Ser Perfect: Conditional & Present

Instructor: Elena Sacramento

Elena teaches Spanish as a foreign language and has a PhD in linguistics.

In this lesson we talk about the Spanish verb ''ser'' ('to be') and its use in two perfect or compound tenses - the present perfect and the perfect conditional. With these tenses you can talk about past experiences and make hypotheses.

Ser o No Ser

'To be or not to be'. The verb ser (sehr; 'to be') is present in every conversation. What do your parents do for a living? Do you think they would have chosen a different profession if they had had the chance? And if you could go back in time, what would you change? We will learn how to talk about these and other topics conjugating the verb ser adequately.

Meanings of Ser

The Spanish verb ser can be used in a variety of contexts, but usually it refers to things or situations that are permanent or do not normally change. We use it, for example, to talk about:

  • Relations: ser amigos ('to be friends'), ser parientes ('to be relatives').
  • Professions: ser profesor ('to be a teacher/professor'), ser ingeniero ('to be an engineer').
  • Qualities, characteristics and properties: ser inteligente ('to be intelligent'), ser saludable ('to be healthy').

Ser profesor = To be a professor
professor

Present Perfect of Ser

We use the present perfect to talk about past actions that have an influence on the present or the moment of speaking.

The present perfect consists of two parts:

  • the present of the verb haber (the auxiliary 'have') + the past participle

Note: The past participle is formed by adding -ado (for -AR verbs) or -ido (for the rest) to the verbal stem. So the past participle of ser is sido.

The good news is that the participle never changes, so you just need to learn the haber part.

Subject Pronouns Ser Conjugation: Present Perfect Pronunciation Translation
yo he sido eh SEE-doh I have been
has sido ahs SEE-doh you have been
él/ella/usted ha sido ah SEE-doh he/she has been - you (formal) have been
nosotros/as hemos sido EH-mohs SEE-doh we have been
vosotros/as habéis sido ah-BAYS SEE-doh you all have been
ellos/ellas/ustedes han sido ahn SEE-doh they/you all (formal) have been

Example Conversation

Carmen is talking about her family with her friend Laura.

Carmen: Mi madre ha sido profesora toda su vida. ('My mother has been a teacher all her life'.)

¿Y tus padres? ('And your parents?') ¿Siempre han sido abogados? ('Have they always been lawyers?')

Laura: Mi madre ha sido abogada durante 20 años, pero mi padre también ha sido dependiente antes. ('My mother has been a lawyer for 20 years, but my father has also been a clerk before').

  • Notice that, in Spanish, we use the verb ser + profession. We don't need to use an article before the profession, as in English.

Carmen and Laura keep talking about professions and what they would like to do in the future.

Laura: ¿Durante cuánto tiempo has sido pianista? ('How long have you been a pianist?')

Carmen: He sido pianista durante 8 años ('I have been a pianist for 8 years'.) También me gustaría ser cantante, pero siempre he sido demasiado tímida para actuar en público. ('I'd like to be a singer as well, but I have always been too shy to perform in public'.)

He sido pianista durante mucho tiempo = I have been a pianist for a long time
pianist

Conditional Perfect of Ser

We use the conditional perfect to talk about what we would have done in hypothetical situations but couldn't happen because of some other event. The conditional perfect is also a compound tense, consisting of:

  • the conditional of the verb haber + the past participle sido

It is the equivalent of 'would have been' in English, so we use it to talk about what would have happened in different circumstances.

Again, we only need to conjugate the first part, using the irregular stem habr- and adding the conditional endings.

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