Using El Preterito Perfecto (not El Pretérito Indefinido) to talk about experiences

In Spanish we use El Pretérito Perfecto when we are asking or talking about general experiences in life. In these cases the specific time when these events happened is not relevant.

Have a look at the following examples:

¿Tú has montado en globo?Have you [ever] been in a hot air balloon?

Yo he viajado mucho por el mundo.I have travelled the world a lot.

¿Has jugado al golf alguna vez?Have you ever played golf?

Ella dice que nunca ha visto un OVNI.She says she has never seen a UFO.

We will usually find time phrases that indicate frequency in these cases:

  • Nunca (never)
  • Siempre (always)
  • Alguna vez (ever/at some point)
  • Tres veces (three times)
  • En mi vida (in my life)

Here are some other examples:

Ella se ha enamorado tres veces.She has fallen in love three times

Jaime ha aprendido muchos idiomas.Jaime has learned many languages.

Ellos han cometido muchos errores en su vida.They have made many mistakes in their lives.

Note that this is a specific way of using El Pretérito Perfecto, and not El Pretérito Indefinido.

¿Alguna vez has montado en globo?
Nunca he montado en globo.

¿Alguna vez montaste en globo?
Yo nunca monté en globo.

If the speaker were interested in mentioning specifically when this event happened, then El Pretérito Indefinido would be used instead:

Yo monté en globo una vez en 2010.

For other uses of El Pretérito Perfecto see also When to use the perfect tense versus the simple past in European Spanish (Perfecto vs Indefinido).

 

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Examples and resources

Ella dice que nunca ha visto un OVNI.She says she has never seen a UFO.
¿Has jugado al golf alguna vez?Have you ever played golf?
Yo he viajado mucho por el mundo.I have travelled the world a lot.
Jaime ha aprendido muchos idiomas.Jaime has learned many languages.
Ellos han cometido muchos errores en su vida.They have made many mistakes in their lives.
¿Tú has montado en globo?Have you [ever] been in a hot air balloon?
Ella se ha enamorado tres veces.She has fallen in love three times
How has your day been?