Primero mi pregunta en español:

¿Hay alguna diferencia en significado entre los dos participios pasados para los tres verbos para que la Real Academia Española autoriza uso?

Details in English:

A while back it came to my attention that some verbs have more than one participle. Initially, I was elated to find such a useful resource, but then realized that perhaps only a little over half of them actually used both participles in modern Spanish. I subsequently made some Memrise courses with my shortened list, drilled myself on them, and then set them aside. If you want to review this list or these courses, you can access them with the links below:

Verbos con doble participio

The courses I developed from the list above:

50 Spanish Verbs That Have 2 Participles

Supplement to 50 Spanish Verbs

It wasn't until today, as I was reviewing a section on the perfect tense, that I got to wondering which of the two past participles one should use. That is when I came upon this page here:

Irregular Spanish Past Participles

which was immensely helpful and confirmed some things I suspected and answered questions for me I hadn't thought to ask, but one question still remains. If you visit that page, you will see the following:

According to the Real Academia Española, only three verbs have two acceptable past participle forms, both of which can be used in perfect tenses.

It then lists "imprimir," "freír," and "proveer." Seeing "freír" on this list did not surprise me because even before I visited this page, I had seen instances of "ha freído" and "ha frito." Curious about their frequency of usage, I ran them through Google's Ngram to see what that might reveal

and it shows that the irregular form is more common for each of these three pairings and has been for some time (although the gap seems to be closing).

This leads me to believe that the decision to use one over the other is purely optional, but I'd like to have that assumption confirmed by a native or fluent speaker of Spanish. Also, even if there is little to no difference in meaning, is there any preference for one over the other in formal, academic, or educated speech?

As always, thank you in advance.

Detalles en español

Hace un tiempo, captó mi atención que algunos verbos tienen más que un participio. Inicialmente, estaba eufórica para encontrar tal un recurso útil, pero entonces me di cuenta que, quizás, sólo un poco más de la mitad utilizan realmente ambos participios en español moderno. Subsecuentemente, hice algunos cursos de Memrise con mi lista abreviada, practiqué, y después los dejé de lado. Si quieres revisar esta lista o estes cursos, puede acceder a ellos con los siguientes enlaces: [Véanse arriba en la sección inglesa.]

No fue hasta hoy, como estaba revisando una sección en el tiempo perfecto que me preguntaba cuál de los dos participios pasados uno debe usar. Eso es cuando me encontré con esta página aquí:

Irregular Spanish Past Participles

que fue sumamente útil y confirmó algunos aspectos había sospechado y contestó preguntas para mí que no me ocurrió preguntar, pero aún queda una pregunta. Si visita esta página, verá la siguiente nota:

Según la Real Academia Española, sólo tres verbos tienen dos formas de participios pasados aceptables, los cuales de que pueden utilizarse en los tiempos perfectos.

Entonces, enumera «imprimir», «freír» y «proveer». Ver «freír» en esta lista no me sorpresó porque aún antes que he visitado esta página, había visto casos de «ha freído» y «ha frito». Curiosa sobre su frecuencia de uso, los pasé por el Ngram de Google para ver lo que podría revelar [véanse arriba en la sección inglesa] y muestra que la forma irregular es más común para cada uno de estas parejas y ha sido durante algún tiempo (aunque la brecha parece que cae).

Esto me lleva a creer que la decisión de usar uno u otro es puramente facultativa, pero me gustaría tener ese supuesto confirmó por un hablante nativo o fluido de español. También, aún si hay poco o ningún diferencia en significado, ¿hay alguna preferencia para uno u otro en discurso formal, académico, o de bien educado?

Como siempre, gracias de antemano.


1 Answer 1


The Ngram results are fascinating. If you take them at face value it would seem that we're witnessing a clear trend towards regularization, which might end up turning those irregular participles into adjectives belonging to the broader class of adjectives derived from the Latin participles in -sus, -tus, etc. (from Wikipedia: abstracto, atento, bendito, concluso, confeso, confuso, converso, correcto, corrupto, despierto, difuso, electo, enjuto, excluso, exento, expreso, extinto, fijo, harto, incluso, inverso, junto, maldito, manifiesto, nato, poseso, preso, presunto, recluso, salvo, suelto, sujeto, suspenso, tinto).

That's not my impression as a native speaker. My feeling is that impreso, frito and provisto are being used most often as adjectives or as the declinable participles that go with the passive voice, while the regular participles are sometimes encountered as the invariable versions that go into the formation of compound tenses, but even there the irregular participles are also very much in use.

Indeed, many people I know would assure you that imprimido and proveído are as wrong as *resolvido and *rompido.

That's my impression, though, and may not be valid elsewhere. In particular, my dialect uses the compound tenses sparingly, so if what I just said is correct, I'm bound to hear the irregular participles much more often than the regular ones.

  • 2
    Imprimido I hear a good bit, but I get corrected all. the. time. about proveído. But I don't like provisto because that presumes it's on a base of v(ed)er which it isn't so I consciously reject that form. Also, pago is another option that alternates in the perfect form. (he pago vs he pagado, although the DLE marks it as colloquial and it's much rarer, although historically legitimate, in the perfect) Aug 16, 2017 at 14:12
  • 1
    ¿*He pago*? That's weird. You know in Portuguese you have eu tenho pagado "yo he pagado" vs. as despesas foram pagas "los costos fueron pagados" - the two uses of the participle are split for several verbs (pagar, gastar and entregar come to mind). This seems like an extension of that, in the opposite direction from that of standard modern Spanish.
    – pablodf76
    Aug 16, 2017 at 14:21
  • actually, pago works in both, but it's most common in the adjectival (iirc it's mainly Central American countries, but I could be wrong). Google Books registers a handful of uses of ha pago though very, very, few in number (and many false positives). Aug 16, 2017 at 14:27
  • @pablodf76 I found your answer rather interesting. In fact, it made me realize some things, one of which is that, in the absence of other tools/methods, I rely quite a bit on the NGram and Google searches for my impressions about foreign language patterns. Invaluable as these tools are, they cannot replace real world impressions from native speakers. For that reason alone, I truly value the answer you have given.
    – Lisa Beck
    Sep 12, 2017 at 1:44
  • @pablodf76 Nevertheless, I was hoping for something a bit more authoritative than general impressions (as good as I'm sure yours are!). So, I'm going to hold out on bestowing the green checkmark, but if nothing of worth materializes, it will be awarded to you for the quality, thoroughness, and unique aspect you were able to bring to it.
    – Lisa Beck
    Sep 12, 2017 at 1:44

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