Haber: Hay, había, habría, hay que...

Haber:  Hay, había, habría, hay que...

I was trying to explain to a student what are the important things to know about haber and how to understand it, and I thought it would be a good topic for a blog post!

There is

Here, we have the common hay, which means "there is/there are", so we could say that haber means something like "it exists" or "it happens" at times.

These are the possible options we have in different tenses:

Hay - there is/there are - present

Había - there was/there were - imperfect (past)
Hubo - there was/there were - preterite (past)

Ha habido - there has been/there have been (past)

Habrá - there will be - simple future
Va a haber - there is going to be - near future

Habría - there would be - conditional

Haya - there is (present subjunctive) Hubiera - there was (imperfect subjunctive)

These ones don't change when they talk about something plural:

Hay un problema - There is a problem
Hay muchos problemas - There are many problems

Había mucho tráfico - There was a lot of traffic Había muchas personas - There were a lot of people

Between the preterite and the imperfect, the second one is more common because it's descriptive, but sometimes we can use preterite to talk about something that "existed/happened" for a short-ish amount of time usually, specific duration, and often quite dynamic, like things that involve action, like events:

Hubo una fiesta anoche - There was a party last night.
A party involves people partying, is based around activity.

Hubo una pelea en la fiesta - There was a fight at the party. A fight exists when people fight, an action too.

Hubo muchas huelgas - There were many strikes. Again, a strike exists went people go on a strike.

With participle "I have done..."

Perfect tense is a past tense that means "I have done" and it's used with:

Part 1- Haber in present tense:
He, has, ha, hemos, habéis, han

Part 2- Participle
-ar - take the ending out and add -ado
-er/ir - take the ending out and add -ido

You can see it more clearly in the picture below, and also the irregular participles:

Well, this is one option, but if we change that first part into other tenses, we have more.
The highlighted part is the participle, which never changes.

  • He comido tostadas hoy - I have eaten toast today.
    (Haber in present tense)

  • Él había aprobado el examen ya - He had passed the test already.
    (Haber in imperfect)

  • Habríamos ido al cine -We would have gone to the cinema.
    (Haber in conditional)

  • Si hubieras hablado conmigo estaríamos bien If you had talked to me we would be alright.
    (Haber in imperfect subjunctive)
    To understand when to use subjunctive after "if" check this post.

  • Habré acabado mis exámenes en enero I will have finished my exams in January.
    (Haber in simple future - never in near future "voy a...")

  • Es esencial que hayas leído las instrucciones primero - It's essential that you have read the instructions first. (Haber in present subjunctive)

Hay que

Another, smaller use, is the expression "hay que", which means "one has to...do something", a sense of obligation but impersonal, so we don't specify who has to do it.

Check out this blogpost on "hay que" and "tener que".

That's it! Eso es todo!

Espero que ayude! :)