How to say what is hurting you in Spanish – using the verb “doler”

If you are ever unlucky enough to be in Spain and feeling ill and have to go to the doctor’s it would be a great help if you could describe what is hurting you in Spanish. The key verb that you need to know is “doler” (to hurt) which, unfortunately is not a straightforward verb to use.

Firstly, it needs to be used with an indirect object pronoun depending on who is hurting:

(Meme, teyou, lehim/her, nosus, osyou (plural), lesthem).

Secondly because it is a stem-changing verb, so when you conjugate it, you need to change the “o” to “ue”:

Me duele – It hurts me
Te duele – It hurts you (1 person)
Le duele – It hurts him/her
Nos duele – It hurts us
Os duele – it hurts you (more than one person)
Les duele – It hurts them

As you can see, this verb works in the same way as the verb “Gustar” (to like) [See blog post: “Power verbs in Spanish – Gustar”] since you only normally need either the third person singular ending – duele – if the part of the body that hurts is singular:

Me duele la cabezaMy head hurts

Or, the third person plural ending – duelen – if what is hurting you is plural:

Me duelen las piernasMy legs hurt

Then all you need to do is learn the correct words for different parts of the body:

la cabeza – head
la frente – forehead
la cara – face
el ojo – eye
el oído – ear
la nariz – nose
los labios – lips
la boca – mouth
el diente – tooth
la piel – skin
la garganta – throat
el cuello – neck
el hombro – shoulder
la espalda – back
el estómago – stomach
la cadera – hip
el brazo – arm
el codo – elbow
la mano – hand
la muñeca – wrist
el dedo – finger
la uña – nail
la pierna – leg
el muslo – thigh
la rodilla – knee
el tobillo – ankle
el pie – foot
el dedo de pie – toe

Let’s look at some examples and then you can have a go at making your own:

Me duele el pieMy foot hurts

¿Te duele la garganta?Does your throat hurt?

* Le duele el estómagoHis/Her stomach hurts

* To distinguish “Le” for he or she you can add at the beginning “A él” for him and “A ella” for her.

A él le duele la espaldaHis back hurts
A ella le duele la espaldaHer back hurts

Nos duelen los piesOur feet hurt

¿Os duelen los oídos?Do your ears hurt? (speaking to 2 or more people)

Les duelen los brazosTheir arms hurt

Note: If you find this verb too confusing to use, you could also just say:

Tengo dolor de [part of the body]

Tengo dolor de cabezaI have a pain of the head

This way you do not have to think which pronoun you need, do you need to use “duele” or “duelen”. You only need to remember the correct word for the part of the body that is hurting.

Quiz

(A) What do the following mean in English?

1. Me duele la rodilla
2. ¿Te duele el pie?
3. A ella le duele la garganta
4. Nos duelen las piernas
5. ¿Os duelen los dientes?
6. Les duelen los ojos
7. Me duelen las manos
8. A él le duele el tobillo
9. ¿Te duele la cabeza?
10. Nos duele la espalda

(B) Translate the following into Spanish:

1. My wrist hurts
2. Does your back hurt? (1 person)
3. Her feet hurt
4. Our ears hurt
5. Their fingers hurt
6. Does your throat hurt? (speaking to 2 people)
7. My legs hurt
8. His toes hurt
9. Does your tooth hurt? (1 person)
10. Our arms hurt

ANSWERS

(A)

1. My knee hurts
2. Does your foot hurt?
3. Her throat hurts
4. Our legs hurt
5. Do your teeth hurt?
6. Their eyes hurt
7. My hands hurt
8. His ankle hurts
9. Does your head hurt?
10. Our back hurts

(B)

1. Me duele la muñeca
2. ¿Te duele la espalda?
3. (A ella) le duelen los pies
4. Nos duelen los oídos
5. Les duelen los dedos
6. ¿Os duele la garganta?
7. Me duelen las piernas
8. (A él) le duelen los dedos de pie
9. ¿Te duele el diente?
10. Nos duelen los brazos