Hubo vs. Había

When would I use hubo and había? It seems to me that you can use them in the same sentences to alter the meaning slightly, for example:

Hubo una mujer -- There was a woman, that's it, end of story, this is the point I wanted to get across. Había una mujer -- There was a woman, but this is only a detail in my story, I am going to keep speaking.

Can someone please confirm this for me?

May 31, 2012


I think you're right on target, but people tend to use "había" much more frequently than "hubo", unless you're in Colombia where you'll often hear "¿Qué hubo?" which is a slang expression meaning "what's happening?"

May 31, 2012

This is a very complicated question. I think you're right about that. In general you will get a sense for it as you read Spanish language books and such.

Había is about stuff that happens over a loose period of time, or that happens in the background, or things in the background (había una silla en el cuarto).

Hubo tends to refer to events taking place during closed/defined amounts of time. I think drewinbrooklyn is right but I'm not sure. I also think hubo una mujer can refer to the fact that there once existed a woman, but implying she's already dead, or, in drewinbrooklyn's example, she's already come and made her impact. More commonly había is used.

June 19, 2012

the past tenses of HAY = THERE IS/ ARE are quite special compared to other verbs

  • había for normal things that happened

  • hubo for something extraordinary that happened

Catalina Moreno:

December 12, 2016


July 1, 2017

I think CalvoViejo is right, in that 9 times out of 10 "había" is going to be more common. (Does anybody else find it weird that Duolingo puts off imperfect verbs until so late in its lessons?) I'm no authority, but I generally encounter "hubo" in situations referring to a sudden, discrete, or limited-duration event: "Hubo un accidente" or "Hubo un terremoto" or even "Hubo una fiesta".

As for "Había una mujer" vs "Hubo una mujer" I generally think the former has shades of something like "there once was this woman" and the latter more like "whoa. and then this woman showed up." I could be wrong on this.

June 8, 2012

Preterite Vs. Imperfect Vs. Present Perfect - Spanish has an extra past tense.

Note: The Spanish terms for these tenses are (in order): Indefinido/ Pretérito, Imperfecto, Pretérito Perfecto

English only has the Simple Past and the Present Perfect.

Check out this link to learn about it:

General rule:

1) Use Present Perfect when you would use it in English.

2) When you would use the Simple Past in English, you have to distinguish between Preterite and Imperfect in Spanish:

Preterite: Specific, action completed (hubo)

Imperfect: General, action not completed (había)

For example, I would split it up this way:

Example with "amar"

She has loved - Ella ha amado (Present Perfect - Present Perfect)

She loved (yesterday) - Ella amó (ayer) (Simple Past - Preterite)

She used to love - Ella amaba (Simple Past - Imperfect)


According to this site, "ayer" triggers the preterite and not the imperfect.

I do not understand why Duoling uses sentences like "ayer había una mujer aqui" etc.

November 3, 2012

Ayer could mean preterite but it could also be imperfect as well. There isn't a rule.

por ejemplo:

Ayer yo tenía que calificar los trabajos = Yesterday I had to grade papers.

Ayer yo tuve que calificar los trabajos = Yesterday I had to grade papers.

Both of these translate the same in English, but they have different meanings in Spanish which are really important.

Ayer yo TENÍA que calificar los trabajos= This means that yesterday I had to grade papers, but I never really got around to doing it. Imperfect is not a completed action. So if I said this then I probably still have papers to grade today.

Ayer yo TUVE que calificar los trabajos= This means that yesterday I actually graded the papers. I had to grade the papers and I did. It's a completed action.

Here's another example:

Yo quería invitarte a mi fiesta = I wanted to invite you to my party.

Yo quise invitarte a mi fiesta = I wanted to invite you to my party.

Again the translation is the same in English, but very different in Spanish.

Yo QUERÍA invitarte a mi fiesta = This means that I thought about inviting you to my party....but I didn't try to invite you. Since it isn't a completed action, it implies that I only thought about inviting to my party, but I didn't do anything about it (e.g. calling your house, sending you an invitation, etc.)

Yo QUISE invitarte a mi fiesta = This means that I actually wanted to invite you to my party and I tried to invite you, but something happened and I just couldn't get the invitation to you. It is a completed action so it implies that I tried to invite you like calling your house or sending you an invitation, but the invitation just never made it to you.

Does this make sense? This is just how I learned it. It can be a little hard to grasp imperfect & preterite since we don't have the same tenses in English, but it actually makes a lot of sense in Spanish.

March 23, 2013

The easiest way to explain it is that "hubo" is an event at a point in time and "había" is like a general description of things. The preterite version "hubo" implies that whatever "was" there no longer is, while "había" doesn't specify.

Había una mujer - There was a woman. Hubo una mujer - There was a woman (now there's not).

March 12, 2013

When DuoLingo wants us to translate: "yesterday there was a woman there", how do we know which form to use, 'hubo' or 'había'? We have no way to find out whether the woman may still be there or she is not there anymore. Incidentally, I used 'hubo' and I lost a heart! I will be thankful if you would clarify this.

December 17, 2013

there is a wee lingot for you to have a happy holiday

all the best

December 24, 2013

that's nice, getting rich just by asking grammar questions lol. You're kind though, thanks.

December 24, 2013

not at all

it is always nice to be kind and polite.

have a happy holiday

Just finished cycling in a lovely afternoon

another two lingots but i have lots and have been trying to give them away to either nice people or nice comments

all the best

December 24, 2013

I think if you don't know, use "habia" since it doesn't specify. Whereas "hubo" seems to specifically require that whatever it was, isn't there anymore.

December 23, 2013

Thanks for the advice.

December 23, 2013

Im sorry but if the woman that you are referring to is still there doesn't that make it Una mujer esta aqui ?

June 7, 2016

"There was a woman there.... oh wait, there she is."

October 9, 2016

Don't be sorry! She may be here now but that would not stopped her to have been here yesterday as well.... "There was a woman here yesterday, and it could be the same as the one who's still here today"

November 14, 2017

It's easy. If you can substitute the verb ocurrir (to occur) and it makes sense, then hubo is the right choice.

May 22, 2016

would you please explain it with an example. I mean "there was a woman yesterday", how the 'substitute the verb ocurrir' rule applies here? I thank you in advance; here's a lingot for your trouble.

May 22, 2016

You need to use hubo for incidents. You need to use habia for descriptions of the surroundings.

February 9, 2018

none of these answers really clear up this problem...but i'll use "¿Qué hubo?" even though i'll never be in colombia..thanks for that calvoviejo

September 24, 2018

When you say había is pretérito imperfeito, witch you don’t have in English but it is like: There was something but something happened and it wasn’t anymore and when you use hubo, you’re saying that there was but now it’s not anymore it was regular in the past

November 27, 2018
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