I’m reviewing my verb usage and so far it has been okay, but I know I’m procrastinating with the auxiliary verb haber. Up until now, I know that it works like the English auxiliary verbs “to do” and “to have”, but is it as extensive?
My struggles are with usage in everyday conversation. I need clarification with using haber in the present and past tenses and does it extend to the future, conditional and subjunctive as well?
Well done, you’re obviously progressing really well with your Spanish and it’ll be great when you get a grip on this really useful verb ‘haber’.
Be careful not to confuse the two verbs ‘hacer’ (to do/make) and ‘haber’ (to have) – it’s easy done.
As you mention ‘haber’ is most commonly used as an auxillary verb to form the perfect tenses ….
Present perfect: He comido. I have eaten.
Future perfect: Habré comido. I will have eaten.
Conditional perfect: Habría comido. I would have eaten.
There are of course past perfect tenses for past action that occurred before another past action. You have the pluperfect (the combination of the imperfect past tense with a past participle – había comido) and the preterite perfect (hubo comido) which focuses on the completeness of an action.
Both of these tenses are translated the same way in English (using ‘had’) but they give a slightly different nuance to your meaning and as far as I understand it, the pluperfect (había comido) is by far the most common in spoken Spanish and the preterite perfect (hubo comido) which focuses on the completeness of an action, is more often used in written or literary Spanish
Yo había comido. I had eaten.
Cuando hube comido, me fui. When I had eaten I left.
Apart from being used as an auxillary verb haber has a couple of special uses, for example in the third-person present indicative tense ‘hay’ is used to mean ‘there is’ or ‘there are’, this works in the future ‘habrá’ and in the past ‘había’ as well. Note that these conjugations stay in the singular form even if they mean ‘there are’, ‘there were’ etc.
It is also used in the phrase ‘hay que’ which means something along the lines of ‘one must’ or ‘it is necessary to’.
Hay que estudiar mucho para aprender español.
One must (it’s necessary to) study a lot to learn Spanish.
That just leaves hundreds of idioms that use ‘haber’ and using ‘haber’ in the subjunctive mood but that’s a whole ‘nother story as they say.
Still I hope that this gives you something to get started with.
Please feel free to ask any other questions that may come up. ¡Sigue así! (Keep up the good work!)
To have another language is to possess a second soul – Charlemagne