The Four Seasons in Spanish

Definite article is usually used

Tierra del Fuego
Fall colors at Tierra del Fuego National Park in Argentina.

Cultura/Getty Images

Most of the Spanish-speaking world speaks of four seasons of the year (estaciones del año), just as in English:

  • el invierno — winter
  • la primavera — spring
  • el verano — summer (Another word for summer, el estío, has mostly literary use.)
  • el otoño — autumn or fall

As in English, seasons are deemed to begin and end in a formal sense on the year's longest and shortest days. For example, summer begins around June 21 in the Northern Hemisphere but around Dec. 21 in the Southern Hemisphere. But in a popular sense summer can also be thought of as including the hottest months, typically June, July, and August in the Northern Hemisphere but December, January, and February in the Southern Hemisphere.

In much of the tropics, however, just two seasons are recognized locally:

  • la estación lluviosa — rainy season or wet season, which can also be called invierno
  • la estación seca — dry season, which can also be called verano

When To Use the Definite Article With Seasons

The definite article (el or la) is almost always used with the names of the seasons. In many cases, it is used where it isn't in English:

  • La primavera es la época del año en que se manifiestan más evidentemente los procesos del nacimiento y el crecimiento. (Spring is the time of the year in which the processes of birth and growth are most evident.)
  • El otoño me parece abrumadoramente triste. (Autumn seems overwhelmingly sad to me.)
  • El verano se acerca. (Summer is getting near.)
  • No tengo algo para hacer durante el invierno. (I don't have anything to do during winter.)

The same rule applies in the plural form:

  • Los veranos de la ciudad nos traen grandes conciertos. (Summers in the city bring us great concerts.)
  • Me encantan los colores brillantes de los otoños de Nueva Inglaterra. (I love the brilliant colors of New England autumns.)
  • No me gustan los inviernos. (I don't like winters.)

Determiners such as este (this) and un (one) can substitute for the definite article.

  • The names of the four seasons are typically used with definite articles in Spanish.
  • Spanish speakers in the tropics often refer to two seasons, the rainy and dry seasons.
  • It is common to use "de + season" to speak of the seasons in adjective form.

When You Don't Need the Definite Article

The definite article can be omitted (but doesn't have to be) after forms of the verb ser and the prepositions en and de:

  • En verano debemos cuidar el pelo con productos diseñados para esta estación. (In summer we should take care of our hair with products designed for this season.)
  • Los colores de primavera son muy llamativos y bonitos. (Spring colors are very intense and pretty.)
  • Ya era otoño en París. (It was already autumn in Paris.)

Etymology of the Seasons' Names

The main names of the four seasons in Spanish all come from Latin:

  • Invierno comes from hibernum, which is also the source for "hibernate."
  • Primavera is related to primera (first) and ver (to see), because it is the time of year when it is possible to first see new life.
  • Verano comes from veranum, which in Latin could refer to either spring or summer.
  • Otoño comes from autumnus, the source of the English "autumn."

Adjectival Forms

Most of the time, the equivalent of adjectives such as "wintry" and "summery" can be translated by combining the name of the season with de to create a phrase such as de invierno and de verano. There are also separate adjectival forms that are sometimes used: invernal (wintry), primavernal (springlike), veraniego (summery), and otoñal (autumnal).

Verano also has a verb form, veranear, which means to spend the summer away from home.

Sample Sentences Referring to Seasons

  • Cada primavera, las más de 200 especies de plantas con flores que hay en el parque crean una brillante exhibición. (Every spring, the 200-plus species of flowered plants in the park create a brilliant display.)
  • El otoño es un buen momento para visitar México. (Fall is a good time for visiting Mexico.)
  • La estación lluviosa dura en el interior del país desde mayo hasta octubre. (The rainy season lasts in the country's interior from May until October.)
  • ¿Cuánto costará esquiar en Chile este invierno? (How much will it cost to ski in Chile this winter?)
  • Los días de verano son largos. (Summer days are long.)
  • El riesgo de incendios forestales de la estación seca supera este año. (The risk of forest fires in the dry season will increase this year.)
  • Era un verano involidable. (It was an unforgettable summer.)
  • El otoño en Japón es el clima más agradable del año. (Autumn in Japan has the most pleasant weather of the year.)