Saying 'To Want' in Spanish

'Querer' Is Most Common Translation

bottles of soft drinks
Quisiera dos gaseosas por favor. (I would like two carbonated drinks, please.). Carlos de Paz/Creative Commons.

The most common Spanish verb for "to want" is querer, which can be used in much the same way as the English verb:

  • ¿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; 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.)

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.
  • The relative pronoun que followed by a clause that uses a verb in the subjunctive mood. Reduzca is in the subjunctive mood in the final 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 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?)(
  • Pedimos un empleo de alta calidad. (We want a high-quality employee.)
  • Piden 900 pesos por día por una sombrilla en Mar del Plata. (They want 900 pesos per day for a beach umbrella on Mar del Plata.)

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.)
  • Todos ellos buscan trabajos que puedan proveerles la oportunidad de aprender. (They all want 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.)
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    Erichsen, Gerald. "Saying 'To Want' in Spanish." ThoughtCo, Feb. 28, 2017, Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, February 28). Saying 'To Want' in Spanish. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Saying 'To Want' in Spanish." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 17, 2018).