So, muchachos, ready for a super practical lesson on common phrasal verbs in Spanish today? Alright, alright, we know Spanish grammar terms aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s important to learn what a phrasal verb is: phrasal verbs are verbs that are made up of a verb and a particle, which is usually a preposition. If you leave out the preposition or use the wrong one, they may mean something different or may not even be a correct verb!
Spanish phrasal verbs are just as common as English phrasal verbs. In our tutorial and worksheet, we’ve chosen to include some examples of phrasal verbs combined with adjectives too, especially very common ones that are also not easy to translate literally. Some are irregular verbs, so you also get a bit of extra practice with that!
Read through the list of common phrasal verb examples and do the exercise at the end to test your knowledge!
Acabar de (to have just finished an action)
Acabo de volver de la tienda.
(I’ve just come back from the shop.)
This phrasal verb is super common. Little grammar note: in English, we’ve got the construction of just + verb in the present perfect, as seen in the example, but note that in Spanish you would just conjugate the verb acabar in the present to express the exact same thing.
Caer bien (to be liked, referring to a person)
Tu prima Clarita me cae super bien.
(I really like your cousin Clarita.)
Don’t think we’re suggesting Latinos gossip more than the rest of the world, but this phrasal verb is used a lot, and you might not guess its meaning if you heard it without the corresponding explanation.
Caer mal (to not be liked, or referring to a person or when a food doesn’t agree with you)
Uff, creo que ese huevo frito estaba malogrado, me cayó super mal.
(Oof, I think that fried egg was spoiled, it really upset my stomach.)
It’s interesting how this phrasal verb means something fairly different, depending on the context!
Contar con (to have / to be able to count on someone)
El spa del hotel cuenta con piscina, jacuzzi y sauna.
(The spa hotel has a swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna.)
Andreas es lo máximo, siempre puedes contar con él.
(Andreas is the best, you can always count on him.)
We included two examples here because the two meanings of the verbs are so different. An absolutely vital phrasal verb to have in your active vocabulary!
Darse cuenta de (to realize)
¿Cuándo Marina se dará cuenta de que su relación no se va a ningún lado?
(When will Marina realize that her relationship is going nowhere?)
This phrasal verb is an absolute must!
Dejar de (to stop doing something)
Deja de hacer eso, ¡me molesta!
(Stop doing that, it bothers me!)
It’s important to note the difference between to stop making a movement, which would be parar, and to stop (doing an activity) which is the above dejar de + verb.
Estar de acuerdo (to agree)
¿Ustedes están de acuerdo con esa idea?
(Do you agree with that idea?)
Another super important Spanish phrasal verb here for everyday conversation, and as is often the case, this isn’t a phrasal verb in English, since it’s just “to agree”.
Estar por (to be about to do something)
No puedo hablar ahora, estoy por entrar a clase.
(I can’t talk right now, I’m about to enter class.)
A tiny nugget of knowledge to help you demystify the enigma that is the difference between por and para: at least one more fixed expression where estar should be collocated with por.
Llevar a cabo (to carry out)
Necesitamos llevar a cabo una limpieza profunda en la oficina.
(We have to carry out some profound cleaning in the office.)
Where in English “to carry out” is the formal equivalent of “to do”, in Spanish we have the phrasal verb llevar a cabo as a formal equivalent of hacer.
Pensar en (to think about)
¡Ricardo ya está pensando en sus vacaciones y todavía faltan 3 meses!
(Ricardo is already thinking about his vacations and it’s not for another 3 months!)
This one is important because it’s so commonly done incorrectly by new Spanish speakers as they translate it literally as pensar sobre. That could be understood as to think as in “to have an opinion about”, but there’s a better way of saying that, which you’ll see in number 11.
Pensar de (to have an opinion about)
¿Qué pensarán mis compañeros de trabajo de mí si llego tres horas tarde al trabajo?
(What will my co-workers think about me if I get to work three hours late?)
This collocation of pensar + de is much less common than pensar + en that we treated in example 11.
Ponerse a (to start to do something, often suddenly and it can refer to emotions)
La niña se puso a llorar porque el perro la había asustado.
(The girl started to cry because the dog had scared her.)
You might already know empezar a to carry the same meaning, but ponerse a is used as much, if not more, and will make your Spanish sound much more natural.
Soñar con (to dream about)
Anoche mi esposo soñó con tiburones, ¿que significará eso?
(Last night my husband dreamed of sharks, I wonder what that means?)
This is another example of a phrasal verb where the preposition is not a direct translation of the one used in English, so English speakers beware!
Tener ganas de (to feel like doing something)
Como siempre, los alumnos no tienen ganas de ordenar el salón.
(As always, the students don’t feel like tidying the classroom.)
Use this expression to make sure you’re not only using querer (to want) to express what you do or don’t feel like doing because it’s a bit less direct.
Tener que ver con (to have to do with something)
Wilbert no entiende qué tiene que ver ese comentario con el tema que estamos hablando.
(Wilbert doesn’t understand what that comment has to do with the topic we’re talking about.)
This is a good example of one of those separable phrasal verbs, because you’ll often put the object in between ver and con, as demonstrated in the example.
Volver a (to do something again)
¡Qué lindo cantaste! ¿Puedes volver a cantar esa canción?
(You sang so beautifully! Can you sing that song again?)
It’s worth noting that if you use this verb with a place, it simply means “to return to that place”, but the focus here is to use it with another verb.
Here’s a quick exercise to help you review the above Spanish phrasal verbs! Just choose the right preposition from the underlined options given. We’ve included the English translation of the sentence. (Find the answers below.)
- ¡A Belinda le encanta soñar en / con / sobre viajes a lugares exóticos!
- Belinda loves dreaming about travels to exotic places!
- Me caen para / mal / bien las personas que siempre te ayudan cuando lo necesitas.
- I like people that always help you when you need it.
- ¡Gracias por pensar en / sobre / de mí!
- Thanks for thinking about me.
- De repente Luis se dio cuenta por / en / de que se había olvidado sus llaves dentro del carro.
- Luis suddenly realized that he had forgotten his keys inside his car.
- A veces mi profesora de español habla de cosas que no tener que ver de / con / en el idioma.
- Sometimes my Spanish teacher talks about things that have nothing to do with the language.
- ¡Ven! ¡el concierto está por / para / en empezar!
- Come! The concert is about to start!
Well done! ¡Hasta pronto muchachos!