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«En 1919 hubo un huracán devastador en Florida». / PUBLIC DOMAIN

Level: Intermediate

When do we use hubo and when do we use había?

Hay (there is/there are) has two past tense versions:

Hubo (pret. perfecto): we use this version for specific events in the past:

El veinte de septiembre hubo un huracán en Florida.
El viernes pasado hubo una fiesta en el consulado.

Había (pret. imperfecto): Most of the time we use this version. We usually use there was/there were in a descriptive way, and, as we know, descriptions in the past use the imperfect tense:

Había muchos libros en la mesa.
No había nadie en la calle a las 2 de la mañana.

So, unless we are talking about a very specific event that happened at a very specific time in the past, we’ll usually prefer to use había over hubo in most contexts.

Practice – Translate the following sentences into Spanish

1. There were two people and two children.

2. There was a storm last night.

3. There was a dog at the park.

4. There was a glass on the table.

5. There were two events last weekend in Brooklyn.

6. There were fireworks at the party. At 7 pm there was a music performance.


Correct answers for Practice – Translate the following sentences into Spanish:
Había dos personas y dos niños/as. 2. Hubo una tormenta anoche/ayer por la noche. 3. Había un perro en el parque. 4. Había un vaso en/sobre la mesa. 5. Hubo dos eventos el fin de semana pasado en Brooklyn. 6. Había fuegos artificiales en la fiesta. A las 7 de la tarde hubo una actuación musical.

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