Using the Spanish Verb ‘Caer’

Meanings include ‘to fall’ and ‘to succumb’

woman about to fall
¡No caigas! (Don't fall!).

 Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

The Spanish verb caer usually carries the idea of "to fall" and can be used in a variety of situations. While many of its uses can be translated using the English verb "fall," a few cannot.

Using Caer for ‘To Fall’ and ‘To Fall Over’

Here are some examples of everyday usage where caer is straightforwardly used for "to fall" or "to fall over":

  • El avión cayó en el océano. (The plane fell into the ocean.)
  • Si del cielo te caen limones, aprende a hacer limonada. (If lemons fall to you from the sky, learn to make lemonade.)
  • Los barcos cayeron por las cataratas del Niágara. (The boats dropped over Niagara Falls.)
  • El joven sufrió un grave accidente al caer desde el tejado de la fábrica. (The youth had a serious accident when he fell from the factory's roof.)
  • El coche cayó por el barranco por causas que se desconocen. (The car fell over the cliff for unknown reasons.)
  • El tanque se cayó de un puente. (The tank fell off a bridge.)

The same meaning can be applied figuratively:

  • Exportaciones colombianas cayeron en 18,7 por ciento. (Colombian exports fell 18.7 percent.)
  • El turismo en Bolivia cayó por la gripe. (Bolivian tourism declined because of the flu.)

Caer can also be used when speaking of weather:

  • Las lluvias fuertes y prolongadas cayeron sobre Cuenca. (The strong and long-lasting rains fell on Cuenca.)
  • La extraordinaria belleza de la nieve que caía le provocaba más alegría. (The extraordinary beauty of the snow that fell made him more joyful.)
  • Rompiendo un record, la temperatura cayó 43 grados en tan solo una semana. (Breaking a record, the temperature fell 43 degrees in only a week.) 

Depending on the context, a synonym for "fall" can provide a better translation:

  • Algunas estructuras cayeron tras el fuerte sismo de esta madrugada. (Some structures collapsed after the strong earthquake this morning.)
  • El mercado de valores cayó debido a una combinación de pánico y venta programada. (The stock market collapsed due to a combination of panic and programmed selling.)
  • La niña se cayó en el hielo. (The girl slipped on the ice.)

Using Caer for ‘To Succumb’

Caer is frequently used to indicate the idea of succumbing or being overtaken by a force of some sort, or to fall into an error. The translation can vary with the context.

  • La cantante confesó que cayó en la anorexia y la bulimia. (The singer admitted that she sank into anorexia and bulimia.)
  • Caí en la tentación de ser infiel. (I succumbed to the temptation of being unfaithful.)
  • El hombre cayó en la trampa del FBI. (The man fell into the FBI's trap.)
  • No caigas en el error de prometer lo que no puedes conseguir. (Don't make the mistake of making promises you cannot keep.)
  • París cayó bajo los tanques nazis. (Paris fell to the Nazi tanks.)
  • Tras padecer un cáncer, caí en depresión. (After suffering from cancer, I fell into depression.)

Using Caer With Dates

Caer can be used to mean that something falls on a particular date. It is used mostly commonly with days of the week.

  • Este año mi cumpleaños cae en jueves. (This year my birthday falls on a Thursday.)
  • Si el día 30 de abril cae en domingo la fiesta se traslada al día 29. (If April 30th falls on a Sunday, the festival is moved to the 29th.)

Using Caer To Indicate Compatibility

Caer can be used with an indirect-object pronoun to suggest the idea of "to get along with" or "to be OK with." The translation varies with context; often, a translation of "to like" or "dislike" will do.

  • Me caen bien tus amigos. (I like your friends. Or, I get along with your friends.)
  • Esto no va a caer muy bien a los otros equipos. (The other teams aren't going to be pleased with this.)
  • No me cayó bien la decisión. (I didn't like the decision. Or, the decision wasn't fine with me.)
  • Ese desodorante le cae mal a mi piel. (That deodorant bothers my skin.)
  • ¿Que profesores te caían mejor? (Which teachers did you like best?)
  • Me cayó mal la comida. (The meal disagreed with me.)

Conjugation of Caer

Caer is conjugated irregularly. Irregular forms are shown in boldface below. Translations given are those most commonly used.

Gerund:: cayendo (falling)

Past participle: caído (fallen)

Present indicative: caigo, tú caes, el/ella/usted cae, nosotros/nosotras caemos, vosotros/vosotras caéis, ellos/ellas/ustedes caen (I fall, you fall, he/she falls, etc.)

Preterite: yo caí, tú caíste, el/ella/usted cayó, nosotros/nosotras caímos, vosotros/vosotras caísteis, ellos/ellas/ustedes cayeron (I fell, you fell, etc.)

Present subjunctive: que caiga, que caigas, que el/ella/usted caiga, que nosotros/nosotras caigamos, que vosotros/vosotras cagáis, que ellos/ellas/ustedes caigan (that I fall, that you fall, etc.)

Imperfect subjunctive: que yo cayera/cayese, que cayeras/cayeses, que el/ella/usted cayera/cayese, que nosotros/nosotras cayéramos/cayésemos, que vosotros/vosotras cayerais/cayeseis, que ellos/ellas/ustedes cayeran/cayesen (that I fell, that you fell, etc.)

Affirmative imperative: cae tú, caiga usted, caigamos nosotros, caed vosotros/vosotras, caigan ustedes (you fall, you fall, let us fall, etc.)

Negative imperative: no caigas tú, no caiga usted, no caigamos nosotros/nosotras, no cagáis vosotros/vosotras, no caigan ustedes (don't you fall, don't you fall, let us fall, etc.)

Using the Past Participle of Caer as a Noun

When used as a noun, the past participle of caer has several specific uses:

  • Caído or caída can refer to someone who has died for a cause, especially in combat: Tengo mucho respeto para los veteranos por su valor militar y para todos los caídos de la guerra. (I have much respect for vererans for their military valor and for all the war's fallen.)
  • Caída can refer to the dropping or falling of something: La caída de piedras en la carretera causó su cierre en ambos sentidos. (The rockfall on the highway caused its closure in both directions.)
  • Caída can similarly refer to a loss in value, such as a price drop: El Banco Central anunció la inyección de 4.000 millones de dólares para frenar caída del peso. (The Central Bank announced the injection of $4 billion dollars to stop the peso's slide.)

Key Takeaways

  • Caer is a common Spanish verb that is usually the equivalent of "to fall" in its major uses.
  • Depending on the context, caer or the noun form caído can also be used to refer dying or those who have died, respectively.
  • Caer is highly irregular in its conjugation.
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Erichsen, Gerald. "Using the Spanish Verb ‘Caer’." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Erichsen, Gerald. (2020, August 27). Using the Spanish Verb ‘Caer’. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Using the Spanish Verb ‘Caer’." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 22, 2023).