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I came across this paragraph on Spain's HuffPost site.

Pablo Iglesias ha sido entrevistado este jueves en el programa Hoy por Hoy de la Cadena SER por Javier Ruiz, donde el líder de Unidas Podemos ha desvelado una conversación privada que mantuvo con la periodista Lucía Méndez, de El Mundo.

In the first sentence I read "ha sido entrevistado este jueves . . ." as "has been interviewed this Thursday . . " Is there a reason why this is being used as opposed to "fue entrevistado" or "había sido entrevistado" ? The way it's written seems a little awkward, but it is on a rather professional site, so I can only imagine it's correct grammar. I have the same problem with "ha desvelado" later in the paragraph.

Can someone please clarify this for me? Is the use of the past participle in these cases correct? Would the use of the preterite not be better in this case?

UPDATE: My response to this being a possible duplicate is down below.

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    The other answer says that. In the Spanish of Spain there's a tendency to use the compound tense (pretérito perfecto) in cases where the Spanish of the Americas would normally prefer the simple preterit. It doesn't have to do with the verb, it's only that the tense allows for a wider usage. Also note that the compound preterit does not map exactly to the English "present perfect" tense. – pablodf76 Aug 29 '19 at 21:16
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    More like "He comido". ("He sido comido" means "I have been eaten"). – pablodf76 Aug 29 '19 at 22:14
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    @jwdwsn: it depends. But ha sido comido would be at least equally as natural as fue comido. In particular, the degree of present relevance will be considered. In the case of news, since we're stating the news is somehow relevant and/or recent. It's like in English, "so and so has announced they're running for president" as opposed to just "so and so announced they're running for president". While both are perfectly correct, the former implies recency or novelty. In peninsular Spanish to a limited extent you can include explicitly past time frames, but I personally avoid it – user0721090601 Aug 29 '19 at 23:40
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    @jwdwsn The this Thursday part is perfectly in Spanish. It doesn't matter whether or not it sounds fine in English, it sounds fine in Spanish based on recency and present relevance. – user0721090601 Aug 30 '19 at 1:30
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First, terminology: to avoid confusion and make thing short, I'll be referring to the relevant verb tenses as the preterit and the compound perfect, since I gather those will be recognizable to most students of Spanish. The preterit of comer is comí, comiste, comió..., while the compound perfect is he comido, has comido, ha comido.... The compound perfect is constructed with the present of the auxiliary haber plus the invariant participle of the main verb.

It is a more-or-less well-known fact that speakers of Peninsular Spanish (the Spanish of Spain, mostly) tend to use the compound perfect more, in contexts where most American Spanish speakers would use the preterit. This increased usage of the compound tense is found both in colloquial speech and in journalistic writing. (I wouldn't know if it also appears in formal, e.g. legal, writing.)

Verb tenses are conventional marks. No tense is strictly confined to a couple of specific usages. And so it is also with these two tenses. Because they are both technically perfect preterite tenses, their fields of meaning overlap in places, so speakers might sometimes choose one or the other. It's not that Spain's speakers always employ the compound perfect and American speakers never do: it's more like there is in each region a different ratio of usage. In the Americas the countries where people use the (simple) preterit in most occasions are Paraguay, Argentina and Chile. Only in Bolivia is the compound perfect preferred.

So the simple answer to this question is: yes, most Spanish speakers from Spain differ markedly from most American speakers on the issue of whether to use the compound preterit tense.

Examples abound, but just for one, contrast how the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia dealt with former king Juan Carlos's discharge from hospital, and how the Argentine La Nación covered the same piece of news:

La Vanguardia:

El rey Juan Carlos ha recibido este sábado el alta hospitalaria tras haber permanecido ocho días hospitalizado en el centro Quirón Salud Madrid de Pozuelo de Alarcón. Allí se le practicó hace una semana un triple “bypass” aortocoronario del que todavía se está recuperando, como ha explicado a los medios de comunicación el propio monarca: “Estoy como si me hubiera pasado un camión por encima”. Sin bajarse del coche, Juan Carlos I ha explicado con su característico humor que se encuentra “fenomenal” con “tuberías y cañerías nuevas”.

La Nación:

Sonriente y con alguna que otra humorada, el rey emérito Juan Carlos fue dado de alta y abandonó la clínica luego de la operación de corazón que se le practicó hace una semana. "Estoy como si me hubiera pasado un camión por arriba. Pero ahora vamos a quitar el camión", dijo el exmonarca a través de la ventanilla del auto en el que abandonó la clínica privada en la que fue intervenido. "Con cañerías nuevas y tuberías nuevas. Fenomenal", agregó, con humor.

Elaborating a bit more, it's as if in the Spanish of Spain the compound perfect has become the default tense for the meaning of perfect preterit (an action that took place in the past, which is viewed as a single event and is now finished). In the Americas, mostly, it's the (simple) preterit that's the default, and we should be asking ourselves when, then, is the compound perfect used in the Americas.

The main thing that seems to correlate with an increased use of the compound perfect in the Americas is the presence of the "now" (meaning not only the adverb ahora but all kinds of complements of time that refer to the present). This doesn't mean that including the "now" in the sentences makes the use of the compound perfect compulsory; there are many occasions where the preterit is fine in those cases.

The presence of the expression todavía... no... ("not yet") makes the tendency even stronger. This is also the case with those which refer to a lapse of time continuing up to the "now" with the word hasta ("until").

On the contrary, some key words and expressions tip the balance towards the use of the (simple) preterit. These are expressions that exclude the "now" by interrupting the lapse of time at some point in the past with hace poco or ya. Words or expressions that refer to a specific point in the past also tend to make the speaker choose the preterit.

I've based my answer on the text of the paper, “Simple past and present perfect in Latin America: inclusion or exclusion of now in the enunciation”, that is cited as the source of another answer. I still think the question is a duplicate, but the previous answer might have been too brief, and in any case, it's not a bad idea to develop certain issues further, especially when the question is in English but the answer is a long paper in Spanish.

  • Just to comment on your question about the use in the Americas, I would like to say that fue entrevistado refers to a fact (he was interviewed yesterday), while I would use haber sido entrevistado in a negative sense, like hasta el día de hoy no ha sido entrevistado meaning the lack of the interview but open to the fact that he can be interviewed in the future. – Vladimir Nul Sep 14 '19 at 15:05
  • @VladimirNul Yes. I think that would be covered by the observation about todavía... no. That is, saying hasta el día de hoy no... is basically an emphatic periphrasis for todavía no. – pablodf76 Sep 15 '19 at 1:51
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As a native Spanish speaker from Latin America, I can tell you just by ear that "ha sido entrevistado" sounds a bit more formal than "fue entrevistado" and has a subtle connotation that it has indeed happened. The reason they chose it is because of the formality though and not the emphasis (I would say this form is used a lot in news, especially when reporting a crime). "Había sido entrevistado" is rather awkward I would say.

  • That's an interesting point. As I was reading your answer, at first I was doubting what you were saying about the formality, but what you said about newscasters' style was quite convincing! I don't know why they write the newscasts that way -- but it's true, they do! – aparente001 Aug 31 '19 at 20:29

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