Spanish Grammar - Hay, Hubo

Spanish grammar lesson 10: How to say "there is," "there are," "there was," and "there were"

The verb "haber" is a very important auxilliary verb, meaning, "to have," used with a past participle, as in, for example, "He has gone," "El ha ido." (This is of course not to be confused with the regular transitve verb, "tener," which means "to have.")

But "haber" also has another meaning. It is the impersonal verb that means "to be," used in a specific way, as in, for example, "there is snow," "Hay nieve."

Notice that in the second example above, the word "hay" is used, (not "ha"). It is a special conjugation, used when "haber" is in its "to be" form in the present tense. Furthermore, "hay" is used for both singular or plural nouns, that is, when saying "there is," or "there are."

And "hubo" is used when saying "there was," or "there were." (stays the same for singular and plural)

Exercise: Read, listen to, and repeat aloud the following examples, which will also include future (habrá) and imperfect (había) tenses, which also use the same form for both singular and plural nouns.

Hay muchos pacientes en la sala de espera.

(There are many patients in the waiting room.)

Hubo tres doctores en el quirófano esta mañana.

(There were three doctors in the operating room this morning.)

No hay razones para hacerlo.

(There are no reasons to do it.)

Hay una cucaracha en el oído izquierdo.

(There is a cockroach in the left ear.)

Hubo una reunión ayer.

(There was a meeting yesterday.)

Habrá dudas acerca de esta decisión.

(There will be doubts about this decision.)

Había granos de arena en la mucosa del ojo.

(There were grains of sand in the mucosa of the eye.)

¿Cuántos antibióticos había durante los años cincuenta?

(How many antibiotics were there in the fifties?)

El ministro de salud ha anunciado que va a haber operativos de salud: para la detección de hipertensión arterial, y de vacunación.

(The health minister has announced that there are going to be health fairs: for the detection of hypertension and for vaccination.) Note: Observe that this is an example of using the impersonal verb form of "haber" in the infinitive, and that even in this case the verb phrase is singular for either singular or plural nouns. That is we need to use "va a haber," not "van a haber," even though there are two or more health fairs.



The following examples are using the phrase "haber que" plus an infintive, to express an obligation. In these examples, the subject could be anything and depends on the context (I,you,he,she,we,they, etc).

Hay que pensarlo bien.

(It is necessary to think it over well.) Note: Observe that given the context, this could be translated as, "we must think it over well," or "you must think it over well."

Hay que llevarlo a urgencias.

(It is necessary to take him to the emergency room.) Note: Observe that given the context, this could be translated as, "you must take him to the emergency room." Literally, it says, "There is that to take him..."

Eventualmente habrá que hacerle cirugía.

(Eventually, we will have to operate on him.) Note: Again, this is an impersonal verb, so literally, it only says, "Eventually, there will be that to do to him surgery."



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