El Pluscuamperfecto — why había and not hube ? (Why the imperfect to make the pluperfect?)

The pluperfect (or past perfect) in Spanish — el pluscuamperfecto — uses the imperfect for its auxillary verb rather than the preterite (simple past).

E.g. "I had already danced" = «Ya había bailado» and not «Ya hube bailado».

(Or at least, Duolingo so far in my lessons has only used the imperfect to construct the pluperfect.) So why is that?

Maybe this is isn't an answerable question ("because that's how they do it in Spanish"), but if there is a grammatical explanation, I would love to hear it!

January 26, 2017


They are two different tenses.

  • Había bailado (Pretérito pluscuamperfecto)
  • Hube bailado (Antepretérito) I think people call this "preterite perfect" in English, or something like that, it is not used in spoken Spanish and it has no direct translation to English.
January 26, 2017

Really??? Now that is fascinating!

Please also tell me how you formatted your response. I have not been able to do this. :)

January 26, 2017

Just use a hyphen, click space and start writing, it's pretty simple.

January 26, 2017

Not sure if this is right, but I see 'having done something' like a continuous action, thus imperfect.

January 26, 2017

Yes, I sort of started answering the question in my own mind. Taking my own example...

I had already eaten when I saw the cow. | Ya había comido cuando ví la vaca.

So definitely it calls for imperfect — when you set the scene like that in the past, describing and so forth.

Now, if I had just used imperfect....

I was eating when I saw the cow. | Comía cuando ví la vaca.

This explanation may seem backwards, but it makes sense to me.


P.S. Not that I wanted to eat the cow. :p I am just saying that first I ate or was eating, and then I saw Bossie.

January 26, 2017
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