Saying ‘To Want’ in Spanish

‘Querer’ is most common translation

teaching about querer
Conjugando "querer". (Conjugating "querer.").

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The English verb "to want" can be translated to Spanish in at least five ways, the most common of them being querer.

Using Querer

When querer is used to mean "to want," is can be used almost exactly the same way as the English verb. You should be aware, however, that querer is also a common way of expressing romantic affection, and "Te quiero" is a common way of saying "I love you."

Some examples of querer for "want":

  • ¿Qué quieres hacer? (What do you want to do?)
  • Solo quiero verte. (I only want to see you.)
  • Siempre quise un viaje al Perú. (I always wanted a trip to Peru.)
  • Quiero tres tacos y un refresco, por favor. (I want three tacos and a soft drink, please.)
  • No queremos dinero; shopping argentina queremos justicia. (We don't want money. We want justice.)
  • Los manifestantes quieren que el gobierno reduzca los impuestos federales. (The demonstrators want the government to reduce federal taxes.)
  • Hace una semana quisimos las frutas, pero ahora no las queremos. (A week ago we wanted the fruits, but now we don't want them.)

Querer typically is followed by one of three grammatical constructions:

  • An infinitive, often translated to English as an infinitive (the verb form beginning with "to"). Infinitives in the first two examples above are hacer and ver (in verte).
  • One or more nouns. The nouns serving as objects of querer are viaje in the third sentence, tacos and refresco in the fourth, and dinero and justicia in the fifth. Alternatively, a pronoun can be placed before the verb, as in the second half of the final example.
  • The relative pronoun que followed by a clause that uses a verb in the subjunctive mood. Reduzca is in the subjunctive mood in the fifth example.

Using Desear for 'Want'

Because querer is conjugated irregularly, beginning Spanish students instead often use desear, which is used in the same way as querer.

However, desear is used less often and is more formal; in many situations it can sound overly flowery, which is one reason it seems common on Spanish-language greeting cards. Desear can have romantic or sexual overtones in some contexts (it comes from the same origin as the English verb "desire"), so you should exercise caution when using it to refer to people.

  • Deseo aprender sobre este curso. (I want to learn about this course.)
  • Desean el regreso de las libertades, la llegada de la democracia. (They want the return of liberty, the arrival of democracy.)
  • Deseo que tengas un buen día. (I want you to have a great day.)

Using Pedir for 'Want'

When "want" refers to asking or requesting, it is often best translated using pedir:

  • ¿Cuánto pide ella por su coche? (How much does she want for her car? Literally, how much is she asking for her car?)
  • Pedimos un empleo de alta calidad. (We want a high-quality employee. Literally, we are asking for a high-quality employee.)
  • Piden 900 pesos por día por una sombrilla en la playa. (They want 900 pesos per day for an umbrella on the beach. Literally, they are asking for 900 pesos per day for an umbrella on the beach.)

Using Buscar for 'Want'

If "want" could be replaced by "look for" or "seek," you can use buscar.

  • Te buscan en la oficina. (You're wanted at the office. Literally, they're looking for you at the office.)
  • Muchos estadounidenses buscan casa en México. (Many Americans want a house in Mexico. Literally, many Americans are looking for a house in Mexico.)
  • Todos ellos buscan trabajos que puedan proveerles la oportunidad de aprender. (They all want jobs that offer them the opportunity to learn. Literally, they all are looking for jobs that offer them the opportunity to learn.)

Translating an Older Use of 'Want'

Although not common in modern English, "want" is sometimes used to mean "need." In such cases, a verb such as necesitar or a negated use of faltar can be used in translation.

  • ¿Necesitas dinero? (Are you wanting for money?)
  • El Señor es mi pastor, nada me faltará. (The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.)

Key Takeaways

  • The most common Spanish verb for "to want" are querer and desear, which typically are followed by an infinitive, a noun, or que and a verb in the subjunctive mood.
  • When "want" refers to asking for or requesting something, pedir can be used.
  • When "want" refers to seeking or looking for something, buscar can be used.