Unmissable 2-for-1 Treasure: 12 Commonly Used Spanish Verbs and Their Lesser Known Meanings

“Your friend falls to me very well.”

Wait, what?!

Well, that’s the literal translation of the Spanish phrase “Tu amigo me cae muy bien.”

But in order to understand this phrase, you’d need to know that there’s more than one meaning of the verb caer (to fall).

In this case, caer can colloquially mean “to make an impression.” So, the above sentence actually means “Your friend made a good impression on me,” or, more simply, “Your friend seems like a good guy” or “I like your friend.”

Some of the most basic Spanish verbs have a number of varied meanings. But frequently, these less common meanings won’t show up on vocabulary lists or in Internet translators.

So to greatly improve your comprehension and to use verbs like native speakers, you’ll want to uncover these lesser taught meanings. Fortunately, we’ve already put a list together for you for easy learning.

Read on to see how many different ways you can use common Spanish verbs!

Why Focus on Commonly USed Spanish Verbs with Multiple Meanings?

“Work smart, not hard.”

This is a good phrase to keep in the back of your mind when you’re studying Spanish verbs. In order to properly use a verb, you have to learn it in all its tenses—yes, indicative and subjunctive. Not to mention, many verbs have irregular conjugations that can trip up learners at all levels.

If you’re going to invest so much time and effort in learning how to correctly use each verb, you might as well use each verb to its fullest! This means learning the multiple meanings of each verb as well as common phrasal verbs.

Learning these less common meanings will also improve your Spanish comprehension. If someone tells you “no te pega,” but you only know that pegar means “to hit,” you’ll undoubtedly feel a little confused. (In this case, it means “to match” or “to go with.”)

Using these verbs in a more colloquial way will also go a long way towards making your Spanish sound more natural.

12 Common Spanish Verbs and Their Less Common Meanings

1. Llevar

Common meaning: To take or bring, to wear

Voy a llevar una pizza a la fiesta.
(I’m going to take a pizza to the party.)

Llevo puesto mi gorro negro y mis zapatos azules.
(I’m wearing my black hat and my blue shoes.)

Less common meaning: To describe how long you’ve spent somewhere

Use the verb llevar in the present simple tense to describe how much time you have spent in a place.

¿Cuánto tiempo llevas en España?
(How long have you been in Spain?)

Llevo dos años aquí.
(I’ve been here for two years.)

This one really tripped me up when I first got to Spain! I would always fumble my words and end up responding with something like he estado aquí un mes (I’ve been here for one month) or llegué hace dos meses (I arrived two months ago).

When I could finally, confidently respond correctly, with llevo tres meses en España (I’ve been in Spain for three months), I was proud of myself indeed. Of course, my other responses were fine as well, but llevar is such an efficient and colloquial-sounding verb in this situation, it’s worth it to learn.

2. Caer

Common meaning: To fall

El libro cae al suelo.
(The book falls to the floor.)

Less common meanings: To make an impression, to occur on a certain date, to come to understanding

Caer is somewhat tricky to conjugate and calls for y’s or g’s or i’s depending on the verb tense. So, once you nail down the conjugation of caer, you’ll want to use it in as many instances as possible. Luckily, this little verb has a ton of useful meanings.

Colloquially, you can use caer accompanied by an adverb like bien (well) or mal (badly) to describe someone’s impression on people they meet.

Tu hermano siempre cae bien a la gente.
(People always like your brother.)

Ese chico me cae fatal.
(I don’t get a good sense about that guy at all.)

You can also use caer (de) to talk about something happening on a specific date, as we do in English with “to fall on.”

Este año, mi cumpleaños cae de viernes.
(This year, my birthday falls on a Friday.)

Finally, use caer to mean “to come to understanding.”

¡Ah! Claro, ahora caigo, gracias.
(Ah! Of course, now I get it, thanks.)

3. Quedar

Common meaning: To remain, to be left

Quedan tres galletas.
(There are three cookies left.)

Less common meaning: To set a time and/or place to meet

This verb is quite useful when making plans with others. Use quedar to talk about setting a time or a place to meet up.

Hemos quedado a las 6:30 en la esquina.
(We’ve planned to meet at 6:30 on the corner.)

4. Ponerse

Common meaning: To put on (clothing), to become

Se ha puesto su abrigo porque hace mucho frío.
(He put on his coat because it’s very cold.)

Siempre se pone nerviosa cuando tiene un examen.
(She always becomes nervous when she has an exam.)

 Less common meaning: To start doing something, to apply oneself

This use of the verb ponerse is especially common in the command form. Use it when you really want to motivate your listeners to get moving!

Deja de ver la televisión y ponte a limpiar la casa.
(Stop watching television and get started cleaning the house.)

¡Pónganse a estudiar!
(Start studying!)

5. Venir

Common meaning: To come

¿Vienes conmigo al supermercado?
(Will you come with me to the supermarket?)

Less common meaning: To be convenient

This construction uses an indirect object pronoun (me, te, le, les, nos, os) and the word venir. Me viene bien implies that something is convenient, sounds good, or suits the speaker. In the negative, it can be a polite way of turning someone down or rejecting plans.

A las 4:15 no me viene bien. ¿Quedamos a las 5:00?
(4:15 isn’t convenient for me. Shall we meet at 5:00?)

6. Sacar

Common meaning: To take out, to remove

Voy a sacar el perro ahora.
(I’m going to take the dog out now.)

