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Cumplir: Conjugation & Translation

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

The verb 'cumplir' has several meanings this lesson discusses along with the conjugation in the present tense. So that this verb sticks, we learn through practical examples as we get to know an interesting Spanish-speaking family.

Different Meanings

We are in Mexico meeting the Beltrán family today. There is a series of important events happening this week for different family members. For example, Isabel turns fifteen years of age, which is very important, like 'sweet sixteen' is in American culture. Also, the oldest child, Santiago, finally fulfills an important promise he made to his parents. The father, Alfonso, is nervous because the time is up for his contract this week. He hopes to be rehired.

All these highlighted words express the different meanings of the verb cumplir (koom-PLEER). The meanings are 'to turn (age)', 'to fulfill', 'to reach a deadline'. To use this verb in Spanish, we first need to learn its most basic conjugation: the present tense. Let's start!

Conjugation of Cumplir

Remember to use the present tense of cumplir to tell about habitual actions, facts, or to express that something happens in the near future. Practical examples clarify all these uses in this lesson but let's learn the conjugation first.

Subject Pronoun Cumplir Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
yo cumplo KOOM-ploh I 'turn', 'fulfill', 'time is up'
cumples KOOM-plehs you (singular/informal) 'turn', 'fulfill', 'time is up'
él/ella
usted
cumple KOOM-pleh he/she/you (singular/formal) 'turn(s)', 'fulfill(s)', 'time is up'
nosotros
nosotras
cumplimos koom-PLEE-mohs we 'turn', 'fulfill', 'time is up'
vosotros
vosotras
cumplís koom-PLEES you (plural/informal) 'turn', 'fulfill', 'time is up'
ellos/ellas
ustedes
cumplen KOOM-plehn they/you (plural/formal) 'turn', 'fulfill', 'time is up'

Remember that the translation 'turn' refers to age only. Also, remember that 'time' becomes the subject of the verb cumplir. This is very clear through examples:

Examples

Now, let's practice with this verb through the Beltrán family. As you already know, this week Isabel turns fifteen, which is:

  • Isabel cumple quince años. (Isabel turns fifteen.)

And you:

  • ¿Cuándo cumples años? (When is your birthday?)

See how Isabel answers this question so that then you can try your own answer:

  • Yo cumplo años el dos de septiembre. (My birthday is on September 2nd.)

This shows us that cumplir años also serves to express when our birthday is. Instead of saying mi cumpleaños es... (my birthday is...) you can say yo cumplo años... and tell the date. Give it a try and write and then say aloud your answer.

Translation: My husband has his birthday on March 8th.
candles

The family is certainly preparing a huge party for Isabel but this is a very busy week as Santiago, the son, finally passes his English test to apply for a master's degree in the US. He promised his parents he would pass this time after having tried three times. So:

  • Santiago cumple la promesa de pasar el examen. (Santiago fulfills his promise to pass the exam.)

The fact Santiago fulfills his promise as he did study hard this time, means that other people fulfill other things, which we also express with the verb cumplir:

  • Los padres de Santiago cumplen su deseo de que Santiago estudie en Estados Unidos. (Santiago's parents fulfill their wish that Santiago study in the US.)

Also, we can use cumplir followed by the preposition con (with) to express that we meet someone's expectations. For example:

  • Santiago, tú cumples con tus padres al pasar el examen. (Santiago, you meet your parents' expectations by passing the exam.)

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