We have already looked at the Spanish verb haber
in some detail here on Spectrum Monkey. Its main use is as an auxiliary verb
meaning to have
and when combined with a past participle we are then able to create several new compound verb tenses.
However, there is another important use of this verb when it functions as an impersonal verb
. It is this usage we are going to explore in a little more detail today. But before we get much further into it, let’s remind ourselves how haber
looks in the present indicative tense: haber (to have) | present tense
| ||Singular ||Plural |
|1st Person ||he ||hemos |
|2nd Person ||has ||habéis |
|3rd Person ||ha / hay ||han |
As mentioned, we are able to combine haber with a past participle to make constructions like “ha sido…” (it has been…)
or “lo he hecho” (I have done it).
In these instances haber
functions as an auxiliary verb.
Notice that we’ve highlighted the third-person singular conjugation. This is because in the present indicative tense there are in fact two forms. It is this other form hay
that we are going to explore today.
is NOT being used as an auxiliary verb (meaning to have) we may use the third-person singular forms to express existence. Therefore, in this instance instead of meaning “it has” (using ha) it functions to mean “there is” or “there are” (both using hay).
We use the hay
form in the third-person singular to express the existence of things both in the singular and the plural. So, for the avoidance of doubt: we never use han
or any other form for that matter. It is always the third person singular. However, as we are about to see, we are able to express the existence of things across various different tenses and moods.
Below is a list of some common forms of haber
that express existence. Remember: all these forms are from the third-person singular.
|Spanish ||Meaning ||Tense |
|hay ||there is/are ||present indicative |
|haya ||there is/are ||present subjunctive |
|había ||there was/were ||imperfect |
|hubo ||there was/were ||preterite |
|habría ||there would be ||conditional |
|habrá ||there will be ||future |
|ha habido ||there has been ||perfect |
|había habido ||there had been ||pluperfect |
Only the present indicative tense has a special case form hay
that differs from ha
when used to express existence. All the other tenses use same form as when haber
functions as an auxiliary verb.
Now let’s take a look at a few constructions using haber,
so we begin to get a real feeling for how we should use this verb to express the existence of things.
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“¿Hay una gasolinera por aquí?” ||Is there a petrol/gas station around here? |
|“Sí, hay muchas” ||Yes, there are many |
|“No había razón para entrar en pánico” ||There was no reason to panic |
|“¿Habrá tiempo suficiente?” ||Will there be enough time? |
|“Hubo un gran incendio” ||There was a big fire |
|“Había habido un montón recientemente” ||There had been a lot recently |
|“No habría ningun problema” ||There would be no problem |
|“¡Que haya luz!” ||Let there be light! |
|“¡Hay que verlo!” ||You must see it! / You have to see it! |
|“Habrá que esperar” ||We will have to wait |
As we can see from the above examples, we are able to form some quite nuanced expressions by drawing upon the different tenses of haber,
remembering that we are always using the third-person singular form, no matter if we are describing one thing or many.
Notice that in the last two examples, haber
is followed by que
and an infinitive. These constructions take on a special meaning as they are expressing things that need to take place or must be done. Conclusion | En conclusión Haber
is an essential verb and highly irregular. Although once learnt, it certainly will be of help to any newcomer in spotting patterns found within other irregular verbs.
Remember that haber
only functions as un auxiliary verb when followed by past participle. Otherwise it functions quite differently as an impersonal verb to express existence. In this mode we only use one of the possible six conjugations per tense in the third-person singular.