Verb DOLER, how to express pain in Spanish (A2)

How to say it hurts in Spanish

 In Spanish to say “it hurts” we use the verb DOLER, which can be sometimes quite confusing for students of Spanish. Doler is usually translated as “to hurt”, nevertheless both verbs have grammar structures completely different. The actual meaning of doler would be “to cause pain”. Look at the examples:

Me duele la cabeza (I have a headache).

¿Te duele la espalda? (Does your back hurt?).

Tener dolor de cabeza, to have a headache.

 The first thing you should know about this verb is that it acts the same as the verb GUSTAR: the subject of the sentence is the part of the body where you have the pain (espalda, garganta…learn more body parts vocabulary) and the verb has to agree with this noun,

A mi hijo le duele la garganta (My son’s throat hurts).

Me duelen los pies (My feet hurt).

Notice that, unlike most of the Spanish sentences,  with these verbs, the subject is placed after the verbs. Compare:

Juan tiene unos zapatos nuevos (Juan has new shoes – Juan is the subject of the sentence).

A Juan le duelen los pies (Juan’s feet hurt – where “pies” is the subject of the sentence).

To know who has the pain we need to use an indirect object pronoun (me, te, le, nos, os, les) and the person (although this is optional) preceded by the proposition A.

A mi hijo le duele la garganta.

A Juan le duelen los pies.

Spanish verb DOLER

Verb DOLER in Spanish how it works

Notice that the verb DOLER is irregular in the present tense, it is a stem-changing verb. In other tenses the verbs are regular:

No fui a trabajar porque me dolía la cabeza (I didn’t go to work because I have a headache). 

TENER DOLOR DE... another way to express pain in Spanish

There is another way to express pain in Spanish by using TENER + DOLOR (pain) DE + PART OF THE BODY. So if you want to say I have a headache, you can say Me duele la cabeza or Tengo dolor de cabeza. Both sentences mean exactly the same but with the second one, you avoid to use the indirect object pronouns, but you will have to conjugate TENER which is quite irregular (conjugation of TENER):

Ayer tuve un terrible dolor de cabeza (Yesterday I had an awful headache).

One of the peculiarities of Spanish that you may have noticed in some of the examples above is that Spanish often doesn’t use possessives when referring to body parts when using doler (and in many other instances).

Verb doler exercises

Now let’s practice everything you have learned with the exercises below and learn more vocabulary about the human body. Remember to contact your tutor with any question you have or to ask for more homework about verb doler. Don’t you have a Spanish personal tutor yet?

Please, leave us a comment below if you want we prepare more activities about this topic. 

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