Posted by: janecronin | October 28, 2018


It seems appropriate to talk about the verb “mentir” (to lie) this week, even more than usual, and if you have seen any Spanish news recently you will understand why.  For those of you who haven´t,  a key politician of the governing PP political party, Cristina Cifuentes, has been caught out fabricating a Masters degree for which she never studied.  In fact it is worse than that, because the university actually awarded her the degree, falsifying documents and deliberating trying to cover her tracks.  And so, once more, the whole issue of the toleration of lying in public life has come to the fore, as Sra. Cifuentes, at the time of writing, has still not seen fit to resign her position as president of the region of Madrid.

So, what shall we say about the verb “mentir” itself?  First of all, that in the present tense it is a root-changing” i to ie” verb, which means that “I lie” is “miento” and you lie is “mientes” and so on.   The only small irregularity that exists in the conjugation of this verb is that it belongs to a group of “-ir” verbs which change their root from “e” to “i” in two places: in the gerund “mintiendo” (lying) and in the two third person forms of the preterite tense “mintió” (he or she lied) and “mintieron” (they lied).  Other than that “mentir” follows predictable patterns in all its ending changes.

Although you may think there are few opportunities to use the word “miento” (I lie) in fact it is often used when people wish to correct themselves while speaking.  We use the expression “I tell a lie” in the same way: “Fuimos ahí el martes.  Miento fue el lunes” (We went there on Tuesday.  I tell a lie, it was Monday).

The noun from “mentir” is “una mentira” (a lie).   This is yet another example of English nouns and verbs being identical (to lie v. a lie) which means explaining the difference doubly difficult.  Sometimes the Spanish use that one word “mentira”, often said with a certain amount of force, to directly deny the truth of what they have just heard.  I’m sure I first learnt this word in the course of teaching English to Spanish children, when an argument would sometimes arise consisting of two words “¡mentira!” (lie) “¡verdad!” (truth) exclaimed with ever increasing volume.

To tell lies is “decir mentiras” and of course, not all “mentiras” are bad.  We sometimes need to say a “mentira piadosa” (a kind, that is, a white lie) or we might just say a little fib a “mentirijilla”.  A liar is a “mentiroso or mentirosa” depending on the gender, and a fibber is a “mentirosillo/a”  with the diminutive “-illo” “-illa” ending indicating something small, mild or unimportant.

Finally, if we want to prove something to be false, that is, to be a lie, we can “desmentir” (to deny, refute) which Sra. Cifuentes is currently trying to do (UPDATE:  she has subsequently been rumbled I’m happy to report).


  1. I read your article on the Spanish verb ‘mentir’ with interest. At the end you referred to the case of Cristina Cifuentes, former Prime Minister of Madrid, who was fraudulently awarded a Masters degree by Universidad Rey Juan Carlos de Madrid. This was an enormous lie and I followed the case with interest. However she got her comeuppance some six months ago and has now retired from politics.
    However my reason for writing now is to draw your attention and that of your many readers to an article published in Estudiosidades on 12 April 2018 by Profesor José A Garcia de Castillo. This piece,which is beautifully written, does not mention the scandal of Sra Cifuentes fraudulently awarded degree. However, given the timing,the author was clearly inspired by it! I think it is an article well worth reading

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