Spanish Lessons


The Spanish Verb Decir

The verb decir (to say, to tell) is very common in Spanish. Let’s learn how to use it.
One of the most commonly used forms of this verb is digo (I say):

Pero si yo digo: Yo voy en el autobús y usted va en el coche,

But if I say: I am going in the bus and you [formal] are going on the car,

Captions 49-51, Fundamentos del Español - 6 - Tú y Usted

 Play Caption


The verb decir is frequently followed by the word que (that):

Yo digo que la fruta es para comerla no para hacerse una fotografía con ella.

I say that fruit is to eat it not to take a picture with it.

Caption 48, Los Reporteros - Sembrar, comer, tirar - Part 2

 Play Caption

Also remember that in Spanish you don't always need to use personal pronouns before verbs, since these are conjugated differently for each person:

Pues entonces rejuvenece coger castañas. -Digo que sí.

Well then, it rejuvenates to pick chestnuts. -I say so.

Captions 18-19, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 4

 Play Caption

Another common instance of the verb decir is dice (he/she/it says). The reason why dice is very useful is because it helps us talk about what we read or hear. For example:
Hay un letrero en la puerta que dice que ya está cerrado | There's a sign on the door sayingit's closed already.
El mensaje dice que viene una gran tormenta | The message says a big storm is coming.
Mayra dice que te tienes que ir | Mayra says you have to go.
We mentioned before that it’s very common to omit personal pronouns before verbs in Spanish. But you will find that the verb decir is frequently preceded by reflexive, direct, or indirect object pronouns (me, te, se, nos, os, le, les, la, las, lo) depending on what is being said and to whom. For example:

¿Quién nos dice que la vida nos dará el tiempo necesario?

Who says [to us] life will give us the necessary time?

Caption 11, Julieta Venegas - El Presente

 Play Caption

Supongamos que un amigo me dice lo siguiente:

Let's imagine that a friend tells me the following:

Caption 44, Carlos explica - Diminutivos y Aumentativos Cap 2: Definiciones generales

 Play Caption

It's also important to remember how pronouns are combined when using this verb. You must place reflexive or indirect object pronouns first, and then direct object pronouns right next to the verb. In the following example te replaces an indirect object (you) and lo (it) replaces a direct object:

Te lo digo de corazón.

I tell [it to] you from the heart.

Caption 25, Documental de Alejandro Fernandez - Viento A Favor

 Play Caption

The past tense dijo (he/she/it said) is another useful form of this verb. For example, you can use it to talk about what someone told you in the past. The expression me lo dijo (he/she/it told it to me) is worth learning:

¡Es verdad, pana, mi hermano me lo dijo!

It's true, pal, my brother told it to me!

Caption 45, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso - Part 3

 Play Caption

No le digas (don’t tell him/her) and no me digas (don’t tell me) are  also useful:

¡No le digas, Candelario!

Don't tell him, Candelario!

Caption 14, Guillermina y Candelario - La Isla de las Serpientes

 Play Caption

Another fixed expression is se dice (it's said, one says), which is equivalent to dice la gente(people say):

Bueno y se dice que la mujer tiene un sexto sentido

Well, and one says that a woman has a sixth sense

Caption 16, Club de las ideas - Intuición - Part 1

 Play Caption



The same phrase, se dice, can also be used to talk about the correct pronunciation of a word, or its meaning in a different language. For example:
Buenos días se dice "bonjour" en Francés | "Bonjour" is good morning in French.
No se dice "soy contento", se dice "estoy contento" | You don't say "soy contento," you say "estoy contento" (I'm happy).
You can find many more examples of the verb decir in our catalog. You just need to type the form of the verb that you want to practice in the search tool to start learning real Spanish from real speakers in real situations!

Merecer la pena

The dictionary tells us that the verb "merecer" means "to deserve." 
No merezco algo así.
I don't deserve something like this.

Aléjate de mí pues tú ya sabes que no te merezco

Get away from me since you already know that I do not deserve you

Caption 18, Camila - Aléjate de mi

 Play Caption
 But songstress Julieta Venegas does not believe that living "deserves the pain" but rather that living "is worth it."

