What does HABER mean? Two Important Ways to use in Spanish

The verb HABER is a tricky one at first, being that it is used differently than most verbs.  However, it’s quite important to get a handle on it sooner than later as its use is quite important, and you will use it all the time while speaking Spanish.

To start, HABER is used in two ways:

  1. To express the existence of something
  2. As an auxiliary verb + past participle to form the “Perfect Tense”

To start, the verb HABER is used as existence; it has only one conjugation in all the tenses. In present tense is: HAY + noun. It doesn´t matter if it’s singular or plural.



  • Hay una manzana en la mesa.There is one apple on the table.
  • Hay dos manzanas en la mesa.  – There are two apples on the table.

The one conjugation rule as you will see below in all tenses holds true:

Present Tense

HAY There is

HAY There are

  • Hay un zapato en la caja.There is a shoe in the box.
  • Hay muchos zapatos en la caja.There are many shoes in the box.

Simple Past Tense

HUBO  – There was 

HUBO  – There were

  • Hubo un accidente ayer.There was an accident yesterday.
  • Hubo tres huracanes en México la semana pasada.There were three hurricanes in Mexico last week.

Imperfect Tense

HABIA – There was

HABIA – There were

  • Solamente había una escuela en mi pueblo cuando yo era niño.There was only one school in my town when I was a child.
  • Cuando llegamos al banco había cinco personas esperando.When we got to the bank, there were five people waiting.

Many students get confused on “what is the difference between HUBO and HABIA?”  Remember that the difference between simple past tense and imperfect tense is: simple past tense expresses defined actions, and imperfect tense describes undefined actions and repetitive actions.

  • El año pasado hubo muchos accidentes en la carretera nueva.  – Last year there were many accidents on the new highway
  • Recuerdo que cuando yo era niña casi siempre había exámenes sorpresa en la clase de matemáticas.I remember when I was a child, there was always surprise exams in math class.


HABRA – There will be

  • Habrá una fiesta mañana en la noche.There will be a party tomorrow night.
  • Habrá cinco grupos en el concierto del próximo fin de semana.There will be five groups in concert next weekend.


HABRIA – There would be

  • Él me dijo que habría una fiesta en su casa pero se canceló.He told me that there would be a party in his house, but it was canceled.
  • Habría más árboles en el mundo pero existe mucha contaminación.There would be more trees in the world but there is a lot of pollution.

The second use of the verb HABER is its use as an auxiliary verb to form the PERFECT TENSE.


Above, you learned that the verb HABER is used to expresses existence using only a single conjugation (HAY, HUBO, HABIA, HABRA and HABRIA).  But with the PERFECT TENSE it is conjugated with a second verb to form the construction of time and action.

The perfect tenses are formed with the verb haber” + a past participle.  In English we use the verb “to have (+verb)” to convey this meaning (ie. I have eaten).  “Haber” is used for “to have…” and describes the person and timeframe of event, while the past participle describes the action.

The perfect tenses can be:

  1. The present perfect tense
  2. The pluperfect tense or the past perfect tense
  3. The future perfect tense
  4. The conditional perfect tense

The present perfect tense

The present perfect tense is formed by the present tense of the verb “haber” (to have) and a past participle.

Yo he

Tú has

Él/ella ha      +     comido / ido / hablado  – (have eaten, have been, have talked)

Nosotros hemos

Ellos/ellas han

Ustedes han

For example:

  • Ellos han ido a México muchas veces.They have been to Mexico many times.
  • Yo he sido maestra de español por doce años.I have been a Spanish teacher for twelve years.
  • Él ha estudiado español durante algunos meses.He has studied Spanish for a few months.

The pluperfect tense or The past perfect tense:

The past perfect tense is formed by the imperfect tense of the verb “haber” (to have) and a past participle.

Yo había

Tú habías

Él/ella había     +    visitado / tenido / comprador(had visited, had had, had bought)

Nosotros habíamos

Ellos/ellas habían

Ustedes habían

For example:

  • Nosotros ya habíamos preparado la comida antes de salir de casa.We had already prepared the food before leaving home.
  • Ellos habían comido porque tenían hambre, no era necesario hacer un problema por eso.They had eaten because they were hungry, it was not necessary to make an issue about it.
  • Tú no habías ido a ese lugar antes, ¿verdad?You had not been to this place before, right?

The future perfect tense:

The future perfect tense is formed by the future tense of the verb “haber” (to have) and a past participle.

Yo habré

Tú habrás

Él/ella habrá   +  viajado / conocido / visitado(will have travelled, will have known, will have visited)

Nosotros habremos

Ellos/ellas habrán

Ustedes habrán

For example:

  • En cinco semanas ya habré terminado el reporte para mi jefe.In five weeks I will have finished the report for my boss.
  • habrás ido a Colombia antes de terminar la escuela.You will have been to Colombia before finishing school.
  • Nosotros habremos estudiado toda la gramatica antes de terminar tu viaje.We will have studied all the grammar before finishing your trip.


The conditional perfect tense:

The conditional perfect tense is formed by the conditional tense of the verb “haber” (to have) and a past participle.

Yo habría      

Tú habrías

Él/ella habría  +  hecho / abierto / tenido(would have done, would have opened, would have had)

Nosotros habríamos

Ellos/ellas habrían

Ustedes habrían

For example:

  • Yo habría tenido éxito en mis exámenes pero no estudié nada.I would have had success in my exams but I did not study anything.
  • Él habría ganado la competencia pero tuvo ese horrible accidente.He would have won the competition but he had that horrible accident.
  • Ellos habrían estudiado más tiempo en la escuela pero ya no tenían más dinero.They would have studied in school longer but they had no more money.

photo credit: avlxyz via photopin

photo credit: megoizzy via photopin

One comment on “What does HABER mean? Two Important Ways to use in Spanish

  1. Pingback: Common Spanish Expressions with Verbs | Let's Go Spanish

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s