. In other words, the past participle, or participio pasado in Spanish, always comes after an auxiliary verb which varies in tense to reflect who was responsible for the action and when. Let’s see this with a couple of examples:
- For the last five years, I have been a methodical student. – Durante los últimos cinco años, he sido un estudiante metódico.
This sentence is in the present perfect tense. Been and sido are the past participles, while have and he are the auxiliary verbs conjugated in present perfect.
- America was discovered by Columbus in 1492. – América fue descubierta por Colón en 1492.
In this example, our sentence uses the passive voice in the past tense. Discovered and descubierta are the past participles, with was and fue the conjugated auxiliary verbs.
How to Form a Participle
Before we get into more detail on using past participles in Spanish, let’s cover the basics on how they’re formed. As you may know, we have regular and irregular verbs in Spanish, and these groupings apply just as much to the past participle forms. We’ll cover each of the two categories in the next sections.
Regular past participles
The good news is that the past participles have only two different endings for regular verbs: -ado and -ido. We use -ado for the verbs whose infinitives end in -ar, and -ido for the -er and -ir verbs. Let’s see this clearly with some examples for the three Spanish verb groups:
|Infinitive verb: -ar||Past participle: -ado|
|Amar – To love||Amado – Loved|
|Trabajar – To work||Trabajado – Worked|
|Ganar – To win||Ganado – Won|
|Infinitive verb: -er||Past participle: -ido|
|Correr – To run||Corrido – Run|
|Ser – To be||Sido – Been|
|Comer – To eat||Comido – Eaten|
|Infinitive verb: -ir||Past participle: -ido|
|Vivir – To live||Vivido – Lived|
|Dormir – To sleep||Dormido – Slept|
|Percibir – To perceive||Percibido – Perceived|
- My friends have worked until late and they don’t want to go out. – Mis amigos han trabajado hasta tarde y no quieren salir.
- Today we ran too much. – Hoy hemos corrido demasiado.
- Martín has lived here since 2010. – Martín ha vivido aquí desde 2010.
Irregular past participles
In the case of irregular verbs, the participle endings are different. Unfortunately, there’s no fixed formula with past participle Spanish, so these irregular forms just need to be memorized. In fact, this is often the case with many past participle forms in English too.
Fortunately though, this form is pretty common, so once you start using the irregular participles in Spanish and getting used to them, they’ll eventually come naturally. It’s just a matter of practice. Meanwhile, let’s have a look at some of the most common ones:
|Infinitive verb||Past participle|
|Abrir – To open||Abierto – Opened|
|Cubrir – To cover||Cubierto – Covered|
|Decir – To tell||Dicho – Said|
|Escribir – To write||Escrito – Written|
|Hacer – To do, To make||Hecho – Done, Made|
|Poner – To put||Puesto – Put|
|Morir – To die||Muerto – Died|
|Ver – To see||Visto – Seen|
|Volver – To return, To come back||Vuelto – Returned, Come back|
- Your fate is written in stone. – Tu destino está escrito en piedra.
- The kids have already done all the homework. – Los chicos ya han hecho toda la tarea.
- The thief was seen in the hospital. – El ladrón fue visto en el hospital.
How to Use the Spanish Past Participle
Past participles in Spanish are used to:
1. Conjugate perfect tenses: combined with the conjugated verb “haber” (to have)
2. Describe people and objects: functioning as adjectives
3. Create passive voice structures: combined with the conjugated verb “ser” (to be)
In this post we’ll also cover some other uses combined with other verbs. But now, let’s begin with the perfect tenses.
The past participle in Spanish perfect tenses
One of the primary uses of participles in Spanish is to form perfect tenses. To create these tenses, we start with the auxiliary verb haber conjugated in our target tense, and add the participle of our action verb. Note that no other words should come between haber and the participle.
- Hemos ido al supermercado. – We have gone to the supermarket. (Present perfect Spanish)
- Pedro, have you seen my notebook? – Pedro, ¿has visto mi cuaderno? (Present perfect Spanish)
- If you had told me, I would have given you the money. – Si me lo hubieras dicho, te habría dado el dinero. (Pluperfect subjunctive and Conditional perfect Spanish)
- By this time tomorrow, he would have left the house. – Mañana a esta hora, habrá dejado la casa. (Future perfect Spanish)
- Marcos had swum 2.4 miles before he ran the marathon. – Marcos había nadado 2.4 millas antes de correr el maratón. (Past perfect Spanish)
Have you noticed that no matter the tense, the past participle remains the same? That’s because, as we’ve stated before, all the information on the tense and the person is reflected in our conjugation of the auxiliary verb haber.
