Spanish past participles are similar in origin, form, and function to English past participles. As in English, Spanish participles can function as both parts of verbs and on their own as adjectives. While English past participles are usually formed by adding –ed or –en to the end of a verb, Spanish past participles are formed by adding –ado to the stem of regular –ar verbs and –ido to the stem of regular –er and –ir verbs.
Like English, Spanish has its fair share of irregular past participles. Common Spanish irregular past participles include abietro (opened) from abrir (to open), dicho (said) from decir (to say), escrito (written) from escribir (to write), hecho (done/made) from hacer (to make/do), puesto (put) from poner (to put), and visto (seen) from ver (to see).
Fortunately, most Spanish past participles do follow the regular rules outlined above. For example, hablado (spoken) is the past participle form of the verb hablar (to speak). Tenido (had) is the past participle of tener (to have), and vivido (lived) is the past participle of vivir (to live).
How Past Participles Are Used in Spanish
In both Spanish and English, past participles are used in the perfect verb tenses. These are the tenses that refer to actions that have or will be completed. English perfect tenses are formed by combining the auxiliary “to have” with a past participle. In much the same way, Spanish perfect tenses are formed by combining a conjugated form of the verb haber (to have) with a past participle.
As in English, many past participles can be used as adjectives. Unlike English past participles, however, Spanish past participles must agree in both number and gender with the nouns that they modify. Plurals require an additional “s,” and the feminine form changes the final “o” to an “a.” Keep in mind that different participles can be used as adjectives in English and Spanish. Thus, some Spanish participles cannot be directly translated to English adjectives and vice-versa.
In Passive Sentences
The English passive voice is formed by following a “to be” verb with a past participle. This same passive construction exists in Spanish: A form of ser (to be) is followed by a past participle. You should generally avoid using the English and Spanish passive voices, albeit for different reasons. The English passive voice is generally viewed as vague, weak, and confusing. In spite of this, native English speakers still consistently use the passive voice in both speech and writing. The Spanish passive voice, however, is rarely used period. It is relatively uncommon in writing and even less common in speech. If you do decide to use the Spanish passive voice, remember that the past participle must agree in gender and number with the grammatical (not the intuitive) subject.