The indicative mode is used to express the world of reality. This article will treat all simple tenses, including presente, pretérito imperfecto, pretérito indefinido and futuro and compound tenses including: perfecto, pasado anterior, pluscuamperfecto and futuro compuesto. Read more on how these tenses are used in Spanish.

Simple tenses

Present Presente

The present indicative tense (in Spanish: presente) expresses actions that take place on the moment of speaking. For example:

Ana canta una canción.
Ana sings a song.

It is also used to enunciate habits, universal truths and facts. For example:

Cada día desayuno yogur natural con frutas frescas.
Every day I eat natural yoghurt with fresh fruit.
La Tierra gira alrededor del Sol.
The Earth spins around the Sun.

Past imperfect Pretérito imperfecto

The past imperfect tense (in Spanish pretérito imperfecto or copretérito) expresses an action situated in the past without indicating if it is finished or not whereas the perfect tense tells us that the action already finished. Below some examples of the imperfect tense:

Los niños jugaban en la calle.
The children played on the street.

It also expresses habits from the past. For example:

Pepe leía muchas historietas cuando era pequeño.
Pepe used to read a lot of comics when he was young.

It is used for details like: time, location, hour, year, feelings, mental and physical aspects, etc.

En Almería llovía mucho.
In Almería it rained a lot.
Penélope era muy guapa, tenía el pelo largo y los ojos marrones.
Penélope was very pretty, she had long hair and brown eyes.

Past perfect Pretérito indefinido

The past perfect tense (in Spanish pretérito indefinido or pretérito perfecto simple) expresses an action situated and finished in the past. For example:

¿Qué pasó?
What happened?
El otro día estudiamos la gramática española.
The other day we studied Spanish grammar.

There are words associated with the pretérito indefinido: ayer (yesterday), anteayer (the day before yesterday), anoche (last night), una vez (one time), dos veces (two times), la semana pasada (last week), etc.

Mi hermano llegó ayer.
My brother arrived yesterday.

The pretérito indefinido can be combined with the pretérito imperfecto. In the below example you can see the imperfecto is used to describe the background in which the event (indefinido) took place.

Cuando navegábamos el domingo pasado de repente nos cayó un chaparrón enorme.
When we were sailing last Sunday suddenly an enormous rain shower fell over us.

Future Futuro

The future tense (in Spanish: futuro) is used for talking about actions following on the time of speaking. There is always a bit of uncertainty. It's never possible to be secure of the realisation of the action described. For example:

La próxima semana te escribiré.
I will write you next week.

Furthermore the futuro is used to express...

...conjectures regarding the present:

¿Qué hora será?
What time would it be?

...probability regarding the present:

Serán las cuatro.
It would be four o'clock.

...an indirect quotation:

Elena dice que vendrá la semana que viene.
Elena says she will come next week.

Compound tenses

In Spanish the compound tenses are formed by the auxiliar verb haber (to have) combined with the participle (participio) of the verb involved. Below an explanation on the usage per tense.

Present perfect Pretérito perfecto

The past perfect (pretérito perfecto compuesto) is used to express an action in the past but near the present; It is common to use the following temporary expressions: hoy (today), esta mañana (this morning), este mes (this month), este fin de semana (this weekend). The form: haber (presente) + participio. For example:

Hoy he visitado a mi hermano.
Today I've visited my brother.

Pluperfect Pretérito pluscuamperfecto

It is used to express actions in the past realised at a given moment in the past. The form: haber (pretérito imperfecto) + participio. For example:

Cuando llegué a casa, Carlos ya había salido para el Instituto.
When I arrived at home, Carlos had already gone to school.

Anterior past Pretérito anterior

The preterite perfect or past anterior is used to express an accion that occured directly before another action in the past. The form: haber (pretérito indefinido) + participio. For example:

Después de que hubimos comido, fuimos al supermercado.
After we had lunch, we went to the supermarket.

Future perfect Futuro perfecto

The future compound tense is used to express future actions that have taken place before another future. The form: haber (futuro) + participio. For example:

Habré terminado la tarea para esta tarde.
I will have finished the task for this afternoon.
Mañana ya te habrás recuperado.
Tomorrow you will have recovered.

 

As stated in this article, the indicative mode describes the world of facts and certainties, while in the subjunctive mode the opposite is the case...