How to use past participles in Spanish?

A person walking towards a beach with crystal clear water.

Past participles are verb forms that commonly imply a completed action. In Spanish, regular past participles end in -ado or -ido: hablado (spoken), tenido (had), vivido (lived). As always, you can assume there are irregularities in past participles, which we will address in this post. One cool thing, though, is that past participles have multiple uses in Spanish, for example you can use them as part of a verb: Han cerrado mi tienda favorita. (They have closed my favorite shop.), or as an adjective: Prefiero tener las ventanas cerradas. (I prefer to have the windows closed.) So, while you will only study one form, you actually get the superpower of using them in multiple ways in Spanish! How cool is that?

Have I convinced you to jump in? Let’s get started!

Table of Contents

How to form past participles in Spanish?

Regular past participles in Spanish are built by removing the -ar, -er, and -ir verb endings from the infinitive and adding -ado for -ar verbs and -ido for -er/-ir verbs. Here are some examples:
  • caminar → camin- → caminado
  • ser → s- → sido
  • salir sal– → salido
left, exited
When the stem of an -er or -ir verb ends in a vowel, add an accent on the “í” of the participle ending.
creer → cre– + ido = creído
oír → o– + ido = oído
heard, listened
  • Irregular past participles in Spanish​

    As you have come to expect, there are irregular past participles in Spanish (just as in English). Generally, they end in -to, -cho, and sometimes -so. Below are some examples for the main groups and you can find a more complete list of irregular Spanish participles here.
  • -to irregulars
    • cubrir → cubierto (covered)
      • This includes any verb that has “-cubrir” as part of it, for example:
        descubrir → descubierto (discovered, uncovered)
    • poner → puesto (placed, put, set)
      • This includes any verb that has “-poner” as part of it, for example:
        disponer → dispuesto (disposed, prepared)
  • -cho irregulars
    • hacer → hecho (made, done)
      • This includes any verb that has “-hacer” as part of it, for example:
        deshacer → deshecho (unmade, undone)
    • decir → dicho (said, spoken)
      • This includes verbs that have “-decir” as part of it, for example: predecir → predicho (predicted)

Bendecir (to bless) and maldecir (to curse) use the regular “-ido” ending when forming verbs: bendecido, maldecido; and end in “-to” when used as adjectives: bendito, maldito (blessed, cursed).
Keep reading to learn more about verbs with two participle forms!

  • Verbs with more than one past participle in Spanish

    To make things a little spicier, we have a group of verbs in Spanish that have two participle forms: a regular and an irregular. What’s the difference, you ask? The regular forms are used to build verbs (see below) and the irregular forms are used as adjectives.
Infinitive VerbPast ParticipleEnglish
to print
imprimido, impresoprinted
to fry
freído, fritofried
to provide
proveído, provistoprovided

The group of verbs on the table above, according to the Real Academia (the Spanish language authority), can be used interchangeably — as part of perfect tenses, passive voice, or adjectives. However, there are some verbs that prefer to keep their regular form (-ado/-ido) to build verbs and the passive voice, and the irregular form as an adjective. For example:

El niño fue bendecido por el cura con agua bendita.  
The child was blessed by the priest with holy water.

Click the link for a list of Spanish participles with two forms!

⤷ TIP In Latin America, native speakers don’t always follow the Real Academia Rules 😉 — you will definitely encounter people using irregular participles as part of verbs. Remember language is alive and it evolves differently in different places!

Uses of the past participle in Spanish

As mentioned in the introduction, past participles can be used as part of a verb or as adjectives. Let’s go over how this is done and other uses next.

  • Perfect tenses

    One of the most common uses of past participles is to build perfect tenses in Spanish. Remember perfect tenses are made up of two parts:

    HABER + past participle
    to have (aux) + verb in ado/ido form
    Mi familia ha visitado Roma y el Vaticano.
    My family has visited Rome and the Vatican.

    In Spanish we have a few perfect tenses, as you have seen in other posts: present perfect, future perfect, conditional perfect, etc. The auxiliary verb, haber, will change depending on the tense you are building, but the past participle will always remain the same. Remember, if you are working with a verb that has two participles, use the regular form to build perfect tenses. For example:

    Los ciudadanos han elegido a la nueva gobernadora.
    The citizens have elected the new governor.

