The Progressive Perfect Tense

Verb Form Used as Background for Other Verb

Puerto Vallarta
Habiendo salido de Guadalajara, llegaron a una playa de Puerto Vallarta. (Having left Guadalajara, they arrived at a Puerto Vallarta beach.). Photo by Harvey Barrison; licensed via Creative Commons.

Although not particularly common in either language, the progressive perfect tense of Spanish is used much like the English equivalent. Since progressive verbs are used to indicate that the action of a verb is (or was or will be) continuing, and perfect verbs are used to indicate completed action, progressive perfect verbs are used to indicate that a completed action forms the background for the action of another verb.

Some examples should make this concept clearer.

As is suggested by its name, the progressive perfect tense in Spanish is formed by using the progressive form of haber, namely habiendo, with a past participle, the verb form that (with regular verbs) ends in -ado or -ido. (In English it's much the same: The progressive prefect tense uses "having" followed by the past participle.) It is used more often in written contexts than in everyday speech.

Here are some sample sentences using this tense. Note that the translation to English is usually straightforward:

  • Habiendo salido de Guadalajara, llegaron a la playa. Having left Guadalajara, they arrived at the beach.
  • Habiéndome conocido por espacio de siete años, pudo responder a muchas de las preguntas que le hicieron sobre mí. Having known me over a space of seven years, he could answer many of the questions they asked him about me.
  • Habiendo matado sin querer a otro, decidió expiar su culpa con obras de penitencia. Having killed another without wanting to, he decided to atone for his guilt with acts of penitence.
  • Habiéndose lavado otra vez las manos, se sentaron en las sillas. Having washed their hands again, they sat down in the chairs.
  • Ya habiendo visto todo ¿qué piensas de la serie? Now that you've seen it all, what do you think of the series? (Literally: Now having seen all, what do you think of the series?)

    Note that in many cases, the perfect infinitive, using haber followed by the past participle, can be used with little change in meaning: Al haber salido de Guadalajara, llegaron a la playa. (After leaving Guadalajara, they arrived at the beach.) The perfect infinitive is probably more common in everyday speech than the progressive perfect tense.

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    Erichsen, Gerald. "The Progressive Perfect Tense." ThoughtCo, May. 26, 2017, thoughtco.com/the-progressive-perfect-tense-3079927. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, May 26). The Progressive Perfect Tense. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-progressive-perfect-tense-3079927 Erichsen, Gerald. "The Progressive Perfect Tense." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-progressive-perfect-tense-3079927 (accessed May 23, 2018).