Do You Know What These Spanish Verbs Mean?

By: Torrance Grey
Estimated Completion Time
2 min
Do You Know What These Spanish Verbs Mean?
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Spanish: it's the world's second-largest native language, and growing fast! There are about 500 million Spanish speakers worldwide (native and second-language), and that number is expected to climb to 600 million by the year 2050. It might surprise you to know, too, that the United States has the second-largest pool of Spanish speakers on the globe. With all that going for it, it's no surprise that many people study Spanish, and hope to become fluent enough to make it their second language. You might, in fact, be one of them. 

But what's the lifeblood of any language? Its verbs, of course! Spanish verbs are easy to recognize: when in their infinitive (unconjugated) form, they end in -ar, -er, or -ir. And when they're reflexive verbs (verbs where the action reflects back on the actor) ... then there's an "-se" after the "r." 

Sound confusing? You'll get it quickly enough. For simplicity's sake, we're only testing you on infinitives, not conjugated verbs. Along the way, you'll learn about the Latin roots of many Spanish words, you'll learn about related words in English, and about "false cognates" -- words that look like an English equivalent, but actually mean something else. 

So get ready to see if your Spanish skills are passport-worthy .. or if they'd get you stopped at the border! Buena suerte- good luck!

Ser
To be
"Ser" is Spanish's verb for long-term states of being, like being red-haired or Canadian or a good driver. You wouldn't use it to describe being at the grocery store.
To read
To write
To think

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Tener
To see
To have
This reminds us of a favorite anecdote from baseball. A major-league center fielder was tired of yelling "I got it" and still running into the right fielder, who didn't speak English. So he learned to yell "Yo lo tengo!" and then ran into the left fielder, who didn't know any Spanish.
To want
To believe

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Estar
To be (short-term)
You'd use "estar" for temporary states of being: mood, location, activity, and so on. "Estamos al teatro," means "We're at the theater."
To believe
To want
To need

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Amar
To hear
To see
To love
"Amo," from the infinitive "amar," means "I love." In Spanish, as in some other languages, you can leave out the pronoun when the verb's shape tells you what it is. In this case, the "o" ending tells you it's "I."
To fall

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Querer
To think
To love
To want
Both #2 and #3
"Querer" is often used for "to want," but also expresses romantic love. "Te quiero" means "I love you (romantically)" but stops short of the direct sexual meaning of English's "I want you."

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Decir
To agree
To study
To feel
To say
"Decir" is a handy verb not just because it's frequently used (though it is). But it also gives us the helpful phrase "Como se dice ... ?" or "How do you say ...?" whereby you can ask a Spanish speaker how to say "bread" or "airport" or "go away!"

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Hacer
To correspond
To do
To make
Both #2 and #3
In Spanish as in English, the more common a verb is, the more it multitasks. In addition to the two meanings above, you'll find "hacer" in idiomatic expressions like "Hacer gracia," or "to seem funny."

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Ir
To feel
To go
"Ir" is such a deceptively tiny word for such a useful verb. It looks like an infinitive ending in search of a root!
To hear
To see

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Llegar
To arrive
The double "ll" in Spanish creates a "y" sound, perhaps most famously in "llama." "Llegar" is an important word not least because it gives us "llegar a ser," or "become." There's no single word for that in Spanish, like there is in English.
To feel
To learn
To teach

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Cocinar
To cook
"Cocinar" also gives us the noun "cocina," for "kitchen." You'll see that a lot in the names of Mexican restaurants, like "Cocina de Rosa."
To drink
To ride
To yell

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Ver
To disbelieve
To laugh
To see
This verb gives us the Spanish expression "Vamos a ver." It means "We'll see" and comes in very handy.
To sleep

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Gustar
To laugh
To need
To please
This can be a little confusing to Spanish learners. We are taught "(lo) me gusta" as the equivalent of "I like (it)." But you're actually saying that the "it" pleases you. The thing, not the speaker, is the subject of the sentence.
To shout

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Comprender
To move (one's body)
To move (addresses)
To seek
To understand
This word is almost honorary English by now. People who speak no other Spanish will say "Comprende?" as a (slightly snarky) way of asking if you understand something.

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Parar
To believe
To follow
To sing
To stop
Don't look for this one on stop signs in Latin American countries, though. They tend to use the more forceful "Alto" for "Halt!"

