Using 'Soler' in Spanish

Soler expresses the idea that something usually occurs

Mexico City subway metro
Solimos viajar al trabajo por metro al centro de México. (We usually commute by subway to downtown Mexico City.). Eneas De Troya/Creative Commons.

Soler is an auxiliary verb frequently used to indicate that someone does something as a customary practice or that something usually happens. It has no direct English equivalent.

Key Takeaways

  • Soler is an auxiliary verb followed by an infinitive to indicate that the verb's action happens or happened habitually or regularly.
  • Soler is a defective verb in that it is not used in the future and preterite tenses as well as some other forms.
  • Soler can be translated to English in a variety of ways depending on the context, although its basic meaning doesn't change.

How To Use Soler

Although soler is commonly used, it is unusual in at least three ways:

Soler can be translated in a variety of ways, depending on the context, although its basic meaning is always the same. Possible translations are "to be used to," "usually," "customarily," "to regularly" and the like.

Here are some examples of soler in use. Translations given aren't the only possible ones:

  • Suelo utilizar cualquier mochila que tengo a mano. (I usually use whatever backpack I have handy.)
  • Solíamos tener cinco o seis meses de lluvia, pero ahora la temporada de lluvia es mucho más corta. (We used to have five or six months of rain, but now the rainy season is much shorter.)
  • Los movimientos populares masivos en Latinoamérica no suelen atraer a los intelectuales. (Massive popular movements in Latin America do not typically attract intellectuals.)
  • Muchos de los pobres habían solido estar enfermos. (Many of the poor people had been used to being sick.)
  • Solían ir en grupos y vestían todos igual. (They would go in groups and all dress alike.)
  • Hoy en día no es algo que solamos tener en la cocina. (Nowadays it isn't something we usually have in the kitchen.)
  • Según la postura en la que suelas dormir una almohada puede ser buena o no serlo. (A pillow can be good or not good depending on the position in which you usually sleep.)
  • YouTube no es un sitio web que yo suela visitar. (YouTube isn't a website I regularly visit.)
  • No me suelo quedar tranquila. (I'm not used to staying calm.)
  • ¿Qué sueles comer en un restaurante chino? (What do you usually eat in a Chinese restaurant?)

Conjugation

Here is the complete conjugation of the simple forms of soler. Irregular forms, caused by changing the -o- of the stem to -ue- when it is stressed, are in boldface:

  • Present indicative: yo suelo, tú sueles, él/ella/usted suele, nosotros/nosotras solemos, os soléis, ellos/ellas/ustedes suelen
  • Imperfect: yo solía, tú solías, él/ella/usted solía, nosotros/nosotras solíamos, os solíais, ellos/ellas/ustedes solían.
  • Present subjunctive: yo suela, tú suelas, él/ella/usted suela, nosotros/nosotras solamos, os soláis, ellos/ellas/ustedes suelan.
  • Gerund: soliendo .
  • Past participle: solido.

Etymology and Related Words

Soler came from the Latin verb solere, which had much the same meaning. It does not appear to be directly related to any word in English, although it has a connection with "insolent" and "insolence."

The Spanish words closely related to soler are the adjectives sólito (usual or ordinary; this word is seldom used), insólito (unusual or odd), and insolente (rude or arrogant, coming from a Latin word meaning "unaccustomed to"); the verb insolentarse (to become rude or arrogant); and the noun isolencia, (rudeness or an act of rudeness).

  • La resolución solo pide a los ciudanos resolver sus problemas sólitos. (The resolution only asks the citizens to solve their usual problems.)
  • Psicólogos rusos dicen que curan adicciones con el insólito método de golpes en los glúteos. (Russian psychologists say they cure addictions with the odd method of blows to the backside.)
  • Usted ha sido muy insolente al hacerlo después de todo lo que conté. (You were very rude to do it after everything I told you.)
  • Se insolentaron más y más. (They became more and more rude.)
  • Las palabras de tu madre contenían una insolencia poco frecuente. (You mother's words are infrequently marked by rudeness.)