Posted by: janecronin | December 29, 2017


After eating, drinking and generally being merry, today’s verb is rather more sombre, but nonetheless very important in everyday life.  The verb is “doler” meaning “to hurt”.  This verb works in a similar way to “gustar” in terms of the way it is used in a sentence.  In other words, just as we say “me gusta el helado” (I like ice-cream, literally “ice-cream pleases me”) in the same way we say “me duele el pie” (my foot hurts, literally “to me it hurts the foot”).

As you can see from that example, “dolor” belongs to a group of what we call “root-changing” verbs, which means that in some of its present tense forms the “o” changes to “ue”, like this: “duelo, dueles, duele, dolemos, doléis, duelen”.   However, by far the most common of these six words are the two “third person” forms “duele” (it hurts) and “duelen” (they hurt).

So, leaving the grammar behind and looking at real life situations, when some part of our body hurts and we need to let a medical professional know about it we say “me duele …. (whatever part of the body it is).   For example: “me duele la cabeza” (my head hurts, or, I have a headache); “me duele la espalda” (my back hurts, or, I have backache); “me duele la garganta” (my throat hurts, or, I have a sore throat); “me duele el estómago” (my stomach hurts, or, I have a stomachache) and so on.  If there are two things hurting, like eyes, ears or legs, then “duele” (it hurts) becomes “duelen” (they hurt) which gives us “me duelen los ojos” (my eyes hurt), “me duelen los oídos” (my ears hurt), “me duelen las piernas” (my legs hurt).

If we want to talk about someone else rather than ourselves, then the word in the sentence that changes is the “me” (to me), which becomes “te” (to you) or “le” (to him, to her).  For example, if I wanted to ask someone the question “Does your arm hurt?” this would be “¿Te duele el brazo?”  If we want to reduce this to just “Does it hurt?” this would be “¿Te duele?  If you’re speaking on someone else’s behalf then it becomes “le duele” (it hurts him or her).  “My husband’s arms hurt” is “A mi marido le duelen los brazos”.

Linked to the verb “doler” is the noun “dolor” meaning “pain”, so an alternative to all the above is “tengo un dolor …” (I have a pain …) although this is less commonly used by the Spanish.  Incidentally, the woman’s name “Dolores” means “Pains”.  In its full version the name is “María de los Dolores” (Mary of the Pains) but is very often abbreviated to Lola, Loli, Lolita or Mariloli.  The town of Dolores also means “Pains” but I think it has been named after a Catholic virgin, rather than referring to the experience of living there.

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