Posted by: janecronin | July 8, 2018


Today’s verb is “oír” which means “to hear”.  You may notice straight away that there is an accent over the “i” of this infinitive form “oír”.  This is because the letters “o” and “i” usually merge together into what we call a diphthong, that is a single combined sound.  Consequently, in the infinitive we need the accent to indicate that the “ir” ending is emphasised separately.

“Oír” is a regular verb in general, but with one or two peculiarities.  First of all, for spelling and pronunciation reasons, it introduces the letter “y” into some of its forms, for example, oye,oyen, oyó, oyeron).  Secondly, in the first person singular of the present tense, in other words, the form that means “I hear”, it changes to “oigo”.  This is a similar phenomenon to that of verbs like “tener – tengo”, “hacer – hago”, “salir – salgo”.

Actually based on this word “oigo” comes the subjunctive form “oiga” which is very difficult to translate as a single word as the subjunctive does not exist in English.  To give us an idea, it means something like “I (or he/she) may hear”.  Here is a sentence to illustrate its use “No quiero que oiga la noticia” (I don´t want him or her to hear the news, or more literally, I don´t want that he or she -may – hear the news).    It is also quite common to hear the word “oiga” on its own as a kind of command meaning “hear me”.  Of course we would never say “hear me!” to anyone in English, but “oiga” is not out of place in Spanish, depending on the context, which is usually calling someone’s attention in a public place.  For those who find the word unpleasant, and perhaps too similar to the English exclamation “oi!”, it is worth bearing in mind that “oiga” really carries the subjunctive meaning – something like “may you hear me!” and is actually a polite form.

The word “oír” crops up quite a lot in the world of mobile phones where we would add the words “can” and “can´t” in English to express the same idea.  “No te oigo” (I don´t – i.e. can´t – hear you) and “¿me oyes? (Do you – i.e. can you – hear me?)  Of course we have some strange expressions in English like “You’re breaking up!” which can´t be easy for foreign speakers of English to grasp.

A noun which derives from “oír” is “oído” which means the sense of “hearing” and also means “ear” as in the “hearing” part of the ear.  The ear that is visible on the side of your head is “oreja”, but if you have to go to the doctor with an ear infection, for example, it would be “una infección de oído”.

Another derivative noun is “oyente” meaning “hearer” or “listener”.  This is used when someone attends a meeting without being an active participant or a class or lecture just to listen, without being registered as a student.


  1. Informative and also a pleasure to read.

  2. Hi Jane I expect someone will have told you, but in the third paragraph you wrote “oiga (subjunctive) means I may speak” I think it should have been ‘may hear’. Your information about verbs is very useful and I always study it. Thanks for writing it. Geraldine

    • Thank you very much!! I will correct it asap. Glad you like the articles!

    • Many thanks Geraldine. It has now been corrected! Jane

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