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Caerse
To believe
To fall
This might be your first exposure to a reflexive verb, which are marked by the "-se" at the end. This means that the subject and object of the verb are the same. "Se cayeron los libros" means "The books fell (on their own)." Nobody "falled" them (which doesn't make sense anyway.)
To lose
To win

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Cuidar
To appear
To be jealous
To take care of oneself
To take care of someone else
"Cuidar" means to take care of someone or something else. If it were reflexive, "cuidarse," that's someone taking care of himself/herself. In fact, "Cuidate" is a common farewell in Spanish, meaning "Take care of yourself."

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Andar
To climb
To cuddle
To be pleased
To walk or move
You've probably heard the command "Andale!" It means, "Move it!"

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Bajar
To smile
To lower or bring down
This verb might be familiar to you from an adjective form, "baja," meaning "low" or "lower." Think of "Baja California," the part of Mexico right below California.
To understand
To reconsider

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Leer
To believe
To absolve
To read
"Leer" is the Spanish word for "to read." It's not to be confused with the English "leer," which *does* mean "to stare crudely."
To stare crudely

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Oir:
To cry
To hear
Like English, Spanish has separate words for "to hear" and "to listen." You'll find the second verb elsewhere in this quiz.
To desire
To avoid

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Mandar
To describe
To realize
To reconsider
To send
"Mandar" means "to send," as with a package, but can also mean "to order." It's related to words like "command" and "mandatory."

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Calmarse
To correspond with
To realize
To calm down
Again, the reflexive form means the action rebounds on the actor, or is internal. If it were simply "calmar," that would imply calming another person. When a Spanish speaker says, "Calmate," they want you to relax.
To calm someone else

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Realizar
To crown
To fulfill or achieve
Okay, this one's a little tricky -- it's a false cognate, a word that strongly resembles an English word but doesn't mean the same thing. At least, it doesn't fit the common meaning of "realize," as in, "come to an understanding or a piece of knowledge." However, in English, we also use it in the sense of "fulfill": "My dreams were realized."
To realize
To misunderstand

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Pedir
To ask
"Pedir," or "to ask," is related to the English word "petition." They're both taken from the Latin verb "petere," or "to seek."
To feel
To offend
Both #1 and #2

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Caminar
To disagree
To find pleasant
To think
To walk
"Caminar" is a more literal word for "to walk" than "andar." That word has a number of figurative meanings, like "to proceed" or "to operate" (as in a machine). "Caminar" is usually literal walking or travel, and gives Spanish the noun "camino," for road.

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Eschuchar
To choose
To listen
This is the close cousin of "oir," or "to hear," earlier in this quiz. As we all know, listening isn't exactly the same as hearing -- it implies a good intention, but not necessarily success!
To hesitate
To write

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Venir
To come
Caesar famously said, "Veni, vidi, vici" for "I came, I saw, I conquered." It would be almost the same in Spanish. "I came" is "Vine."
To rise
To regret
To snow

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Saber
To greet
To know (a fact)
"Saber" is the Spanish term for knowing in the fact or book-learning sense. Being familiar with a person or place is represented by a different verb.
To consume
To fence with swords

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Conocer
To be familiar with or know
Spanish has two main verbs for knowing. "Conocer" is the more personal one that you'd use to say you know a person. Knowing facts requires a different verb, which you'll find elsewhere in this quiz.
To read
To lend
To survive

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Escribir
To feed
To entertain
To write
You might have recognized this one because of its similiarity to "scribe." In English, that's someone who writes for a living, usually as a copier or stenographer.
To undermine

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Dar
To feel good
To give
"Dar" has a lot of figurative meanings, as simple workhorse verbs often do. One favorite is "Dar a luz" for "to give birth." It literally means, "to give to the light."
To sing
To shout

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Darse cuenta
To harm
To feel bad
To realize
Hey, we threw a curveball -- a verb phrase! "Darse cuenta" means "to realize," a word that is so useful it's one word in many other languages.
To regret

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Escoger
To choose
"Escoger" is Spanish for "to choose," words that look nothing alike in Spanish and English. In contrast, "decidir" looks very like "to decide." Go figure!
To elevate
To visualize
To start (something)

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Mantener
To travel
To keep
"Mantener" is, of course, related to our word "maintain." "Keep" is shorter and simpler, but it's from Old English, and didn't find its way into Spanish.
To think
To wish

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Creer
To believe
This one was probably easy, if you thought of English words like "credible" or "credulous." They both have to do with belief, and are descended from the Latin "credo" or "I believe," a word that's been adopted directly into English to mean a mission statement.
To desire
To abstain
To laugh

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