When To Use The Spanish Past Perfect Subjunctive [+10 Examples & Quiz]

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In this Spanish grammar lesson, you will learn when to use the Spanish past perfect subjunctive.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • when to use the Spanish past perfect subjunctive
  • how the Spanish past perfect subjunctive is used in sentences in Spanish
  • how you can quiz yourself on when to use the Spanish past perfect subjunctive
  • how to practice with flashcards on when to use the Spanish past perfect subjunctive
  • how and why you should use the courses of Language Atlas to learn Spanish

By the end of the lesson you will know all about when to use the Spanish past perfect subjunctive!

Table of Contents

A Refresher On When To Use The Present Subjunctive

Before we start with when to use the past perfect subjunctive, we should first see when we use the present subjunctive in Spanish.

This will make understanding everything that comes after this a lot easier.

You will use the Spanish present subjunctive when information can fit in any of these categories:

  1. Emotional statement/comment
  2. Desire
  3. Ignorance
  4. Impersonal opinion
  5. Uncompleted action
  6. “Maybe” and “perhaps”
  7. “Even if”

In a nutshell, in sentences with a subjunctive clause, there is generally an indicative clause that is about emotion, desire, ignorance, or an impersonal opinion related to the action in the subjunctive clause.

When To Use The Spanish Past Perfect Subjunctive: Actions That Took Place Before Other Actions

You will use the Spanish past perfect subjunctive to describe past actions that took place before another past action. The past action in the main clause has an element of doubt.

The main clause will be in the preterite or the imperfect, whereas the subordinate clause is in the past perfect subjunctive.

imperfect + past perfect

Sabía que Paula había llamado.

He knew that Paula had called.

imperfect + past perfect subjunctive

Esperaba que Paula hubiera llamado.

I hoped that Paula had called.

As you can see, in the left example there is no doubt, whereas in the right one there is some doubt. Therefore you will use the subjunctive.

The main clause has the more recent action, whereas the subordinate clause has the older one.

Here is another example with the preterite and the past perfect subjunctive:

preterite + past perfect subjunctive

¿Fue posible que Jaime hubiera hablado?

Was it possible that Jaime had spoken?

When To Use The Spanish Past Perfect Subjunctive: Hypothetical Si Clauses (If Clauses)

You will use the Spanish past perfect subjunctive to talk about hypothetical situations. You will use a si clause to do this.

To express a hypothesis in Spanish you will use:

  • [si + past perfect subjunctive] + conditional perfect tense

Have a look at this hypothetical situation in English:

encontrar/comprar

Si hubiera encontrado un millón de euros, habría comprado una isla.

If I had found a million euros, then I would have bought an island.

The first clause of this sentence uses si + past perfect subjunctive (hubiera encontrado), and the second clause uses the conditional perfect tense (habría comprado).

With these kinds of conditional sentences, the condition is seen as something impossible, therefore the action in the main clause is not fulfiled.

Here are some more examples:

preguntar/decir

Si me lo hubieras preguntado, te lo habría dicho.

If you had asked me, I would have told you.

levantarse/volver

Si te hubieras levantado más temprano, ya habrías vuelto de la tienda.

If you had got up earlier, you would have been back from the shop by now.

regar/morir

Si hubieras regado la planta, no se habría muerto.

If you had watered the plant, it would not have died.

escuchar/cometer

Si me hubieras escuchado, no habrías cometido este error.

If you had listened to me, you would not have made this mistake.

ahorrar/poder

Si no hubiéramos ahorrado dinero, ahora no habríamos podido pagar la operación del perro.

If we had not saved money, we would not have been able to pay for the dog’s operation now.

llamar/preparar

Si ustedes hubieran llamado antes, les habríamos preparado la habitación.

If you had called earlier, we would have prepared the room for you.

Example Sentences on When To Use The Spanish Past Perfect Subjunctive Tense

This section of the lesson on when to use the Spanish past perfect subjunctive is about seeing the tense in action.

This is valuable because you can improve your understanding of when to use the Spanish past perfect subjunctive through examples.

imperfect + past perfect

Sabía que Paula había llamado.

He knew that Paula had called.

imperfect + past perfect subjunctive

Esperaba que Paula hubiera llamado.

I hoped that Paula had called.

preterite + past perfect subjunctive

¿Fue posible que Jaime hubiera hablado?

Was it possible that Jaime had spoken?

encontrar/comprar

Si hubiera encontrado un millón de euros, habría comprado una isla.

If I had found a million euros, then I would have bought an island.

preguntar/decir

Si me lo hubieras preguntado, te lo habría dicho.

If you had asked me, I would have told you.

levantarse/volver

Si te hubieras levantado más temprano, ya habrías vuelto de la tienda.

If you had got up earlier, you would have been back from the shop by now.

regar/morir

Si hubieras regado la planta, no se habría muerto.

If you had watered the plant, it would not have died.

escuchar/cometer

Si me hubieras escuchado, no habrías cometido este error.

If you had listened to me, you would not have made this mistake.

ahorrar/poder

Si no hubiéramos ahorrado dinero, ahora no habríamos podido pagar la operación del perro.

If we had not saved money, we would not have been able to pay for the dog’s operation now.

llamar/preparar

Si ustedes hubieran llamado antes, les habríamos preparado la habitación.

If you had called earlier, we would have prepared the room for you.

Quiz Yourself on When To Use The Spanish Past Perfect Subjunctive

At the end of every lesson you can do a small quiz.

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter.

You will either need to fill in the blanks, choose the correct multiple choice option, or both.

Once you are done the correct answer will be shown.

You can redo the quiz as many times as you want!

How to Practice With Flashcards for This Lesson

Using flashcards is an absolute necessity when it comes to learning a language!

It is the best way to memorize what you learn, you can personalize your progression because it adapts to your actions, and all flashcards have audio to improve your hearing and pronunciation.

Please read our article on how to learn a new language for more information on flashcards and the best way to learn a new language.

There are two ways to practice with Flashcards for this lesson.

  1. Anki
  2. The Flashcards in our Courses

Anki is a free software with which you can create and practice flashcards.

After you have downloaded Anki for free, you can get our Spanish B2 Anki Deck.

This Anki Deck contains 1,376 flashcards with which you can practice absolutely everything for Spanish B2.

All the flashcards have text, images, explanations, and audio.

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The Courses of Language Atlas

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