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¡Estoy tan confundido!


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Okay, I have to type this in English before I spend an hour trying to find words because I want answers! Gah, confusing Spanish tenses: What is the difference between the Past Anterior tense and the Pluperfect tense? They both seem to mean "someone HAD done some action", but I thought one might have to do with certainity, but that's what the subjunctive is for. These are the only non-subjunctive tenses that make me want to scream and my faithful Google is not helping me. AYUDAME!

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Bueno, relájate. Relax and take a deep breath. This is quite a difficult concept to grasp at first, but once you get it, you'll see how much sense it makes.


The imperfect (tenía, estaba) is the pictorial past. It describes a continuous past action in progress (We were leaving the building when...) It relives what used to be. (They used to or would play every day.) It describes the background of an event; it sets the stage upon which another act was performed. (It was midday. I was raining. There were lots of people.)


The preterite (tuve, estuve) is the recording past. It cuts into the past, recording its events as units completed at a certain time, reporting merely the fact that they took place. (I came. I saw. I conquered.)


I know this is a lot to take in. Think about it for a while, try to read some Spanish, and I'll post again later. ¡Buena suerte!

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Oh, well I appreciate the help, but those aren't the tenses causing the confusion (In fact, I'm quite familiar with them). The tenses in Spanish are called Pluscamperfecto and the Pretérito anterior, and here are sample conjugations:



yo había comido

tú habías comido

él había comido

nosotros habíamos comido

vosotros habíais comido

ellos habían comido


Pretérito anterior

yo hube comido

tú hubiste comido

él hubo comido

nosotros hubimos comido

vosotros hubisteis comido

ellos hubieron comido


The problem is I'm not exactly sure what the difference in meaning is between them?


Oh...well, wait. Okay, I just had a stunning revelation. Does the pluscamperfecto mean "I had been eating"? and the preterito anterior mean "I had eaten"? Hm...interesting, cause I usually find them both translated as "I had eaten" in things I've been reading.

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:eek: It appears that *I'm* the confused one! My apologies. Yes, you are absolutely right - one is the present perfect tense and the other is the past perfect tense (i.e. the past tense when speaking in the past tense). It works basically the same as in English.


  • I wasn't hungry. I had already eaten. (No tenía hambre. Ya había comido.)

  • They have just arrived. They haven't eaten. (Acaban de llegar. No han comido.)


I hope this is more helpful!

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Almost, but not quite. I know the difference between those two tenses, but it's not the present perfect tense, but rather the "past perfect" tense, but makes us of the preterite conjugation of haber instead of its present tense conjugations (see my second post for sample conjugations of the verb comer comparing the two tenses).

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