Do you want to fall in love, deeply in love?
If that’s a yes (and we hope it is!) then get ready to fall head-over-heels with Spanish as you make your way through some of the most striking, moving and life-affirming quotes to ever be written in the Spanish language.
There’s something about that little tingly feeling you get when you read a great quote that just turns your whole world upside down. The kind of quote that just like a good film leaves you thinking about it for the rest of the day and the days to come.
Here we’ve compiled the best of the best from across the Spanish-speaking world. So strap in and prepare to be moved.
If you’re just getting started on your Spanish journey or are a little rusty, don’t fear: all of the Spanish quotes have been provided with English translations.
10 Amazing Quotes in Spanish for Literature Lovers and Language Learners
1. “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar”—Antonio Machado
English translation: Walker there is no path, you make it as you walk.
This quote comes from one of Spain’s prized poets of the Generación del ’98 (Generation of 1898). Antonio Machado’s poems are heavily influenced by his life experiences, especially the tragic event of falling madly in love with a young woman who passed away. As a result, his poetry is often dripping with despair but also an overriding love and passion for both his country and people he met along his own path. This particular quote is taken from Proverbios y Cantares (Proverbs and Cantos) “Campos de Castilla” (Fields of Castile”).
His works are referenced frequently in pop culture, and you can see his influence in film, literature and even music. Plus, you can think of him as the George Orwell or Nathaniel Hawthorne of Spain: in other words, his work pops up on pretty much any Spanish high school curriculum. Ask any Spaniard if they’ve read Antonio Machado and you’ll inevitably be met with a groan and a reluctant yes, of course.
The trickiest part of this quote for beginning learners is the construction se hace camino, which literally translates to “a path is made.” In this sentence, the use of the reflexive pronoun se is used to form a passive sentence. It’s an impersonal form that shows up commonly in Spanish.
2. “La muerte no existe, la gente solo muere cuando la olvidan; si puedes recordarme siempre estaré contigo”—Isabel Allende
English translation: Death does not exist, people only die when they are forgotten; if you can remember me I will always be with you.
This quote can be found in Isabel Allende’s incredible novel “Eva Luna.” Allende is considered one of Chile’s more thought-provoking and passionate contemporary writers. After both losing her daughter Paula to disease and being politically exiled, her personal life was a tough road riddled with setbacks and personal challenges which are often reflected in her works. Eva Luna is a highly emotional book and a must-read for all Spanish learners who love literature.
3. “Es feliz el que soñando, muere. Desgraciado el que muera sin soñar”—Rosalía De Castro
English translation: He is happy the one who dies while dreaming. Disgraced is the one who dies without dreams.
While my translation doesn’t do justice to this incredible quote, I’m sure you gather the general gist. It’s all about happiness and following your dreams until the very end.
While this poet may be most famed for her various works in the Galician language, her writings in castellano (Castillian) are equally stunning. Rosalía de Castro now sits as a feminist icon and true literary hero to the people of both Galicia and Spain for her dedication to her languages and people.
4. “Nunca tendré compasión por los que no supieron morir a tiempo”—Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (El Cid Campeador)
English translation: I will never have sympathy for those who do not die on time.
While the English translation is perhaps too literal, historical importance will shed some light on El Cid Campeador’s true intention. Once you learn of El Cid’s courage and loyalty (especially toward his own horse) the quote takes on a different meaning. Morir a tiempo (to die on time) may be better translated to “to die when you’re supposed to” and in this case “standing up for what you believe in.”
Legend says that even after death, El Cid won a battle with his corpse mounted on his horse. After witnessing a miracle resurrection before their own eyes, the Moors fled in terror and the territory was reclaimed. Whether or not this actually happened, it’s a great quote and a fun piece of myth for you to discover.
5. “Hay que sentir el pensamiento y pensar el sentimiento”—Miguel de Unamuno
English translation: You must feel your thought and think your feeling.
A fellow member of the Generación del 98, Unamuno wrote in a range of literary styles and was considered a serious intellectual during the turbulent political times of Spain in the early 20th century. He was initially a supporter of the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, but changed his stance after witnessing bloodshed that impacted his home country. He delivered a stirring speech in front of fascist supporters denouncing their ideologies. This political context perhaps explains the above quote, which is all about carefully considering your own position and following your true inner morality wherever it may take you.
