Spanish Grammar Explained /

It hurts (me)

If you ever have to go to the doctor in a Spanish speaking country, here are some useful phrases and, as always, the grammar behind them.
  • Estoy enfermo/a. → I'm sick.
  • Me duele la cabeza. → My head hurts.
  • Tengo dolor de garganta. → I have a sore throat.
  • Tengo fiebre. → I have a fever.
Let's examine the verbs used in the examples above.
The first verb: ESTAR
When talking about someone (including ourselves!) that is ill in some way in Spanish, we use the verb estar (to be).
The second verb: DOLER
Doler means to hurt, but it is a reflexive verb. This means that it does something to you.
Because of this, in Spanish, people say "The head is hurting me". So we experience the consequences of our hurting head. For example:
Me duele la cabeza.
My head hurts.
Remember not to say this though:
me duele mi cabeza
If you say "me" (Spanish "me"!), you're already implying ownership of the particular body part in question! Let's look at more examples:
Me duele el pie.
My foot hurts.
Me duelen los dientes.
My teeth hurt.
(A mí)
(A ti)
(A él/ella)
(A nosotros)
(A ustedes)
(A ellos/ellas)
Notice how the verb always stays the same regardless of the person being affected. It only changes depending on the number of the parts affected with two options: singular or plural.
Because of this, we say me duele el pie and me duelen los dientes.
duele is for singular (just one thing hurts) and duelen is for plural (two or more things hurt).
The third verb: TENER
If we want to talk about various ailments, we can also use the verb TENER (to have) combining it with the word dolor (pain). This leads us to constructions like "tengo dolor de cabeza"("I have head pain"). Tener can also be used together with many other nouns.
Tengo dolor de cabeza
My head hurts.
Tengo tos.
I have a cough.
Tengo fiebre.
I have fever.
Tengo sueño.
I am sleepy.