Learning the Versatile Spanish Past Participle
The Spanish past participle is a verb form that can be used to make more complex verbal phrases, but can also be used as an adjective. It’s a great tool to have, because it’s super easy to form and it can be implemented in a variety of ways.
In English, the grammar rules are a bit of a mess for past participles, so sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish them. Some past particles use the -en ending, like broken, eaten, taken, written and fallen. But most past participles in English just used the past tense of the verb. Consider the sentence, “She has told you many times” or “The game was played.” These are both examples of the past participle.
How to Make the Spanish Past Participle
Like I mentioned earlier, forming the Spanish past participle is very simple. All you need to do is take off the ending of verb infinitives and add a new suffix. For verbs ending in -AR, we add the -ado ending and for verbs ending in -ER and -IR, we add the -ido ending. Here is what it looks like:
cantar – cantado
caminar – caminado
hablar – hablado
estar – estado
comer – comido
tener – tenido
ser – sido
meter – metido
ir – ido
vivir – vivido
dividir – dividido
herir – herido
When the Rules are Broken
Like any verb form or tense, there are always exceptions to the rules. Here are a few common irregular past participles to learn:
poner – puesto
hacer – hecho
decir – dicho
volver – vuelto
abrir – abierto
romper – roto
escribir – escrito
ver – visto
morir – muerto
freír – frito
cubrir – cubierto
resolver – resuelto
How to Use It
There are three ways in which the past participle is most commonly implemented in Spanish. It can be used as an adjective, in the passive voice and in the present perfect tense? Don’t know what all of those grammar terms mean? That’s ok. Let’s take a look.
Even though they are a verb form, with -ado or -ido ending, the Spanish past participle can be transformed into adjectives.
Remember that as adjectives, the past participle must always agree with the noun it is describing, just like any adjective. If the noun is plural, a final -s must be added and if the noun is feminine, the last letter will be an -a instead of an -o, making the endings -ada and -ida. Let’s look at examples:
Los niños están cansados. – The children are tired.
El perro herido ladra. – The wounded dog barks.
La ventana está rota. – The window is broken.
Pasan por las puertas abiertas. – They pass through the open doors.
The present perfect tense uses the auxiliary verb “haber” in the present tense with the past participle to form sentences like, “I haven’t read the book for class” or “They have seen everything.” (put in link to other article?) Here are some examples:
¿Has hecho tu trabajo? – Have you done your work?
No se han puesto su ropa. – They haven’t put their clothes on.
He vivido en varios lugares. – I’ve lived in many places.
Él no ha leído la carta. – He hasn’t read the letter.
The passive voice in Spanish is formed by conjugating the verb “ser” in the past or future tense and adding the past participle. It conveys an action without including the subject who does the action in the sentence. It looks like this:
Las casas fueron abandonadas. – The houses were abandoned.
El pastel fue comido. – The cake was eaten.
El juego será jugado. – The game will be played.
La ciudad será inundada. – The city will be flooded.
This verbal construction is less common than the other two examples, so don’t worry if you haven’t gotten the hang of it just yet.
Now that you’ve seen how to form and when to use the Spanish past participle, let’s look at some examples of when it comes into play. I’ve found a few examples from common expressions and pop culture to help.
Es pan comido: This is an idiomatic expression, which literally translates to “it’s eaten bread,” is the Spanish equivalent to “piece of cake” or “easy as pie.”
Ahogado el niño, a tapar el pozo: This expression means, “the child drowned, let’s cover the well.” It refers to when you’ve already made a mistake and the only thing you can do now is move on and fix it so it doesn’t happen again.
“El Chapulín Colorado”: This is a popular Mexican television series which was widely syndicated throughout Latin American. The title means the colored/red grasshopper, an unlikely superhero who is the main character of the comedy.
Still want more practice? Mexican rock group Maná has the perfect song! It’s called, “Clavado en un bar” and it’s a classic that will teach you how versatile and useful the past participle can be.
Aquí me tiene bien clavado
Soltando las penas en un bar
Brindando por su amor
Aquí me tiene abandonado
Bebiendo tequila pa’ olvidar
Y sacudirme así el dolor
Dónde estás bendita
Dónde te has metido
Abre un poco el corazón
Deja amarte corazón
Ven y sácame de este bar
Estoy clavado, estoy herido
Estoy ahogado en un bar
Desesperado en el olvido amor
Estoy ahogado en un bar
Did you find examples of the past participle as adjectives? As the present perfect tense?
I created a lesson on LingQ with the song. This way I can work through the new words and phrases, saving them to my database. I can also tag the past participle so I can see a list of examples any time I need to. This really helps with getting used to this feature of Spanish.
If you liked this song and want more practice with the past participle, Maná has another great song called, “No ha parado de llover” (Did you catch the past participle in the title?) which also includes lots of examples. Check out the song here and see if you can find the irregular past participle.
Nicole is a language fanatic from Seattle, Washington. She is fluent in Spanish, having studied it for over ten years and lived abroad. She is also currently studying Italian and Nahuatl.