Haber is one of the more unusual verbs in Spanish, but it’s an indispensable one. The present tense form hay is usually translated as there is or there are. But note that it has nothing to do with location, rather it refers to existence. (If you were pointing at the “there” of location, you would use estar, as in El dinero está allí. Very often in everyday speech, you comment on the existence of something. Hay mucho dinero en la mesa. Hay muchas personas en las calles. Note that it is always hay, whether it refers to the existence of something singular or plural.
It is often used in public situations where in English you would ask the more personal, do you have…? In a restaurant, for example, ¿Hay vino? This is a more polite, less personal way of asking whether the restaurant offers something. It’s common to be looking for something in a store, and you’re met with a shrug of the shoulders and the dreaded comment, No hay. What about the past, expressing there was or there were? This form is había, and notice that it is also used for either singular or plural. (A note that sometimes this is used ungrammatically even by native speakers who may say habían, but this is not correct usage.) Había muchos problemas. This form expresses a description of something, without a defined beginning or end. It’s a very generalized statement. The other past form is hubo. This indicates there was or there were but indicates that it is over. Hubo un incendio en un edificio ayer. Hubo una guerra allí en 1943.
Other forms used are future – habrá, there will be. This makes a very strong statement, stronger in feeling than the less specific va a pasar – it’s going to happen. Habrá problemas sin dinero. The subjunctive form is haya, there may be. Espero que haya más tiempo. The conditional form is habría, there would be The other use of haber is what is called as an auxiliary or helping verb to form the perfect tenses. These are when we use “to have” as a helping verb in English. I have written, they had seen, I will have finished, you would have done – these are all called perfect tenses, and they are expanded to be called Present Perfect, Past Perfect, etc. With these forms in Spanish you use all conjugated parts of the helping verb, as it does agree with the subject. Present – he, has, ha, hemos, han. They’re used with a part participle – this is equivalent in English to spoken, seen, done, finished. He hablado, has visto, ha hecho, hemos terminado.
The most commonly used past forms: había, habías, había, habíamos, habían – I had spoken, había hablado, they had finished, habían terminado The conditional is often used in this tense – habría, habrías, habría,habríamos, habrían – he would have spoken, habría hablado ¡Ay, ay, ay…so many things to consider with hay!