spanish quotes

26 Spanish Quotes for Inspiration and Language Learning

Spanish quotes are an entertaining and inspiring way to improve your Spanish and learn about the culture and history of Spanish-speaking countries.

Here we’ve compiled some of the most striking, moving and life-affirming quotes to ever be written in the Spanish language.

If you’re just getting started on your Spanish journey or are a little rusty, don’t fear—all the quotes have English translations.

1. “Caminante, no hay camino, se hace camino al andar.” — Antonio Machado

spanish quotes

English translation: Walker, there is no path, you make it as you walk.

This particular quote is taken from Proverbios y Cantares (Proverbs and Cantos), in Machado’s collection “Campos de Castilla (“Fields of Castile”).

The phrase se hace camino literally translates to “a path is made.” The use of the reflexive pronoun se is used in this case to form a passive sentence. It’s an impersonal form that shows up commonly in Spanish.

2. “La muerte no existe, la gente sólo 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.

If you’re having trouble puzzling out the Spanish grammar in this sentence, you might want to review your Spanish pronouns and how they differ from Spanish articles.

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 this poet may be most famed for her writings in both the Galician language and in castellano (Castilian).

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.

Morir a tiempo (to die on time) may be better translated as “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. It is said that after witnessing this, the Moors fled in terror and the territory was reclaimed.

5. “Hay que sentir el pensamiento y pensar el sentimiento.” — Miguel de Unamuno

English translation: You must feel your thought and think your feeling.

Unamuno wrote in a range of literary styles and was considered an intellectual during the turbulent political times of early 20th century Spain.

Unamuno was known for his opposition to fascism, and the above quote is 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). The verb haber usually means “to be” or “to have,” but within this phrase, hay que expresses obligation.

6. “Aprender a dudar es aprender a pensar.” — Octavio Paz

English translation: Learning to doubt is learning to think.

One of Mexico’s most beloved poets, Octavio Paz fought in the Spanish Civil War and lived an incredibly rich life that included time spent in various countries.

As you can see in this quote, there are many uses for the Spanish infinitive.

Although in English we’d use the gerund “learning” in this context, in Spanish it’s correct to keep the verb in the infinitive form: aprender (to learn).

7. “Un hombre solo tiene derecho de mirar a otro hacia abajo cuando tiene que ayudarlo a levantarse.” — Gabriel García Márquez

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English translation: A man only has the right to look down on another when he has to help them up.

Perhaps one of the greatest Colombian writers, Gabriel García Márquez expertly wove mysticism, humor and passion into his literary works.

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.

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 work won a Nobel Prize in 2010. His moving works often challenge power structures.

This quote reflects his poetic style with some tricky vocabulary, including the very specific verb deshojar (to pull off petals).

When you see an unfamiliar word and want to look it up, you can 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.

Spanish author Dámaso Alonso wrote this quote in his most famous work Hijos de la ira (Children of Wrath). 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. Here we have tal vez (maybe), but there are a number of different ways to say this in Spanish (such as quizás, probablemente, acaso, puede ser que and so on).

Just as with English, the best way to pick up on synonyms is by seeing or hearing them in context. You can increase your vocabulary in this way with Spanish literature or media made for native speakers.

If you’d like to learn more Spanish synonyms from native speakers, one resource you might find helpful is FluentU. This online language learning platform teaches you authentic Spanish through native-language videos like news clips, how-to videos and movie trailers.

The videos come with interactive subtitles and transcripts, so it’s easy to identify specific vocabulary (such as tal vez and all its synonyms), grammar concepts, or whatever else you need to study. Plus, it’s easy to use on the go with the iOS and Android apps.

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.

This quote incorporates themes of imagination, desire and overcoming life’s setbacks. 

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.

11. “Lo que me gusta de tu cuerpo es el sexo. Lo que me gusta de tu sexo es la boca. Lo que me gusta de tu boca es la lengua. Lo que me gusta de tu lengua es la palabra. — Julio Cortázar

English translation: “What I like about your body is its sexiness. What I like about your sexiness is your mouth. What I like about your mouth is your tongue. What I like about your tongue is the word.”

This famous Argentine writer thinks sexiness is all about a fine turn of phrase.

The word sexo means “sex,” of course, but in Spanish it is commonly used to denote the actual genitals. So Cortazar’s first line by itself may come off as rather raunchy to a Spanish ear.