Saca tu lápiz de la bolsa, por favor.
(Take your pencil out of the bag, please.)

Less common meaning: To accomplish or receive something due to hard work or education

The literal meaning of sacar is “to take out,” but you can also think of it as a way to describe what someone metaphorically “takes out” of their hard work. Students and teachers use this meaning of sacar frequently to talk about grades on exams and coursework.

Ella estudia mucho y siempre saca buenas notas.
(She studies a lot and she always receives good grades.)

Por fin ha sacado un buen trabajo.
(He finally got a good job.)

7. Tocar

Common meaning: To touch, to play a musical instrument

¡No toques el fuego!
(Don’t touch the fire!)

Mi hermana toca la guitarra.
(My sister plays the guitar.)

Less common meaning: To be one’s turn.

Don’t get confused if you’re playing a game and you hear people shouting ¡me toca! ¡me toca! (It touches me! It touches me!). This is just a common way to say “It’s my turn!”

In non-game contexts, me toca can carry a slightly different connotation. You can use it to express that you deserve something. Think about the way an English speaker might say, “Now it’s my turn!”

¿A quién le toca?
(Whose turn is it?)

Después de tantos meses trabajando, me toca disfrutar de mis vacaciones.
(After so many months of work, it’s my turn/I deserve to enjoy my vacations.)

8. Pegar

Common meaning: To hit, to stick

¡No le pegues a tu hermano! (Don’t hit your brother!)

Pegué las fotos en la pared. (I stuck the photos on the wall.)

Less common meaning: To match, to go with

Pegar can be used to describe anything that might or might not “go well”—foods, decorations, colors and so on. It is frequently used in regards to clothing or style in general.

Esa falda no pega con tus zapatos.
(That skirt doesn’t go with your shoes.)

With a personal pronoun, use pegar to say that something matches someone’s style or aesthetic.

Te pega mucho el vestido, deberías comprártelo.
(That dress is really your style, you should buy it for yourself.)

9. Extrañar

Common meaning: To miss

Extraño a mi madre.
(I miss my mother.)

Less common meaning: To seem strange

In school, I only remember learning extrañar in the context of missing somebody or something. However, this other meaning makes perfect sense, given the word’s similarity to the word extraño (strange). Generally, when using the word extrañar to mean “to seem strange,” you’ll use it with an indirect object pronoun (me, te, le, les, nos, os).

Me extraña mucho que no haya llegado todavía.
(It seems really strange to me that she still hasn’t arrived.)

In the negative, this verb is frequently used to mean “It doesn’t surprise me.”

¿Llegaste a casa a las seis de la mañana? Pues, no me extraña que tengas sueño.
(You got home at six in the morning? Well, it doesn’t surprise me that you’re tired.)

10. Andar

Common meaning: To walk

Siempre andamos por el parque después de cenar.
(We always walk in the park after dinner.)

Less common meaning: To be in a certain state of being, to function correctly

If someone says ando bien, they aren’t necessarily trying to tell you that they’re good at walking. The verb andar can also refer to someone’s state of being. This is the origin of the colloquial greeting ¿Cómo andas? (How are you doing?).

Anda muy cansada.
(She’s very tired.)

Andar can also mean “to work,” much like the Spanish verb funcionar (to work, to function).

No sé qué ha pasado, no anda mi ordenador.
(I don’t know what happened, my computer isn’t working.)

11. Echar

Common meaning: To throw, to miss

Echa los papeles en la papelera, por favor.
(Throw the papers in the bin, please.)

While echar literally translates as “to throw,” perhaps its most well-known usage is as part of the phrasal verb echar de menos, which means “to miss.”

¡Te echo mucho de menos!
(I miss you a lot!) 

Less common meaning: To add an ingredient while cooking, to kick someone out

Spanish has a lot of verbs that do the job of the English verb “put” (See: poner, meter, colocar, añadir…) In the context of cooking, use the verb echar when you want to talk about putting in or adding an ingredient.

Echa más sal a la sopa, por favor.
(Put more salt in the soup, please.)

In a different context, echar can mean “to kick out” or “to remove.” Just as in English we use the phrasal verb “throw out” to mean “forcibly remove a person,” Spanish speakers use echar to refer to kicking someone out of a place.

Qué vergüenza—lo echaron del restaurante por gritar a la camarera.
(How embarrassing—they kicked him out of the restaurant for yelling at the waitress.)

So, echar can mean “put in” and “remove” in different contexts! This just goes to show the impossibility of directly translating between English and Spanish and the importance of understanding the many different meanings of common verbs.

12. Invitar

Common meaning: To invite

Voy a invitar a María a mi fiesta de cumpleaños.
(I’m going to invite María to my birthday party.)

Less common meaning: To treat someone to something

The first time a Spanish friend turned to me in a café and said te invito, I thought: “Invite me? To where?!” When she pulled out her wallet and paid for my cup of hot chocolate, it immediately became clear that the verb had a second meaning. Offering to invitar a friend to a beer or tapa every once in a while is a great way to show appreciation, and you can bet the favor will be returned in the future!

¿Vienes conmigo al bar? Te invito a una cerveza.
(Will you come with me to the bar? I’ll treat you to a beer.)

No te preocupes, invito yo.
(Don’t worry about it, it’s on me.)

Many common Spanish verbs have a variety of meanings that you can take advantage of. These twelve are just a jumping-off point! Keep your ears and eyes peeled for more multi-use verbs—they’re useful, and they’re interesting to learn about too.

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