In this lesson we will see how to use the Spanish verb “Haber” as an Impersonal Verb, when you should use it and when you should not. “Haber” is an Impersonal Verb for expressing existence. In the present tense the conjugation is HAY (There is/are), and it doesn’t change in singular or plural, the verb is always used as “hay”.

For example:

“¿Qué hay en la heladera?” (What there’s in the fridge?)

Hay leche (There is milk)

Hay verduras (There are vegetables)

Hay carne (There is meat)

No hay manteca. (There is no lard.)

We can use HAY with:

• Indefinite Articles: un/unos/una/unas

Hay unos árboles muy altos en un parque nacional de San Francisco. (There are some very tall trees in the national park in San Francisco.)

• Uncountable Nouns or Nouns that are Plural.

Hay cerveza en la heladera. (There is beer in the fridge)

Hay playas en Ecuador. (There are beaches in Ecuador)

• Numbers.

Hay cinco sillas en la sala. (There are five chairs in the room)

• Adjectives expressing quantify: Mucho/a/s – Poco/a/s

Hay mucha comida en esa mesa. (There is a lot of food on that table)

Hay muchos estudiantes en la escuela. (There are many students in the school)

So, we use HAY to speak about nonspecific things. Because of this, we can’t use it with El/los/la/las (definite articles) or names.

We can NOT say: “Hay el barrio Copacabana en Río de Janeiro”. We should say: “Está el barrio Copacabana en Río de Janeiro” ( The Copacabana neighborhood is in Río de Janeiro), or “Hay un barrio llamado Copacabana en Río de Janeiro” (There is a neighborhood called Copacabana in Río de Janeiro ).

We can NOT say: “En Perú hay el Machu Pichu”. We should say: “En Perú está el Machu Picchu” ( Machu Picchu is in Perú) or “Hay unas ruinas incas, muy turísticas, llamadas Las ruinas del Machu Picchu. (There are some Inca ruins, very touristic, called the ruins of Machu Picchu).

In past tense the conjugation of this Impersonal Verb is “HUBO” (Indefinite Preterite) and “HABÍA” (Imperfect Preterite). In both cases the literal translation in English is “There was/were”, but their use is different in Spanish.

We use “Hubo” when we want speak about events in the past. For example:

Hubo una clase de hockey ayer. (There was a hockey class yesterday.)

Hubo un accidente en la Ruta 45. (There was an accident on Route 45.)

Hubo un debate en TV sobre las nuevas reglas del español. (There was a debate on TV about the new rules of Spanish.)

But, we use “Había” when describing something in past.

For example: “Hubo una fiesta el sábado. En la fiesta había muchas personas famosas, había comida y bebidas; también había 2 dj’s y había luces de discoteca. Pero no había suficientes personas solteras”. (There was a party on Saturday. At the party there were many famous people there was food and drinks, there were also 2 dj’s and there were disco lights. but there were not enough single people.)

via Learning Spanish Reviews Blog » How To Use The Spanish Verb Haber As An Impersonal Verb.

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