Well hello there! Have you had a good month? Have you been busy? Have you done anything interesting? What have you done today before reading this?
Those of you who have been up slightly longer than I have and are sufficiently awake should have noticed something about these questions. They all contain the word ‘have’ and they are all enquiring about recent past events.
You should remember that at the end of last month’s article we said that, however tempting it is, we cannot translate the word ‘have’ in these kinds of questions, or answers, using tener. We have a different verb to translate ‘have’ or ‘has’ when talking about the recent past, and that is haber.
Like all verbs in Spanish, haber changes its forms depending on who the subject of the sentence is, that is, who is controlling the action. This is how haber goes:
He – I have
Has – You have (familiar)
Ha – He/she has. You have (formal)
Hemos – We have
Habéis – You have (familiar)
Han – They have. You have (formal)
This verb haber is an odd one because it is rarely used on its own and generally has no independent meaning, apart from in a few odd expressions. Usually haber is used to help change the meaning of other verbs, as in the case we are looking at now.
Taking your minds back an article or two, we were looking at those things called Past Participles and saying that they joined together with these forms of haber to talk about the recent past. Not wishing to be tedious, but I want to remind you again that these Past Participles don’t need to change at all. They remain exactly as they are, independently of anything else, relying on the verb haber to make the relevant changes for them.
To illustrate this, let’s go back to the first of our example sentences again:
He hablado con mi vecino – I have spoken to my neighbour.
We can change the person doing the action purely by changing haber as follows:
Has hablado con mi vecino. – You have spoken to my neighbour.
Ha hablado con mi vecino. – S/he has spoken to my neighbour.
Hemos hablado con mi vecino. – We have spoken to my neighbour.
Habéis hablado con mi vecino. – You have spoken to my neighbour.
Han hablado con mi vecino. – They have spoken to my neighbour.
To make it slightly more interesting, we can also change the possessive adjectives, so that you have spoken to your neighbour and we have spoken to our neighbour, like this:
He hablado con mi vecino. – I have spoken to my neighbour.
Has hablado con tu vecino. – You have spoken to your neighbour.
Ha hablado con su vecino. – S/he has spoken to his/her neighbour.
Hemos hablado con nuestro vecino. – We have spoken to our neighbour.
Habéis hablado con vuestro vecino. – You have spoken to your neighbour.
Han hablado con su vecino. – They have spoken to their neighbour.
If you find this a bit repetitive, well it is, but I’ve generally found repetitiveness a very useful thing!
Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.