But it becomes clear that what he really means is the person’s sexiness or sex appeal, not his or her genitals.

The phrase lo que me gusta de X es Y can be employed in all kinds of situations in Spanish. “Lo que me gusta de ti es tu talento en la pista” (what I like about you is your talent on the dance floor) is something one might say to compliment a dancer.

12. “Algún día en cualquier parte, en cualquier lugar indefectiblemente te encontrarás a ti mismo, y ésa, sólo ésa, puede ser la más feliz o la más amarga de tus horas. — Pablo Neruda

English translation: “Someday, somewhere, in some place you will inevitably run into your own self, and that, only that, can be the happiest or the bitterest of your moments.”

The key verb here is encontrar, which has lots of meanings that are similar to English “to find.”

The reflexive form encontrarse is used to talk about location: la pescadería se encuentra en el mercado Santa Catarina (the fish seller is/is found in the Santa Catarina market).

It can also be a metaphorical location, as in, me encuentro en una situación difícil (I find myself in a difficult situation).

To “find yourself” like in this quote, you need to tack on the a mí mismo/a ti mismo/a sí mismo. For example, me encontré a mí mismo a través de la meditación (I found myself through meditation).

13. “Como no me he preocupado de nacer, no me preocupo de morir. — Federico García Lorca

English translation: Just as I didn’t worry about being born, I’m not worried about dying.

This quote features the verb preocuparse, which doesn’t really mean “to be preoccupied,” but rather just “to worry.”

Preocuparse can be used with either the preposition de or por. For most speakers these mean the same thing. You will also see the preposition sobre in written Spanish, but snottier grammarians disapprove.

14. “Enamorarse es crear una religión cuyo Dios es falible. — Jorge Luis Borges

spanish quotes

English translation: Falling in love is creating a religion whose God is fallible.

Note the use of the infinitive forms enamorarse and crear. The Spanish base form of the verb gets used all of the time when we English speakers would often use other forms, especially gerunds (like “falling” and “creating”).

In this context, the verb in the infinitive is actually functioning as a noun and denoting the general concept of the action:

  • Pensar es gratis — Thinking is free
  • Creer es poder — To believe is to be able to
  • Nacer es un pecado — Being born is a sin

15. “La guerra es la obra de arte de los militares, la coronación de su formación, el broche dorado de su profesión. No han sido creados para brillar en la Paz. — Isabel Allende

English translation: War is soldiers’ work of art, the crowning glory of their training, the gilded jewel of their profession. They were not born to shine in peace.

There are a few tricky words here:

  • BrocheThis can be a brooch as in English, or a simpler clasp on a jacket. But it can also be metaphorical, such as el broche de oro del evento (the highlight of the event).
  • Coronación — As in English, this can be a coronation. But here again it can have a figurative meaning, like one’s “crowning moment.”
  • Militar — This can actually be anyone who serves in the military, not just rank-and-file soldiers.

16. “A lo largo de la historia, la democracia y la felicidad no han producido nunca gran literatura. — Mario Vargas Llosa

English translation: Throughout history, democracy and happiness have never produced great literature.

Unlike with English, the definite articles el, la, los and las in Spanish can be used with general ideas and not just specific, previously discussed things.

Vargas Llosa is expressing a common sentiment in Latin American literature studies: that these works are great because they come out of politically troubled environments, not in spite of this.

17. “Errar es humano, pero más lo es culpar de ello a otros.” – Baltazar Gracián

English translation: To err is human, but even more so is to blame others for it.

Baltazar Gracián was a Spanish writer and philosopher from the 17th century.

This quote demonstrates his insight into human nature—specifically the impulse to blame others for our mistakes. 

18. “Aprendí que si no puedes ser feliz con pocas cosas, no vas a ser feliz con muchas cosas.”– José “Pepe” Mujica

English translation: I learned that if you can’t be happy with a little, you won’t be happy with a lot.

José “Pepe” Mujica was originally a farmer but joined guerilla movements against the Uruguayan military dictatorship, as a result of which he was imprisoned and tortured for 14 years in the 1970’s and 80’s.

After the restoration of democracy in Uruguay, Mujica rose up to become a senator and later the country’s president from 2010 to 2015.

