Posted by: janecronin | August 5, 2018


I thought I would live dangerously this week and go for a more complicated verb.  “Caber” is different from many verbs for two reasons, firstly it has all sorts of strange irregularities in various forms and secondly it’s a bit more difficult to explain what it means!  As a starting point, we will say that “caber” means “to fit”.  That´s sounds fairly uncomplicated, but there is a bit more to it.

First of all though, we will look at some of the more peculiar forms of the verb itself.  The present tense is in fact regular except for the first person singular (I fit) which is “quepo”.  A context for this might be a car where people are squashing in together.  When it’s your turn to get in, you might say “no quepo” (I don´t fit) before you shove your way in anyway.  Because of this first person singular difference, this form gets carried over into the present subjunctive which goes: quepa, quepas, quepa, quepamos, quepáis, quepan.

The next oddity is the preterite tense which changes to “cupe” (I fit – but in the past).  The whole conjugation is “cupe, cupiste, cupo, cupimos, cupisteis, cupieron”.  It might be a step too far to tell you that from this form we get the imperfect subjunctive, but now I’ve said it, I’ll have to go the whole way: “cupiera, cupieras, cupiera, cupiéramos, cupiérais, cupieran”.  Sorry I can´t go into how that would be used right now, but it’s there for your reference when the imperfect subjunctive becomes something meaningful to you, if it isn´t already.

Finally on the formation, we have the future simple and conditional forms which are also irregular.  In both cases we remove the letter “e” for the infinitive, giving us “cabré” (I will fit) and “cabría” (I would fit) with their corresponding conjugations.

So, in the unlikely event of you reading this far, we will now look at how we would use this verb in everyday conversation.  I have given you one example already of “no quepo” and similarly, it we were trying to fit something into something – like a book onto a bookshelf, we might want to say “cabe” or “no cabe”, it fits, or it doesn´t fit.    Another shade of meaning is “to be or to have room for something”.  In other words, if I were to ask “¿Cabe uno más en el autobús?” this means “Is there room for one more on the bus?”

“Caber” really comes into its own, however, in more idiomatic phrases.  A very common one is “no cabe duda” (literally – there is no room for doubt, i.e. there is no doubt).   The verbal phrase “cabe recordar” really means “it’s worth remembering” although the literal meaning is “it fits to remember” which doesn´t make any sense at all.  A good one to finish on is “no me cabe en la cabeza” (It doesn´t fit in my head, that is, I cannot comprehend it).

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