Perfect tenses can be followed by a gerund (verbs ending in -ando/-iendo) to form continuous tenses:

Esos chiquillos han estado bailando desde que comenzó la fiesta.
Those kids have been dancing since the party started. 

Or as an adverb to describe the verb:

La chica ha entrado cantando a la casa.
The girl has entered the house singing

The gerund acts as an adverb because if we ask: ¿Cómo ha entrado la chica? (How did the girl enter?) The answer would be: cantando (singing). To learn about gerunds, head over to “When to use gerunds in Spanish?
  • Past participles and infinitives

    You can match the past participle with the infinitive form of the verb haber (to have) to build what is called the perfect infinitive in Spanish. The perfect infinitive helps us to communicate an action or event that happened prior to another action or event as long as the subjects of the clauses are the same. For example:

    Los chicos no pudieron entrar al teatro por haber llegado tarde.
    The kids were not able to enter the theater due to having arrived late. 

    ¿Recuerdas haber estudiado esto antes?
    Do you remember studying this before?

    To refresh your knowledge, check this summary of Spanish perfect tenses (pp. 4 – 6)!
  • Past participles as adjectives​

    Another really cool way to use past participles is as adjectives. Here, however, they have some additional special rules or things to keep in mind:

1. They have to match the gender and number of the noun they are describing:

Los chicos dejaron la puerta abierta cuando salieron de casa.
The kids left the door open when they left home.

2. They can express the degree of severity by adding an adverb such as muy (very) or  suffixes such as –ísimo (absolute superlative in Spanish), -ito (diminutives in Spanish), etc.

Mamá, por favor siéntate. Tienes cara de estar cansadísima/muy cansada.
Mom, please sit down. You look like you’re very tired.

3. They can complement the noun by being placed after the noun or after a non-action verb like estar (to be).

Tiré a la basura el cuaderno destruído por la lluvia.
I threw away the notebook destroyed by the rain.

El cuaderno está destruído.
The notebook is destroyed.

If the word you are using already has an adjective in existence, use the adjective, not the participle, for these constructions. For example, limpio (clean) vs. limpiado (cleaned).

Tengo cuatro camisas limpias para el viaje. 
I have four clean shirts for the trip.

Limpias is used rather than limpiadas, because we already have an existing adjective in Spanish!
4. When combined with the verb estar (to be), past participles can be used as adjectives that indicate emotions, states of being, or conditions.

Nosotros estamos preocupados por tu salud. Necesitas ir al médico.
We are concerned about your health. You need to go to the doctor.

Ella estaba parada en la esquina esperando a su abuelita.
She was standing on the corner waiting for her grandmother.


Notice that English uses an “-ing” verb for “to be standing” whereas Spanish uses the past participle (parado). We never use the gerund (form in -ando/-iendo) in Spanish after estar when talking about states of being or conditions. 

Ella estaba parando en la esquina.  

5.  Past participles can receive complements as long as they are not direct/indirect object pronouns.

La comida preparada por aquellos estudiantes estuvo deliciosa.
The food prepared by those students was delicious.

  • Past participles as nouns​

    Adjectives in Spanish can be turned into nouns by simply adding an article (e.g. el/la (the)) in front of them. For example:

    Yo vivo en la casa roja.          I live in the red house.
    Yo vivo en la roja.                   I live in the red one.

    Similarly, many participles can be used as nouns when referring to people (or sometimes animals) which in English is equivalent to “one(s)” or “person/people.”

    el herido the injured one/person
    el encargadothe person in charge

    Because they are nouns you will often see them paired with an article or a demonstrative adjective:

    Los/Aquellos heridos no han recibido atención.
    The/Those wounded (people) have not received attention. 

    Furthermore, the participle has to agree with the gender of the person, and is plural if there is more than one person.

    La (mujer) acusada entró a la sala cabizbaja. No miró a nadie.
    The accused (woman) entered the room crestfallen. She didn’t look at anyone. 

    Los contagiados estuvieron en cuarentena a su llegada.
    The infected ones were quarantined upon their arrival. 

    Past participles can also be preceded by the Spanish neutral article (lo) to replace a full sentence or clause. In this case, the past participle in Spanish is invariable and it is equivalent to the English “what was/had + past participle.”