Es contigo, mi vida, con quien puedo sentir... Que merece la pena vivir

It's with you, my honey, with whom I can feel... That life is worth living

Captions 7-8, Julieta Venegas - El Presente

 Play Caption


A few more examples:

Merece la pena estudiar.
Studying is worth it.
¿Merece la pena leer este libro?
Is it worth reading this book?

Merece la pena is synonymous, though perhaps a bit more formal and poetic, with its extremely common cousin, vale la penaOur amigos in Mexico City demonstrate nicely:

Al igual que pues que tiene sus pros y sus contras y... pues aun así vale la pena. ¿OK?

At the same time it has it pros and cons and... well, even so it's still worth it. OK?

Captions 47-49, Amigos D.F. - Te presento...

 Play Caption



The verb valer commonly means "to be worth."
Una imagen vale más que mil palabras.
A picture is worth more than a thousand words. 
Also of note:

If you've ever been to Spain, you know that ¿Vale? (OK?) or Vale. (OK.) is slang that is thrown around a lot amongst Spaniards. ¿Vale?


Signup to get Free Spanish Lessons sent by email

¿Qué "quien" lleva tilde?

Let's drop in on our two lovely tourists, Juliana and Paola, enjoying their summer holiday in Spain:


Eh... y bueno, ahora estamos con Karla, con quien iremos a caminar y a pasear un rato.

Eh... and well, now we're with Karla, with whom we're going to stroll and walk around for a while.

Captions 20-21, Sevilla, España - Porteñas paseando

 Play Caption


Quien (who/whom) does not take an accent (a tilde) over the e when it is acting in its role of relative pronoun, as is the case here. Relative pronouns "relate" to a nearby noun or pronoun. In this case, quien relates to "Karla," "with whom" the girls are going to go for a stroll.
Fui ayer a la feria con tu prima, quien me dijo que está en embarazo.
Yesterday I went to the fair with your cousin, who told me that she's pregnant.

Once again, quien is clearly acting as a relative pronoun, referring to "your cousin,"
and so is written with no accent over the e.

So what about cases where the sentence contains no noun or pronoun to which quien refers?

Quite often, this is a sign that an accent is needed. The most common case is when quién takes on the role of "interrogative pronoun," which, as the name implies, involves a question, as when the powerful and beautiful Julieta Venegas ponders:


¿Quién nos dice que la vida nos dará el tiempo necesario?

Who says that life will give us the necessary time?

Caption 3, Julieta Venegas - El Presente

 Play Caption 


And quién is utilized in indirect questions as well, as Juliana, back in Sevilla, demonstrates for us:


No sé quién irá a ver este video...

I don't know who will watch this video...

Caption 13, Sevilla, España - Porteñas paseando

 Play Caption


How would we treat quién if Julia were to have made her statement positive?


Yo sé quién irá a ver este video...
I know who will watch this video...


As it turns out, an accent is still required, even though most English speakers would not consider this an indirect question. You might look at this as a case where an indirect question is present, but it is being answered. The highly respected María Moliner dictionary calls this type of usage aclaratoria (explanatory). Note that there is still no noun or pronoun present to which quién is referring, so it is not behaving as a relative pronoun.

Like other interrogative pronouns, quién also retains the tilde when used in exclamatory way. (You will notice that these "quién" exclamations don't translate to English literally.)


¡Quién pudiera tener tus ojos!
If I only had your eyes!

¡Quién te escuchara todas las bobadas que estás diciendo!
If only the rest of the world could hear all the stupid things you are saying!


So, are there cases where quien doesn't relate to a nearby noun or pronoun, but still doesn't take an accent? Yes, when the "who" refers to some non-specific person, and so is taking on the role of "indefinite pronoun."


Quien mucho habla, no tiene nada que decir.
The person/a person who speaks a lot has nothing to say.


In this same vein, the phrase como quien means "like a person who" or "like someone who," sometimes best translated into English with "as if he/she [were someone he/she is not]":


Él contestó el interrogatorio como quien nunca hubiera conocido a la víctima.
He answered the interrogation like someone who (as if he [was someone who]) never had met the victim.



And, in another "indefinite" role, quien can also be used in place of nadie que (nobody that / nobody who) in phrases like this one:


No hay quien me detenga.
There is not anybody who can stop me. / There is nobody who can stop me.
[In English we can't have the double negative]


Signup to get Free Spanish Lessons sent by email

You May Also Like