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Objective

To clarify when, in what kind of context 'hubo' is used.

Background

Stemmed from Past passive form of "Godzilla ha comido el hombre".
Looks related to ¿Cómo se usa el antepretérito?.

Issue

In my current understanding, 'haber + past participle' = perfect, indicating something has/had happened/completed and the state remains now/then.

However, mechanically applying 'haber -> hubo' to the sentence (1) to create a past form as (2) looks not exactly correct as Spanish.

  1. El hombre ha sido comido por Godzilla.
  2. El hombre hubo sido comido por Godzilla.

I understand to sound like "Spanish", it should be below but this is for the sake of learning.

  • (El) Godzilla se ha comido al hombre. (El is required?)

Question

Why this 'hubo + past particle' can be strange/unusual (or incorrect?) in Spanish?

Is it because 'hubo' would be regarded as the past form of 'hay' indicating 'there was'?
What makes the native Spanish speakers think 'strange'?

And where/when 'hubo' should be used?

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3 Answers 3

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1 - "El hombre hubo de ser comido por Godzilla". It is correct, but it suggest there exists some kind of doubt about what is being said. It's not the most usual way of saying something like that, "El hombre debió haber sido comido por Godzilla" works and it's used.

2 and 3- "Hubo" it's heavily used in my country Uruguay, and in Argentina, as indicating 'there was' and 'there were'. There is a common mistake here, than consists in using the non existent word "hubieron" in plural cases. So you can say:

"Hubo un accidente en la tarde de hoy.", and "Hubo varios accidentes en la tarde de hoy.". Same word for singular and plural cases.

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    "Hubieron" sí que existe. Es la tercera persona del plural del pretérito perfecto simple o pretérito de indicativo del verbo haber: hube, hubiste, hubo, hubimos, hubisteis, hubieron. Otra cosa distinta es que la forma "hubieron" sea incorrecta cuando el verbo haber se emplea para denotar la presencia o existencia de personas o cosas, pues con este valor "haber" es impersonal, carece de sujeto y se usa solo en tercera persona del singular.
    – Albertus
    Feb 11, 2014 at 15:41
  • Es correcta tu corrección. La palabra existe pero no se aplica en este contexto, y de allí surge el común error. No sé si es de estilo editar mi respuesta original de manera de contemplar tu observación. Saludos y gracias. Feb 11, 2014 at 20:08
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1) When you say:

El hombre ha sido comido por Godzilla

You are following this structure:

(object) (verb "ser") (participle of verb) (rest of complements)

So "hubo sido comido" is not right because you're using another structure:

(object) (past of "haber") (participle of "ser") (participle of verb) (rest of complements)

Which is not what you want: you want to use a passive voice, and for that you use the right tense of "ser". In this case, perfect past, it's "ha sido comido".

As comparison, here in Galicia (northwestern Spain), by influence of Galician, we tend to use less composite forms like "ha sido comido". You would probably hear this version instead:

El hombre fue comido por Godzilla

Which is not quite exactly the same nuance, but is perfectly normal in common speech. Again, see that the structure "ser" + participle is maintained.

2) We don't use articles with names unless:

  • We're speaking of that name in a derogatory form
  • We're speaking of common names

As a quick example of the first point, look at these two sentences:

El otro día hablé con Pepe
El otro día hablé con el Pepe

If you said this, just by adding "el", the person you're talking to would understand that something's wrong with your appreciation of Pepe. That, or you and Pepe come from a little tiny village and he was known village-wide as "el Pepe", which would then be more a nickname than a real name :-)

With regards to the second point, if there were a whole species of monsters called "godzilla" (lower caps), then yes, we'd use "the godzilla" as we use any other animal: "the rat", "the dog", etc. As this isn't the case (thankfully), we drop the article and just say "Godzilla", as we would with "King Kong" or the aforementioned "Pepe".

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  • Thank you for taking time and providing the detailed explanation, especially point 2. Appreciated.
    – mon
    Feb 11, 2014 at 20:43
  • Regarding point 1, I thought "El hombre ha sido comido por Godzilla" follows the structure of (object) (present of "haber") (participle of "ser") (participle of verb) (rest of complements). And to change (present of haber) into (past of haber) causes the issue here ...
    – mon
    Feb 11, 2014 at 20:52
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Second one is wrong in Spanish. "El" is no required because Godzilla is a proper name (means there is only one Godzilla), but it should be used if you want to say "The building is blue", as it's a common name.

"Hubo" (as passive voice) is rarely used in everyday Spanish, (is mostly used in literature) as you can use "había" or the simple past of the verb. "El hombre fue comido por Godzilla" as you can see, I can just use the past of "to be". "Hubo" is used to represent something in the past, but with not effect on the present, that happened right before other action, like: "una vez que hubo terminado, me llamó" (once he/she finished, called me)

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    yo uso hubo bastante a menudo, hubo que reescribir todo el codigo porque ...etc Feb 9, 2014 at 7:04
  • Use of "hubo" is not that rare at all.
    – Albertus
    Feb 11, 2014 at 15:44
  • @Albertus It's in the context set by the question. El caso que pone Emilio es bien diferente, ciertamente mi error, debi especificar que es en el caso de la voz pasiva
    – hmartinezd
    Feb 11, 2014 at 16:22

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