I recently heard a native speaker say

"Te hubieras ido antes."

I was confused because it seems to be describing an event that occurred in the past, so it would be a completed action, so I assumed it would be in the indicative. My question is why was the subjunctive used here.

  • 1
    What is the complete context of the sentence? There are quite a few ways in which those words could be used, but each has a different rationale so it's hard to explain without it. Commented May 25, 2015 at 1:06

3 Answers 3


This is in Spanish a subjective tense known as the Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto del Subjuntivo because it is not objective, but used in a hypothetical situation.

This can be used with the Past Perfect Subjetive or with the Conditional Perfect in English.


If I were you, I would have gone before.
Si yo fuera tu, yo me hubiera ido antes. or also..
Si fuera tu, ya me hubiera ido. (abbr)


Person 1: I've been waiting for her for 3 hours.
Person 2: For three hours? You are crazy man! You should have gone before.

Persona 1: He estado esperando por ella por 3 horas.
Persona 2: ¿Por tres horas? ¡Estás loco! Te hubieras ido antes.

That's a hypothetical situation because, in fact, the first person stayed there for 3 hours, while the second person is giving advice based on something that has already happened in the past.


To get a feeling of the tense, think either "desire" or "defeat".

If the thing is desired, we express our longing with the subjunctive.

If I had wings, I would fly: Si tuviese alas, volaría.

If the situation is in the past, it often speaks about lost opportunity:

If only I had known... : Si tan sólo lo hubiera sabido...

It is a tricky verbal form.


These expressions are very used in Spanish language. Of course, this could've been written as te hubieses ido antes, which means the same.

Now, as for Maximus examples, there are other ways to express the Past Perfect Subjunctive or Conditional Perfect Sentences:

If I were you: si yo fuese tú.

I would have gone: me habría ido.

Now, the same stands for you should have gone, which is deberías haberte ido. If we want to say te hubieras ido antes, we put you would've gone before.

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