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How to Learn Spanish Verb Aspect

Table of contents

Can you remember the first verb you learned in Spanish? No doubt, you know the past, present, and future versions of that verb.

But once you reach a more advanced level, you need to learn more nuances. These allow you to express not just when a verb happens, but when it happens relative to other events, or whether the action is in progress at the time of speaking, for example. This nuance is called: verb aspect.

In this article, we’ll cover four Spanish verb aspects:

  1. Habitual
  2. Imperfective
  3. Perfective
  4. Progressive

Read on to learn what they mean, how they work, and how to use them.

How Aspect Affects Verb Conjugation

Verb aspect in Spanish expresses not just when something happens, but whether the action was, is, or will be:

  • Regularly occurring
  • Incomplete
  • Complete
  • Ongoing

Each different aspect is shown by using different verb conjugations; see for example all the different progressive tenses conjugations used to convey the ongoing aspect.


Kwiziq Spanish tense name English name Alternative name used in Europe Example
El Presente Progresivo Present Progressive / Continuous Presente Continuo

Yo estoy jugando

Tú estás comiendo

Ella está trabajando

El Pretérito Perfecto Progresivo Present Perfect Progressive / Continuous Perfecto Continuo / Pretérito Perfecto Compuesto Continuo

Yo he estado jugando

Tú has estado comiendo

Ella ha estado trabajando

El Imperfecto progresivo Imperfect/ Past Progressive / Continuous Imperfecto Continuo

Yo estaba jugando

Tú estabas comiendo

Ella estaba trabajando

El Indefinido Progresivo Preterite /  Past Progressive / Continuous Indefinido Continuo / Pretérito Perfecto Simple Continuo

Yo estuve jugando

Tú estuviste comiendo

Ella estuvo trabajando

El Pluscuamperfecto Progresivo Pluperfect / Past Perfect Progressive / Continuous Pluscuamperfecto Continuo

Yo había estado jugando

Tú habías estado comiendo

Ella había estado trabajando

El Futuro Progresivo Future Progressive / Continuous Futuro Continuo

Yo estaré jugando

Tú estarás comiendo

Ella estará trabajando

El Futuro Perfecto Progresivo Future Perfect Progressive /Continuous Futuro Perfecto Continuo

Yo habré estado jugando

Tú habrás estado comiendo

Ella habrá estado trabajando

El Condicional Simple Progresivo Conditional Progressive / Continuous Condicional Continuo

Yo estaría jugando

Tú estarías comiendo

Ella estaría trabajando

El Condicional Perfecto Progresivo

Conditional Perfect Progressive / Continuous

 Condicional Perfecto Continuo

Yo habría estado jugando

Tú habrías estado comiendo

Ella habría estado trabajando



Kwiziq Spanish tense name English name Alternative name used in Europe Example
El Presente Progresivo de Subjuntivo

Present Progressive / Continuous


Presente Continuo de subjuntivo

Yo esté jugando

Tú estés comiendo

Ella esté trabajando

El Perfecto Progresivo de subjuntivo

Present Perfect Progressive / Continuous


Perfecto Continuo / Pretérito Perfecto Compuesto Continuo de subjuntivo

Yo haya estado jugando

Tú hayas estado comiendo

Ella haya estado trabajando

El Imperfecto progresivo de subjuntivo

Imperfect/ Past Progressive / Continuous


 Imperfecto Continuo de subjuntivo

Yo estuviera jugando

Tú estuvieras comiendo

Ella estuviera trabajando

El Pluscuamperfecto progresivo de subjuntivo

Pluperfect / Past Perfect Progressive / Continuous


 Pluscuamperfecto Continuo de subjuntivo

Yo hubiera estado jugando

Tú hubieras estado comiendo

Ella hubiera estado trabajando



On the other hand, for a tense to indicate completion, we use the perfect tenses , i.e using “haber”.

Aspect, therefore, provides more information about how and when a verb’s action occurs. The following sections will explain the four verb aspects and how to use them.

Habitual Aspect in Spanish

The habitual aspect denotes whether something did happen, is happening, or will happen regularly:

Marta suele ir a la piscina los sábados.

Marta usually goes to the swimming pool on Saturdays.


Carlos solía ser muy estudioso. Ahora solo quiere salir a divertirse.

Carlos used to be very studious. Now he only wants to go out to have fun.

As these examples show, the use of Spanish verb “soler” creates this nuance of habituality, generally used in the present and imperfect tense. Check out these lessons below to learn how to use the verb "soler" to create the habitual aspect:

Imperfective Aspect in Spanish

The Imperfective aspect suggests that the action was, is, or will be incomplete:

En esa época Dani trabajaba en Barcelona.

Back then Dani worked / was working in Barcelona.


Mañana iremos a su casa.

We will go to their house tomorrow.

All Spanish simple tenses except for el Pretérito Indefinido have the imperfective aspect.

Perfective Aspect in Spanish

The Perfective aspect describes complete actions. The verbs were, are, or will be completed, or finished:

Yo he visitado Barcelona.

I have visited Barcelona.


Yo visité Barcelona.

I visited Barcelona.

All Spanish compound / perfect tenses, i.e using the auxiliary verb “haber”, and the simple tense Pretérito Indefinido have the perfective aspect.

Progressive Aspect in Spanish 

The Progressive aspect expresses that a verb was, is, or will be ongoing, such as:

Cuando llegues, estaré trabajando.

When you arrive, I will be working.

Verb conjugation for the progressive aspect is very similar in Spanish and English. 

In English, we use a form of the verb “to be,” and add -ing (the present participle). In Spanish, we do the same, using a form of the verb “estar” and adding the present participle -ando or -iendo (or an irregular present participle form in some cases).

Practise Spanish Verb Aspect

Before you dive into our exercises, here are some concise lessons by our expert teachers you might want to check out if you still have any doubt on the topic of Spanish verb aspect:

Now it's time to drill into Spanish verb aspect exercises!

Time to Practicar!

Thankfully, the four aspects are just the same in Spanish as they are in English! So with a little bit of practice, you’ll definitely get these rules to stick.

Access the exercises listed here by making your account today. Kwizbot will create a custom study plan just for you based on your level, and you can use our free kwizzes too!

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