How to talk about what you “usually do” in Spanish

Spanish verb SolerHow to use the Spanish verb “Soler”

When chatting to people in Spanish you often like to talk about what you usually do and your habits.

There are several easy ways to do this. You can just use words like, “Normalmente” (Normally), “Generalmente” (Generally) or other frequency terms such as:

A veces (sometimes)
Muchas veces (many times)
A menudo (often)
Siempre (always)
De vez en cuando (from time to time)

… followed by a present tense verb:e.g. Normalmente vamos a España en julio.
(We normally go to Spain in July.)

e.g. Vamos al cine a menudo.
(We often go to the cinema.)

Using the verb “Soler”

However another typically Spanish way too talk about what you normally do is to use the verb “soler”. This verb is difficult to translate directly into English because we don’t have one verb that means the same thing. The best way that we can translate it into English is as “to usually” or “to be used to” doing something.

Soler is a Stem-changing verb

One thing you will need to bear in mind when using this verb is that it is stem-changing in the present tense. This means as well as changing the ending of the verb to match who you are talking about, you also need to change the “o” in the stem (the beginning part of the verb) to “ue” but only in the forms for “I”, “you” (singular), “he/she” and “they”.

Suelo – I usually
Sueles – you usually (1 person)
Suele – he/she usually
Solemos – we usually
Soléis – you all usually
Suelen – they usually

Then you need to follow the “soler” form of the verb with another infinitive (since the general rule in Spanish is that when you have 2 verbs together, you only conjugate the first verb. The second remains as the infinitive – the verb in its simplest form.)

e.g. Suelo ir a la piscina los martes.
(I usually go to the pool on Tuesdays.)

e.g. ¿Qué sueles hacer los fines de semana?
(What do you usually do at weekends?)

e.g. Mis amigos suelen llegar tarde.
(My friends usually arrive late.)

Talking about what you “used to do” in the past

To talk about habits and things you used to do in the past you have two options.

a) Use the imperfect tense. (-aba / – ía endings)
b) Use the imperfect form of “soler”

However in some circumstance you should only use “soler”:

If you no longer do that habit then you should use “soler” + infinitive.

e.g. Solía correr cuatro veces a la semana.
(I used to run 4 times a week).

A Spanish person would immediately understand that the action doesn’t take place now.

If the habit does still take place then you should use the imperfect tense.

e.g. Corría cuatro veces a la semana pero ahora solo corro una vez a la semana.
(I used to run four times a week but now I only run once a week.)

Frequency

If you include frequency in the sentence then you should use the imperfect tense:

e.g. Iba al teatro en Londres con frecuencia.
(I used to go to the theatre in London often.)

Conclusion

You shouldn’t worry too much about whether to use the imperfect or the imperfect of soler because in most situations you can often use either as they are interchangeable.

 
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