Using 'Hacer'

Versatile Verb Has Many Uses

wind in trees
Hace mucho viento. (It's very windy.). Photo by Christian Frausto Bernal; licensed via Creative Commons.

Hacer is one of the most versatile verbs in the Spanish language, and it is used in a wide range of expressions that you'll use daily. Although it is often said to mean "to make" or "to do," in context it can refer to almost any activity as well as the act of becoming.

Except as a simple question ("¿hace?" can mean something like "will that do?" and "¿qué haces?" means "what are you doing?" or "what are you making?"), hacer very seldom stands alone. It is almost always followed by a noun.

Keep in mind that hacer, like most much-used verbs, is highly irregular. In fact, some of them are almost unrecognizable: Hagamos algo constructivo. (Let's do something constructive.) Haz clic aquí. (Click here.)

Here are some of the most common uses of hacer:

To indicate the making or creation of something: A number of translations of the verb can be used in English depending on what is being made.

  • Examples: Vamos a hacer una página web. (We're going to design a web page.) Hizo una casa grande en Chicago. (He built a large house in Chicago.) Hice un libro sobre mi tía. (I wrote a book about my aunt.) El árbol hace sombra. (The tree provides shade.)

As a general verb meaning "to do": Hacer can refer to an activity in general, or it can replace a verb used earlier.

  • Examples: No hizo nada. (She didn't do anything.) Yo comía mucho y él hacía el mismo. (I ate a lot and he did the same.) Haz lo que digo, no lo que hago. (Do what I say, not what I do.) Hice mal en no estudiar. (I did wrong not to study.)

As part of an expression or idiom indicating an act of some kind:

  • ¿Quieres hacer una pregunta? (Do you want to ask a question?) El acto terrorista le hizo daño a mucha gente. (The terrorist act hurt a lot of people.) Hizo pedazos el comprobante. (He tore the receipt into pieces.)

In weather terms: Typically, weather terms use a third-person singular form of hacer followed by a noun.

  • Examples: Hace frío. (It's cold.) Hacía viento por todas partes. (It was windy everywhere.)

In time expressions: Typically, hace is followed by a period of time to indicate how long ago something happened or started.

  • Examples: El dólar cae a niveles de hace dos años. (The dollar is falling to levels of two years ago.) Este virus se descubrió hace poco tiempo. (This virus was discovered a short time ago.) La tengo desde hace tres días y estoy muy contento con ella. (I have had it since three days ago and am very happy with it.)

To show causation: In some cases, hacer is used similarly to the English "make" to indicate why sometime happened.

  • Ella me hace feliz. (She makes me happy.) Eso me hizo sentir mal. (That made me feel bad.)

To indicate the act of becoming: The reflexive form hacerse is often used to indicate change.

  • Examples: Se hace más feliz. (He's becoming happier.) Me hice hindú. (I became a Hindu.) Se hicieron amigos. (They became friends.)

In various impersonal expressions: In some cases, hacer can become the equivalent of "to be."

  • Examples: Hace un día espléndido. (It's a terrific day.) Voy si hace falta. (I'm going if it's necessary.)

To indicate the taking of a role: The role can be deliberate or not.

  • Examples: Hizo el papel estelar en "El Barbero de Sevilla." (He had the starring role in "The Barber of Seville.") Hacía el tonto con perfección. (He played the perfect fool.) Hizo como que no entendía nada. (She acted as if she understood nothing.)

To indicate how something seems: The reflexive form hacerse is sometimes used in this way.

  • Examples: Piorno se hace simpático por su acento caribeño. (Piorno seems friendly because of his Caribbean accent.) Las horas se hacían muy largas. (The hours seemed very long.)