Según lo investigado, las molas son originarias de Panamá.
According to what was studied, the molas are originally from Panama. 

No me quiso explicar lo ocurrido.
He did not want to explain what had happened.

  • Past participles in passive voice​

    The passive voice in Spanish utilizes the past participle, as well. Remember, the passive voice emphasizes the process rather than the agent. It’s made up of the verb ser (to be), followed by the past participle. To build the passive voice correctly, the past participle has to match the subject of the sentence in number and gender. For example:

    Los soldados son atacados por las fuerzas enemigas. 
    The soldiers are attacked by enemy forces. 
    La puerta fue destrancada por el dependiente. 
    The door was unlocked by the sales associate. 

    To talk about the result or effect of the process rather than the process itself, use the verb estar followed by the past participle. Compare these examples:
Passive with ser
La estatua fue recién construída por un artista famoso.
The statue was recently built by a famous artist. 
Result of process→
La estatua está recién construida
The statue was recently built.
  • Other verbs plus past participles​

    Up until this point, you have seen the past participles matched up with the verbs haber (to have, auxiliary), ser (to be), and estar (to be). However, past participles can also be matched with the following verbs (please keep in mind you must also match the participle to the number and gender of the noun they refer to):
  • Verbs that express a state of being or a result of an action, such as parecer (to seem), resultar (to turn out to be), quedar(se) (to stay, to remain, to become), etc.
La ventana parece cerrada, pero quiero que la revises.
The window seems closed, but I want you to check.
  • Action verbs, such as mirar (to watch, to see), caminar (to walk), llegar (to arrive), can be followed by a participle to describe both the action and the subject of the sentence. The participle has to agree in gender and number with the subject.
La chica caminaba enojada hacia su casa después de caerse en el lodo.
The girl walked angrily toward her house after falling in the mud.
  • Dejar (to leave, to put) indicates a change in state that is the result of a previous action that has been completed. It is often used with participles of mood or that express resolution.
Dejé cerradas las cortinas, por favor no las abras. 
I have left the curtains closed, please do not open them.
  • Quedar (to be left) similar to dejar, focuses on the result of a previous action or event. It can loosely translate to “ended up.”
La ciudad quedó destruída después del huracán.
The city was left destroyed after the hurricane.
  • Llevar (to have, to take) can replace haber in compound tenses to indicate repetition of an action that is likely to continue into the present or future.
Mis padres ya llevan ahorrados veinte mil dólares para su jubilación.
My parents have already saved 20 thousand dollars for their retirement.
  • Tener (to have) can also replace haber in compound tenses, but in this case tener gives a meaning of possession or permanence to the action.

Tenemos rentada la casa.
We have the house rented.

Tengo fritas las papas de la cena de esta noche. 
I have the potatoes fried for tonight’s dinner.

To sum it up

Spanish past participles are really cool words that open up many doors once you learn how to use them; they are truly a superpower of the Spanish language! 

Let’s recap what we discussed, past participles are used:

  • to build all the perfect tenses when paired with the verb haber (to have, auxiliary) in different conjugations.
    • They can be followed by gerunds that act as an adverb or to build the present perfect progressive.
    • They can follow the infinitive of haber (to have, auxiliary) to build the perfect infinitive.
  • as adjectives: They can be used with the verb estar (to be) to express states of being, emotions, or conditions.
  • as nouns: when referring to people and preceded by an article.
  • to build the passive voice in Spanish by combining them with the verb ser (to be) conjugated appropriately.
  • after other verbs:
    • verbs of state of being
    • action verbs
    • dejar (to leave)
    • quedar (to be left)
    • llevar (to have, to take)
    • tener (to have)

As a language learner, how could you say “no” to past participles when they open so many doors? You absolutely can’t! 

To get you prepared for mastering past participles, check out some Spanish activities.

Are you interested in learning more about Spanish Grammar? Check out our Spanish Grammar Homepage.
Meet The Author:
Author-Britt Marie Solis
Brittmarie Solís
Spanish Teacher
Brittmarie is an experienced Spanish Teacher with an MA in Foreign Language Teaching.

To embark on your next language adventure, join the Mango fam!

Extra Resources:

Past Participle in Spanish


Past participle activity


Past participle activity

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