I loved you versus I have loved you: verb tenses in Spanish

Learn with iScribo how to use the pretérito perfecto simple and the pretérito compuesto perfecto, Spanish verb tenses that are almost the same, but not.

Today is February 14, Valentine’s Day. Everyone is talking about love, flowers, and chocolates, but what is the time for love? Did you know that in Spanish, you can say I loved you, and I have loved you? Depending on the country you are in, it can mean the same thing or something subtly different. Pay attention here because the times of love are different everywhere.

Pretérito perfecto simple v/s pretérito perfecto compuesto: When and which countries use a particular verb tense the most

What tense is used to express recent actions? Well, it depends: while in that case, the pretérito perfecto compuesto (te he querido [I have loved you], lo he visto [I have seen it], or he salido [I have gone out]) is more common in much of Spain, in America, and some areas of Spain such as the Canary Islands, what would be used in this case would be the pretérito compuesto simple, that is: te quise [I loved you], lo vi [I saw it], and salí [I left]. In these areas, what happens is that both the pretérito perfecto compuesto and the pretérito compuesto simple can be used to express the same idea. That is something that occurred in the recent past.

Let’s look at an example to make it clearer.

  1. No he desayunado
  2. No desayuné

Depending on whether you are in Latin America or Spain, these two sentences could be interpreted in different ways:

In Spanish from Spain, sentence (a) can only refer to today (a recent past), while the second (b) refers to yesterday. In Latin America, both sentences can be used interchangeably to refer to today’s action. Even the first could mean that he has not eaten yet, but he can still do so, and the second could mention that at the moment, he has not had breakfast because it is too late. I love those subtleties of language!

If you speak English, you will realise that these two tenses in Spanish from Spain are the same as the distinction between the past simple and the present perfect in English.

Going back to the original example of this day of love, the “te quise” in Spain means that “until yesterday I loved you, but no more”, and the “te he querido” means that until sometime today I also loved you, but for some reason not anymore. 🥺

I’m sorry; love and grammar are like that sometimes.

I hope you learned something more today or that you are at least enjoying a beautiful date on this day of love. Lots of love and Spanish to you! 😍😎

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