Spanish Past Perfect Subjunctive
Language Resources

In terms of time, we use the past perfect subjunctive when the main verb (in the independent clause) is in the imperfect or preterite past tenses and the subjunctive verb (in the dependent clause) refers to an action that has been completed before the action of the main verb. Sound confusing? An example might help:

  • Spanish: Esperaba que hubiera estudiado antes del examen.
  • English: I hoped she had studied before the exam.

Forming the Spanish past perfect subjunctive

The Spanish past perfect subjunctive is a compound verb that combines the imperfect subjunctive of the helping verb haber with the past participle of the main verb.

* Keep in mind from the lesson on the imperfect subjunctive that there are two sets of conjugations, which means that the past perfect subjunctive also has two sets of conjugations.

  • past perfect subjunctive of the "haber" + past participle of the main verb
past perfect subjunctive of "haber"
+ past participle
(example: estudiar)
translation
yo
hubiera
o
hubiese
+ estudiado
I had studied
hubieras
o
hubieses
You had studied
él, ella
hubiera
o
hubiese
He/she had studied
nosotros/as
hubiéramos
o
hubiésemos
We had studied
vosotros/as
hubieráis
o
hubieséis
You all had studied
ellos, ellas
hubieran
o
hubiesen
They had studied

Using the Spanish past perfect subjunctive

1. If the verb in the independent clause expresses wishes, emotions, recommendations, possible non-realities, doubts, denial, etc. and is in the preterite, imperfect or conditional tense and the subjunctive verb refers to something that has or should have already taken place, then the verb in the dependent clause will be past perfect subjunctive.

  • Doubts
    • Dudaba que hubiera venido.
      (I doubted that he had come.)
  • Possible non-reality
    • Buscaba un libro que hubiera tenido buenas críticas.
      (I was looking for a book that had had good reviews.)
  • Expression of emotion
    • Me sorpendía que hubieras ido a Perú.
      (It surprised me that you had gone to Peru.)
  • Expression of a wish
    • Esperaba que hubieras comido.
      (I hoped that you had eaten.)
  • Negation, denial
    • No era verdad que hubiera dicho esto.
      (It was not true that he had said that.)

2. When preceded by the term "ojalá (que), we can express a desire that something in the past had happened differently.

Construction:
- Ojalá (que) + past perfect subjunctive + rest of sentence

  • Ojalá hubiera llegado a tiempo.
    (If only he had arrived on time.)
  • Ojalá que nos hubiéramos conocido antes.
    (If only we had met each other earlier.)

3. "If" Clauses. We can use the past perfect subjunctive to form a conditional sentence in the past when it follows the word "si" (if) and is combined with a conditional perfect tense (formed by conjugated the verb haber into the conditional and combining it with the past participle). In English, this construction would translate to something along the lines of "If this had happened, then that would have happened ".

Construction:
- si + past perfect subjunctive + conditional perfect + rest of sentence
- conditional perfect + rest of sentence + si + past perfect subjunctive

  • Si hubieran ido de vacaciones, nos habrían comprado regalos.)
    (If they had gone on vacation, they would have bought gifts for us.)
  • Habría jugado en el partido de fútbol si no me hubiera roto la pierna.
    (I would have played in the football game if I hadn't broken my leg.)