Posted by: janecronin | September 30, 2018


“Caer” means “to fall” and we can use it for when a tree or a building falls or collapses.  However, when we want to talk about us humans “falling over” or falling down”, we would normally need the reflexive form “caerse”.    I will elaborate on this in a moment.

Firstly though, looking at the conjugation of this verb, it is more regular that first meets the eye.  The main oddity about it is the first person singular present tense form “caigo” (I fall).  This also gives us the present subjunctive “caiga, caigas, caiga, caigamos, caigáis, caigan”.  The only other slight variation in the spelling of “caer” is in the preterite tense where letter “i” changes to the letter “y” in the third person – “cayó” (he fell) and “cayeron” (they fell).  Now I’ve got this far I might as well tell you that this form influences the imperfect subjunctive “cayera” etc.  but please just ignore that point if you like.

As I said at the beginning, the straightforward misfortunate that happens to us from time to time, that is “falling over”, is expressed in the reflexive form.  So, this gives us:  “me caí” (I fell); “se cayó” (he or she fell); or the form you often hear Spanish parents shout to kids who are being a bit too daring on the swings and slides “¡Te vas a caer!” (You’re going to fall!).

So, when do we need the non-reflexive verb “caer”?  I hear you ask.  Well, here are a few examples of its use.  In Spanish there isn´t a specific word meaning “to drop” so we have to say “dejar caer” (let fall).  We also use it when we want to say that “the penny has dropped” (although last time I went to the loo in London it cost me about 40p!)  In other words, to say something like “Now I understand!” in Spanish we say “¡Ahora caigo!”  This is also the title of a television quiz programme in which people who don´t get the answer right fall through a trap door under their feet.  Likewise, if you just can´t “get” something, you might say “no caigo”.

In English we can say, for example, “What day does Christmas fall this year?” and similarly in Spanish we say “¿En qué día cae el día de Navidad?”  or “This year my birthday falls on a Tuesday” or  “Este año mi cumpleaños cae en martes”.

Even more idiomatic is the expression “caer bien” or “caer mal” which has to do with whether we like people or not.  “Mis vecinos me caen muy bien” means “I like my neighbours very much” whilst “Mi profesora me cae fatal” means “I can´t stand my teacher”.

A noun from “caer” is “caída” (fall) and a parachute is a “paracaídas” which literally means “for falls” which is pretty logical.  Here’s one idiom to finish off with – “caerse del burro”.  This means “to climb down”, that is, to admit one is in the wrong.



  1. Eventhough I’m not english (but since I’m spanish) I will dare to try and make some “clarification?”. I would rather translate “paracaidas” as fall stopper (that would be literal and don’t know if it makes sense in english) since the word joins stop (para) and falling(s) (caidas). “for falls” translates “para” as “for” as in (esta flor es PARA tí- this flower is FOR you) which (in my personal opinion) is not what the word paracaidas is meant to be.

    • Hi “yo mismo”!! Thank you so much for this comment. I have to admit that it had never occurred to me before that the “para” was from the verb “parar”. This has opened up a whole lot of meanings to me! “Paraguas” (to stop water, not for water). Thanks again. Jane

      • Thank you for taking the time and share/teach my mother language ;). I’m so happy I could have helped and opened up those meanings. 😊

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