This quote is also a great way to remember the common Spanish structure hay que (it is necessary to). You’ll hear hay que all the time by native speakers. It’s an example of perífrasis verbal (verbal periphrasis), a structure in which a conjugated verb is joined with a conjunction followed by an infinitive, gerund or participle. The verb haber usually means “to be” or “to have,” but within this phrase, hay que expresses obligation.
For example: Hay que aprender español. (You must learn Spanish/It is necessary to learn Spanish.)
6. “Aprender a dudar es aprender a pensar”—Octavio Paz
English translation: Learning to doubt is learning to think.
In the same vein as Miguel de Unamuno’s quote comes a quote from one of Mexico’s most beloved poets regarding thought and feeling. While Mexican born, Octavio Paz actually fought in the Spanish Civil War and lived an incredibly rich life that included time spent in various countries.
His quote isn’t just a good guide for a life well lived, but also a good rule to follow when approaching a new language (Spanish, perhaps).
As you can see in this quote, there are many uses of the Spanish infinitive.
In this case aprender (to learn) has taken the form of what we would consider in English an -ing noun. Although in English we’d use “learning” in this context, in Spanish it isn’t correct to use the gerund aprendiendo (learning). Instead, the verb should remain in its infinitive form.
7. “Un hombre solo tiene derecho de mirar a otro hacia abajo cuando tiene que ayudarlo a levantarse”—Gabriel García Márquez
English translation: A man must only have the right to look down upon another when he has to help them up.
Perhaps one of the greatest modern Colombian writers, Gabriel García Márquez expertly wove mysticism, humor and passion into his literary works.
In this quote, Márquez cleverly plays with the phrase “to look down upon another,” twisting its meaning to compel readers to think differently about people who see themselves as “better” than others.
Gabriel García Márquez’s work is full of clever societal observations like this. While his novels are world-renowned, his short stories shouldn’t be overlooked. Short stories can also be a great resource for beginning Spanish learners, since they introduce learners to real-world Spanish writing even if they don’t feel ready to tackle an entire novel.
8. “La incertidumbre es una margarita cuyos pétalos no se terminan jamás de deshojar”—Mario Vargas Llosa
English translation: Uncertainty is a daisy whose petals you will never finish pulling off.
Mario Vargas Llosa is a Peruvian writer whose publications have received the highest literary honor, a Nobel Prize in 2010. Vargas Llosa often challenges power structures with his moving works.
This quote reflects his poetic style with some tricky vocabulary, including the very specific verb deshojar (to pull off petals) and the noun margarita (daisy flower)—not to be confused with the famous cocktail, of course. You can use an online dictionary like WordReference in situations like these, but you’ll find that you get more out of your Spanish reading exercises if you first try to use context clues. If you know the Spanish word hojas (leaves or petals), you might be able to figure out deshojar on your own.
9. “Tal vez sea verdad: que un corazón es lo que mueve el mundo”—Dámaso Alonso
English translation: Perhaps it is true: it is a heart which moves the world.
A madrileño (native of Madrid), Dámaso Alonso wrote this breathtaking quote in his most famous work Hijos de la ira (Children of Wrath) which was met with great acclaim. His works commonly focused on the human condition, existential angst and struggles one may experience in life.
Learning synonyms is a great way to increase your fluency and impress with your skills. Here we have tal vez (maybe) but did you know there are a number of different ways to say this in Spanish? For example: quizás, probablemente, acaso, puede ser que and so on. Play around with substituting tal vez for one of these other words within the same quote. Does it change the meaning of the quote at all?
10. “El mundo hay que fabricárselo uno mismo, hay que crear peldaños que te suban, que te saquen del pozo. Hay que inventar la vida porque acaba siendo verdad”—Ana María Matute
English translation: You have to build the world around you, yourself: you have to create the steps that will take you up, and help you out of the well. You have to invent life, because in the end it will eventually be real.
What a way to finish! We’ll end on a quote that incorporates themes of imagination, desire and overcoming life’s setbacks. While it may be a mouthful, this quote is undoubtedly beautiful.
It’s also a good example of how Spanish writing is often more elaborate than English, incorporating longer sentence structures with clauses separated by commas. Just try reading this quote out loud! Remember, when reading Spanish it’s okay to take a breath every so often—you’ll need it! Slowing down will also give you time to fully appreciate the beauty of the Spanish language.
When it comes to Spanish learning there truly is no path. You need to get out there and explore by yourself, and what better starting point than the wonderful range of poems, novels and history at your disposal. Have fun!
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