Most students have no problem using hay in Spanish, although many do not know that the infinitive verb this conjugation comes from is haber, therefore they become confused when they need to use it in other tenses or phrases such as ‘debería haber habido’.
To really understand haber, we need to remember that it has two main purposes in the Spanish language: the first is to express the existence of something -hay un lapicero en la mesa (there’s a pen on the table), and the second is to create compound tenses in combination with participles- ellos no han hecho la tarea (they haven’t done their homework).
In this post, we will focus on haber for expressing existence. When haber serves this purpose, it works as an impersonal verb, which means that it only has one single conjugation for each tense, that of the third person singular. Let’s look at each of the different conjugations with examples:
Present simple: hay
Preterite: hubo/ había
Present perfect: ha habido
Present subjunctive: haya
Imperfect subjunctive: hubiera
Combined with periphrasis:
1.We are sorry for repeating ourselves here, but we cannot emphasize enough that when haber indicates existence, it is always used in the third person singular, never in the plural. You may hear mistakes in many native speakers like: hubieron tres fallecidos en el accidente, but this is wrong because there is no hubieron, just hubo; so, please, try not to replicate these mistakes.
2.When haber is part of a verbal periphrasis, the auxiliary verb must be conjugated in the third person singular.
3.When the sentence is negative, the no must appear BEFORE haber and not after it. Negations in Spanish are always before conjugated verbs.
There are many collocations in English using no + noun - no problem, no need, no doubt, no point, no evidence, no way - whose translation in Spanish involves the verb haber because, in this language, it’s incorrect to use no directly with nouns. Therefore, these English collocations translate like this: no hay problema, no hay necesidad, no hay duda, no hay punto, no hay evidencia, no hay forma.
4.Haber is used with indefinite articles, indefinite pronouns and adjectives; and numbers (when the noun is countable), in other words, anything non-specific works great with this verb. On the other hand, it’s never used with definite articles - hay
la camisa, nor with possessive adjectives - hay su camisa. In case you need definite articles or possessives, you should use estar.
Also, remember you need to use no with negative indefinite pronouns such as nadie, nada, ninguno.
When there’s a plural or uncountable noun after haber, there’s no need for indefinite articles- un(os), una(s).
Now, it’s time to study how this verb works with other verbs.
Haber que + infinitivo is an impersonal verbal construction that expresses that it is important or necessary to perform a certain action. It expresses general obligation. Let’s contrast it with tener que + infinitivo, another common way of expressing obligation.
Important note: if you decide to express obligation or necessity with haber que + infinitive, and the verb in infinitive is pronominal (verbs that take reflexive pronouns), then you must use the reflexive pronoun of the third person: se.
Let’s contrast it with tener que + infinitivo.
Now let’s take a look at other ways to express obligation and necessity with haber.
This is the personal way of expressing obligation, necessity or convenience with the verb haber. In other words, it is the personal form of the previous construction, haber que + inf.
Although the use of this construction is correct with different verb conjugations, naturally when we speak we use it with the verb in present and future. This form of expressing obligation is perfectly replaceable with tener que, which is also much more common.
This adverbial expression indicates that the necessary conditions are in place for a specific action.
Although these sentences can be expressed in the affirmative, we more naturally do so in the negative.
With this expression, we indicate the action of the infinitive verb is completed. There’s nothing else to do.
This expression means “everything imaginable”.
This is it about haber as a verb, now you can go to our exercise section to practice what you just learned.