It’s hard to imagine someone better suited to give advice about the value of perspective and being able to keep up your spirits during hard times.

19. “La verdad adelgaza, pero no quiebra, y siempre anda sobre la mentira como el aceite sobre el agua.” – Miguel de Cervantes

English translation: The truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always rises above lies like oil floats on water.

This quote comes from Cervantes’ renowned 1605 work, “La Vida de Don Quixote de la Mancha,” which is often considered the first modern novel.

The quote describes the idea that truth always prevails.

Some notable verbs in the quote include adelgazar (to reduce, to make thinner) and quebrar (to break, fracture or twist).

20. “Enamórate de ti, de la vida y luego de quien tú quieras.” – Frida Kahlo

English translation: Fall in love with yourself, with life and then with whoever you want.

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican painter known for self-portraits and paintings full of symbolism about topics like Mexican identity and her own personal hardships. 

Kahlo suffered from lifelong chronic pain due to a horrific bus accident in her youth, and it informed her work and philosophy.

Her marriage to muralist Diego Rivera was tumultuous, with both her and Rivera having well-known affairs, but the above quote demonstrates how she felt about the matter.

21. “Como si se pudiese elegir en el amor, como si no fuera un rayo que te parte los huesos.” – Julio Cortázar

English translation: As if you could choose love, as if it weren’t like a lightning bolt that breaks your bones.

This evocative quote originates from Cortázar’s 1963 novel, Rayuela (Hopscotch), an experimental work that can be read in different orders with multiple endings.

Cortázar was a French-Argentine author and one of the founders of the Latin American Boom, a literary movement of the 1960’s and 70’s that saw young Latin American authors achieving wider distribution and fame.

22. “La vida es una serie de colisiones con el futuro; no es una suma de lo que hemos sido, sino de lo que anhelamos ser.” – José Ortega y Gasset

English translation: Life is a series of collisions with the future; it is not a sum of what we have been, but of what we hope to be.

Spanish philosopher and essayist José Ortega y Gasset wrote on a broad range of issues and was a considerably influential voice during the political upheaval of early 20th century Spain.

This quote demonstrates a present perfect conjugation of the verb ser (“to be”) with hemos sido (“we have been”).

One verb in this quote that you might not have seen before is anhelar, which means “to long (for)”. 

23. “Para hacer realidad un gran sueño, el primer requisito es una gran capacidad de soñar; el segundo es la persistencia.” – César Chávez

spanish quotes

English translation: To make a great dream come true, the first requirement is a great capacity to dream. The second is persistence.

César Chávez was a Mexican American labor leader and civil rights activist who fought for fair pay and working conditions for California farmworkers in the 1960’s and 70’s.

Chávez was particularly committed to non-violent methods of resistance, and his work and philosophies made him a hero among those fighting for labor activism and racial justice.

24. “El que quiere interesar a los demás tiene que provocarlos.” — Salvador Dali

English translation: He who wants to interest others must provoke them.

Salvador Dali was a hugely influential 20th century Spanish surrealist painter who was known for his bizarre and memorable works as well as for his eccentric behavior.

With his ostentatious sense of style and unabashed boastfulness, Dali certainly embodied the philosophy of this quote.

25. “Quien ha visto la esperanza, no la olvida. La busca bajo todos los cielos y entre todos los hombres.” — Octavio Paz.

English translation: He who has seen hope does not forget it. He looks for it under every sky and among all men.

This is another quote from Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz, whose work thoroughly explored both Mexican culture and society and the cultures of other places.

Paz sought to showcase plurality and diversity in his work, and the quote above is a fitting sentiment from a man who lived in many places and wrote about a wide variety of people and ideas.

26. “La historia nunca dice ‘Adiós’. Lo que dice siempre es un ‘Hasta luego’.” — Eduardo Galeano

English translation: History never says “Farewell”. What it always says is “See you later.”

This quote from Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano highlights two very different ways that Spanish speakers say “Goodbye.”

“Adiós” is a much more formal and heartfelt goodbye which often implies a long-term parting. Whereas “Hasta luego” is a much more casual goodbye that very literally states that you’ll see each other again soon.

So this quote is essentially saying the same thing as “history repeats itself,” but with some clever wordplay.

 

When it comes to Spanish learning, there is no predetermined pathway. 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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