Nacer: 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.

When was the last time that a new baby came into your family? The Spanish verb 'nacer' means 'to be born'. Let's learn its conjugation in the preterite tense, which is the most common use for this verb.

Being Born is a Past Issue

Imagine if you could remember the experience of being born. You would be able to tell how scary it was to begin your journey out into the world. You would tell about how some strange hands grabbed you while you cried as hard as you could.

When we use the verb 'to be born', we talk about it in the past tense. All we can say is date and place, based on the papers that document our birth. The Spanish verb that means 'to be born' is nacer (nah-SEHR).

Obviously, babies are not the only ones who are born. In Marcia's family, there were a lot of events this week that have to do with being born. Let's learn to conjugate this verb in the past tense first so we can see what Marcia can tell us about her week.

Preterite of Nacer

Because we use nacer mostly in the past tense, we would usually add a date or a place after the verb. Here is its conjugation in the preterite tense:

Verb nacer (nah-SEHR) - to be born

Nacer Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
yo nació nah-SEE I was born
naciste nah-SEES-teh you (singular/informal) were born
nació nah-see-OH he/she/you (singular/formal) was born
nacimos nah-SEE-mohs we were born
nacisteis nah-SEES-teh-ees you (plural/informal) were born
nacieron nah-see-EH-rohn they/you (plural/formal) were born

Example Conversation

Marcia is now a grandmother. Her daughter just had twins, so she is very excited about the babies, but she has had a lot of events this week. Let's ask her a bit about herself. We use usted in this occasion because it is best to use usted with the elderly.

Questioner: Marcia, ¿Dónde nació usted? (Where were you born?)

Marcia: Nací en Monterrey (México) pero vivo en la ciudad de México. (I was born in Monterrey but I live in Mexico City.)

Questioner: ¿Cuándo nacieron sus nietos? (When were your grandchildren born?)

Marcia: Mis nietos nacieron el fin de semana pasado y son gemelos como mi hermana y yo. (My grandchildren were born last weekend and they are twins, like my sister and I.)

Questioner: ¿Usted tiene una hermana gemela? (Do you have a twin sister?)

Marcia: Sí. Mi hermana y yo nacimos con dos minutos de diferencia. Yo soy la mayor. (Yes. My sister and I were born with two minutes difference. I am older.)

Questioner: Usted dijo que nacieron sus nietos pero que hubo otros eventos importantes. (You said your grandchildren were born but there were other important events.)

Marcia: Sí, porque en mi jardín nació finalmente una preciosa orquídea que he cultivado durante un año. (Yes, because in my garden an orchid was born and I have cared for it for a year.)

Translation: Many apples were born in the tree last spring.

Questioner: ¿Le gusta la jardinería? (Do you like gardening?)

Marcia: La jardinería es una afición que nació en mí gracias a que mi esposo me enseñó cómo hacerlo. (Gardening is a hobby that was born within me thanks to the fact my husband taught me how to do it.)

This interview shows us that the verb nacer is good for the births of people, animals, flowers, and anything alive. Also, it is a verb we can use to tell about hobbies that 'are born' within us at a certain time in life, like gardening for Marcia.

New Beginnings

Translation: Juanes was born to be a singer.

Less frequently but still appropriate, people use nacer to tell where a thing begins or originates, in which case we use nacer in the present tense. For example: El río nace en las montañas. (The river begins in the mountains.)

Also, we use it to tell about an aptitude someone has. For example, the famous Spanish painter Salvador Dalí was born to be a painter. In Spanish, this is: Dalí nació para ser pintor.

By the way, you often see the verb nacer in the present tense in biographies that are composed in the present tense. For example, a biography about Salvador Dalí can say Dalí nace el 11 de mayo de 1904 en Figueras. (Dali is born on May 11, 1904 in Figueras.) The reason why biographies are often written in the present tense is that they state facts.

Here is the conjugation of nacer in the present tense:

Verb nacer (nah-SEHR) - to be born

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