Simple and Compound Tenses and Moods

Tiempos y modos simples y compuestos

Spanish simple and compound tenses
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Spanish verb conjugations can be divided into two categories: simple tenses and compound tenses.

  1. Simple tenses have only one part (yo habo)
  2. Compound tenses have two parts and can be subdivided into two categories:
      – Perfect tenses (he hablado)
      – Progressive tenses
    (estoy hablando)

So compound tenses are obviously more complicated than simple tenses – this lesson will explain what you need to know about them.

But first, a chart of the three kinds of Spanish tenses. The simple tense on the left is the conjugation for the auxiliary verb of the compound tenses in the middle and right columns:

Simple Tense / Mood Compound Tenses and Moods
  Perfect Tense / Mood Progressive Tense / Mood
Infinitive Perfect infinitive  
Present Present perfect Present progressive
Future Future perfect Future progressive
Conditional Conditional perfect Conditional progressive
Imperfect Pluperfect Imperfect progressive
Preterite Preterite perfect Preterite progressive
Subjunctive Present perfect subjunctive
Imperfect subjunctive Pluperfect subjunctive
Future subjunctive    

 * Notes

  • For the sake of simplicity, I’ve lumped all the compound conjugations together. Subjunctive and conditional are actually moods, not tenses, but they follow the exact same conjugation rules as compound tenses.
  • Some tenses/moods have more than one name – learn more.

Characteristics of Spanish compound tenses and moods

1. Compound verb forms are always made up of two parts: the conjugated auxiliary verb and a participle. In the chart above, the tense/mood in the simple column is the tense/mood used as the auxiliary verb for the compound verb forms listed next to it.

There are two types of compound tenses:

Por ejemplo…

Yo como.   I eat.
Yo he comido.   I have eaten.
Yo estoy comiendo.   I am eating.
Vendrá.   He will come.
Habrá venido.   He will have come.
Estará viniendo.   He will be coming.

2. Object pronouns always precede the auxiliary verb in perfect tenses (except for the perfect infinitive):

Por ejemplo…

Lo he visto.   I’ve seen it.
¿Me habías mentido?   Have you lied to me?

However, in progressive tenses object pronouns may either precede the auxiliary or be attached to the gerund – learn more.

Por ejemplo…

Te estoy hablando.
Estoy hablándote.
  I’m talking to you.
Lo estará mirando.
Estará mirándolo.
  He will be watching it.

For detailed information about the conjugations and uses of the individual compound tenses, follow the links in the summary table at the top of the page.

 Related lessons

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Spanish compound tenses and moods

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