The Complete User’s Guide to Volver A: How to Master the Phrase
One of the first Spanish-language musicians I started listening to was Juanes.
This was largely due to the fact that my high school Spanish teacher was a passionate Juanes fan. She frequently had us listen to and translate Juanes songs in class, and after a while, I became hooked.
One of those songs was the hit “Volverte a ver.”
I highly recommend giving it a listen. It is very catchy!
I quickly learned that the word volver in the title could not be translated literally.
Its usual meaning, “to return,” did not seem to make much sense in the context.
As I learned from listening to the song, the phrase volver a in this case means “to do something again.” As a whole, the title “Volverte a ver” means “to see you again.”
Once I learned the phrase volver a, it started showing up everywhere—in other songs, in stories and in casual conversation.
It can be a very useful phrase!
Read on to learn when and how to use it in your own speech and writing.
Volver A: 5 Steps to Mastering This Simple but Useful Phrase
1. The Basics of Using Volver A
As mentioned above, the Spanish verb volver generally means “to return.”
But that little Spanish preposition a can change the meaning of the verb slightly.
In many contexts, the Spanish phrase “volver a ___” means “to do ___ again.” So, “volver a llorar” means “to cry again” and volver a comenzar means “to start again.”
Volver is a slightly tricky stem-changing –er verb, so to help you out, we have provided here the conjugations for volver a in the present tense:
Yo vuelvo a
Tú vuelves a
El/ella/usted vuelve a
Nosotros volvemos a
Vosotros volvéis a
Ellos/ellas/ustedes vuelven a
If you are feeling unsure about the pronunciation of these stem-changing conjugations, or of any of the other Spanish words in this article, Forvo is a great resource. You can use this website to look up any word and hear it pronounced by native speakers.
Here are a few example sentences in the present tense to help you get the hang of using this highly useful phrase.
La maestra vuelve a intentar empezar la clase, pero los estudiantes no se callan.
The teacher tries again to begin class, but the students do not quiet down.
Vuelvo a pedir disculpas por lo que te hice.
I ask again for forgiveness for what I did to you.
¿Vuelves a salir esta noche o te quedas en casa?
Are you going out again tonight or are you staying home?
2. Volver a in the Past and Present Perfect Tenses
Of course, volver a does not only function in the present tense. In fact, the preterite (past) and present-perfect tense versions of this phrase can be very common and useful as well.
Anyone who has been learning Spanish for a while knows that one of the trickiest things about the language is the number of verb conjugations to learn—especially when so many of them are irregular!
For this reason, verb phrases like volver a are especially helpful, because you only have to learn the conjugation for one verb.
In the preterite (past) tense, conjugate volver a like this:
Yo volví a
Tú volviste a
El/ella/usted volvió a
Nosotros volvimos a
Vosotros volvisteis a
Ellos/ellas/ustedes volvieron a
For example, you could say:
Me desperté, pero dentro de poco volví a dormir.
I woke up, but I quickly fell back asleep.
Los jugadores volvieron a intentar meter un gol.
The players tried again to score a goal.
The present-perfect tense is similar. Those conjugations are:
Yo he vuelto a
Tú has vuelto a
El/ella/usted ha vuelto a
Nosotros hemos vuelto a
Vosotros habéis vuelto a
Ellos/ellas/ustedes han vuelto a
This one is even easier, because you only need to learn the conjugations of haber and the participle vuelto.
¿Para qué has vuelto a mencionar eso?
Why have you brought that up again?
Using the basics provided in this article, you should be able to use the phrase volver a in other verb tenses as well—such as the past perfect or the future tense.
3. Avoiding Confusion with Volver a’s Other Meanings
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, the verb volver literally translates to “to return” and in many cases volver a means “to do ___ again.”
However, this is not always the case. In some cases, it can also mean “to return to [a place]” or “to return [at a specific time].”
The key is to look at what comes after the preposition a. If it is a place or an expression of time, the verb volver in context probably means “to return.”
Después del almuerzo, volvimos a la oficina.
After dinner, we returned to the office.
Ellos salieron tarde, y volvieron a las cinco de la mañana.
They went out late, and returned at five in the morning.
4. Other Ways to Say “Do Again” in Spanish
This article is all about volver a—but that is far from the only way to express the idea “do ___ again” in Spanish.
It is good to diversify one’s vocabulary in order to increase comprehension and sound more like a native speaker. So, here are a few more ways to say the same thing in Spanish. (We will also show how to change these sentences to use volver a.)
Literal translation: “other time”
Quiero verte otra vez.
I want to see you again.
Using volver a, you could say: Quiero volver a verte or quiero volverte a ver.
Literal translation: “of new”
De nuevo empezaron a subir a la montaña.
They started climbing the mountain again.
You could also say: Volvieron a empezar a subir a la montaña.
Literal translation: “newly”
El estudiante lee nuevamente el libro de texto.
The student re-reads the textbook.
Or, say: El estudiante vuelve a leer el libro de texto.
5. Useful Phrases with Volver A
Volver a can be a highly useful phrase in many contexts. Here are a few common usages of it. Add these sayings to your repertoire to sound more like a native speaker instantly.
Vuelvo a decir… (I’ll say it again…)
Use this saying in debates, arguments or any time you need to emphasize a point you have previously made. Said with the right tone, it can sound very forceful and can help you reiterate a particularly strong argument.
Vuelvo a decir que su plan no va a funcionar.
I’ll say again that your plan is not going to work.
Nunca más vuelvo a… (Never again will I…)
In this article, we have mostly discussed the positive usages of the term, but unsurprisingly, it can be used in the negative as well. This saying helps you express things that you will never, ever do again.
Nunca más vuelvo a confiar en ella.
I’m never going to trust her again.
Volver a nacer (To be reborn)
This phrase can refer to something literally growing back (such as a plant) but it can also symbolically refer to being revived (such as after an illness).
It can also take a figurative, spiritual or religious meaning, similar to the English-language concept of “rebirth.”
Vender todas mis cosas y mudarme a otro país fue como volver a nacer.
Selling all of my things and moving to another country was like being reborn.
Volver a caer en lo mismo (To fall again in the same thing)
This colloquial expression has a meaning that most of us can relate to on some level. It refers to those times that you keep making the same mistake over and over again—a lot like the English expression “tripping over the same stone.”
Shakira takes a different take on this saying in her song “Lo hecho está hecho” (What’s done is done):
“Lo hecho está hecho, volví a tropezar con la misma piedra que hubo siempre”.
“What’s done is done, I tripped again on the same stone that was always there.”
Caer y volver a levantarse (Fall and get back up again)
This expression is quite a bit more optimistic than the last one. It refers to those moments when you fail but try again.
No siempre vas a tener éxito en el primer intento. Hay que caer y volver a levantarse.
You’re not always going to be successful on the first try. You have to fall and get back up again.
Once you have learned this super common Spanish phrase, you will likely see it all over the place, just as I did when I first learned it. Incorporate it into your speech instead of using otra vez and de nuevo all the time. The variety will make you sound more like a native Spanish speaker.
So, does volver a make sense to you? If not, we hope that you will volver a leer este artículo (read this article again) until you feel comfortable using this useful Spanish phrase!