Using 'Quitar'

Common Verb Typically Conveys Idea of Removal

Robin Hood for lesson on Spanish verb quitar
Robin Hood le quitó el dinero a los ricos. (Robin Hood stole money from the rich.). Chris Hepburn/Getty Images

With a basic meaning of "to remove," the everyday Spanish verb quitar has a wider variety of meanings than the simple translation might suggest. Common translations, depending on the context, include "to remove," "to take away," "to diminish," "to eliminate," and "to take off." Although it may have a distant etymological connection with the English word "quiet," quitar doesn't have a related meaning, although it can be used to mean "quit" when used in a particular phrase as shown in the final entry below.

Quitar Meaning 'To Remove'

"To remove" is the simplest and most common meaning for quitar, and the other meanings overlap with it. Note how you can vary the translation considerably depending on the context. For example, while it is common in English to say you can remove your clothes, you can also take them off. But while you can remove a television from your room, you don't take it off, although you might take it out.

  • Me quité los zapatos y no sé dónde los dejé. (I took off my shoes and don't know where I left them.)
  • Quiero que quites esos libros de mi casa. (I want you to take those books out of my house.)
  • Con toda delicadeza y cuidado, Peter le quitó la astilla con su cuchillo. (Very delicately and carefully, Peter removed the sliver with his knife.)
  • Un paciente necesita tomar la medicina por 7 a 10 días para quitar la infección completamente. (A patient needs to take the medicine for seven to 10 days in order to completely get rid of the infection.)
  • ¡Quítate de mi camino! (Get out of my way! Literally, get yourself out of my path!)

Quitar for 'Take' or 'Take Away'

In some contexts, removal can suggest the taking of something. Where the taking is involuntary, quitar sometimes has the meaning of "to rob."

  • Robin Hood le quitó el dinero a los ricos. (Robin Hood stole money from the rich.)
  • Le quitaron el record a Palermo. (They took the record away from Palermo.)
  • El ladrón me quitó todas mis pertenencias. (The thief robbed me of all my belongings.)
  • El trabajo me quita muchas horas del día. (Work uses up many of my hours of the day.)
  • La gente nos quitaba las bolsas de manzanas y melocotones de las manos. (The people took the bags of apples and peaches out of our hands.)

Using Quitar With Reference to Feelings

Quitar sometimes refers to the removal or elimination of emotions or feelings. Translations can vary with the feeling affected.

  • Podemos disfrutar un sorbo que nos quitará la sed. (We can enjoy a sip that will quench our thirst.)
  • Quiero quitar el dolor de muelas sin ir al dentista. (I want to end my dental pain without going to the dentist.)
  • Las Tic Tacs tienen solo dos calorias cada una y te quitan el hambre. (Tic Tacs have only two calories apiece and take away your hunger.)
  • Teníamos un montón de informes favorables que nos quitaron el miedo. (We had a mountain of good news that overcame our fear.)
  • Los drogas me quitaron la felicidad de abrazar a mi hijo. (The drugs robbed me of the joy of hugging my son.)

Quitar for Quitting

The phrase "quitarse de," which literally means "to remove oneself from," can be used to mean "to quit" when followed by a noun or infinitive.

Dejar is used more often for this purpose, however.

  • Hoy es el día de quitarse de Facebook. (Today is the day to quit Facebook.)
  • Recuerdo que se quitó de fumar por un problema de pulmón. (I remember that she quit smoking because of a lung problem.)

Grammar Tips for Quitar

You may understand some of the sample sentences better by studying the lessons on indirect objects and reflexive pronouns, as quitar is often used with them. Also, see the lesson on possessive adjectives to learn when el and la are used as the equivalent of words such as "my" and "your."