Spanish past participles as adjectives
Past participles are used as adjectives when describing people, objects, or past events. Like other adjectives in Spanish, the past participle functioning as an adjective needs to change its ending to match the gender and number of the noun it describes. Such variation is done by using -do for masculine adjectives and -da for feminine ones, and by adding -s for plurals.
- My new friend is boring. – Mi nueva amiga es aburrida.
- The war left many wounded soldiers. – La guerra dejó muchos soldados heridos.
- María and Paula are going to be very busy next week. – María y Paula van a estar muy ocupadas la semana próxima.
If you are interested in learning more about how to describe people, check out our dedicated posts on personality traits in Spanish and on physical descriptions in Spanish.
Going one step further, we can take many of these participles functioning as adjectives, and use them as nouns. To use them as nouns, we use the same forms of each word we saw above to reflect gender and number, and include an article (like una or los) or a demonstrative (like ese or aquellas).
- The wounded [people] protested. – Los heridos protestaron.
- What will the chosen ones say? – ¿Qué dirán los elegidos?
Spanish past participle in passive voice
Just like in English, the passive voice in Spanish is formed by conjugating the verb to be and adding the participle form of the action verb. In Spanish, the conjugated verb is ser.
The passive voice is much less common in Spanish than it is in English. It’s mostly used in formal situations and written language.
In Spanish passive voice, the past participle functions like an adjective in that it agrees with the subject in both number and gender. Let’s see this with a few examples.
- The treasures were stolen by pirates. – Los tesoros fueron robados por piratas.
- The book will be published soon. – El libro será publicado pronto.
- The song is going to be recorded next week. – La canción va a ser grabada la semana próxima.
- Daisies will be cut in winter. – Las margaritas serán cortadas en invierno.
Spanish past participle with llevar and tener
In Spanish, the verbs llevar (to take) and tener (to have) may function as auxiliaries followed by participles. These verbs and participles are used specifically to highlight the idea of acquiring or accumulating things or actions.
- Tengo compradas las entradas. – I have bought the entrance tickets.
- Ese autor lleva vendidos dos millones de libros. – That author has sold two million books.
Note that, in contrast to the participle’s usage with the auxiliary haber, the participle’s ending needs to agree with the direct object when used with llevar and tener, not with the subject.
In today’s post we’ve provided a broad overview of past participle Spanish. We started off with the basics on how to form the past participle in Spanish, from both the regular Spanish verbs, and from the irregular verbs where you’ll need to memorize each individual participle.
Then we got into how to use the Spanish past participle, starting with their primary use in Spanish perfect tenses. We moved on to the use of participles as adjectives and nouns, where they change form to agree with the gender and number of the subject, while also seeing a similar approach when using the participle to form the Spanish passive voice. Finally, we saw how to use the participle with the auxiliary verbs tener and llevar.
Overall, you’ve seen that past participles in Spanish are quite versatile, and also very common in a number of contexts. Through practice, you’ll soon get the hang of using and recognizing past participles in Spanish in your speech and writing!
Past Participle Spanish: Exercises
We’ll leave you with a few exercises to help you practice forming and using the past participle in Spanish. Complete the sentences with the correct participle of the verb shown in parentheses.
You’ll find the English translations in the answer key below, along with explanations of which usage of past participle Spanish applies in each sentence.
1. El niño fue _____ (morder) por el perro.
2. Llevamos ______ (reunir) más de $20.000 dólares.
3. Los _____ (hacer) no mienten.
4. La casa ______ (embrujar) me asusta.
5. María está ______ (cansar).
6. He ______ (firmar) el contrato.
7. ¿Habías ______ (jugar) fútbol antes?
8. Martina no ha ______ (vivir) en Portugal.
9. La introducción fue ______ (escribir) por Claudia Fernández.
10. Los padres de Matías se veían muy _____ (preocupar).
1. El niño fue mordido por el perro. – The kid was bitten by the dog. (Passive voice Spanish)
2. Llevamos reunidos más de $20.000 dólares. – We’ve already collected over $20,000 dollars. (Idea of accumulation)
3. Los hechos no mienten. – Facts don’t lie. (Participle as a noun)
4. La casa embrujada me asusta. – The haunted house scares me. (Participle as an adjective)
5. María está cansada. – María is tired. (Participle as an adjective)
6. He firmado el contrato. – I have signed the contract. (Present perfect Spanish)
7. ¿Habías jugado fútbol antes? – Have you ever played football before? (Past perfect Spanish)
8. Martina no ha vivido en Portugal. – Martina hasn’t lived in Portugal. (Present perfect Spanish)
9. La introducción fue escrita por Claudia Fernández. – The introduction was written by Claudia Fernández. (Passive voice Spanish)
10. Los padres de Matías se veían muy preocupados. – Matías’s parents looked very worried. (Participle as an adjective)