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.
The first verb: ESTAR
Why do we use estar when we say we are sick?
That's a good question. When we talk about illnesses affecting our health status, we use estar.
The second verb: DOLER
Remember the "never translate gustar with to like" rule we learned a little while ago? Same thing here!
Doler doesn't mean to hurt?
Yes and no. 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.
Got it! But why don't we say me duele mi cabeza? Why do we say la cabeza?
Easy. It's more efficient that way because "me" already expresses who is suffering and whose part of the body it is.
Can I have more examples, please?
Of course:
Me duele el pie.
My foot hurts.
Me duelen los dientes.
My teeth hurt.
(A mí)me duele(n)
(A ti)teduele(n)
(A él/ella)leduele(n)
(A nosotros)nosduele(n)
(A ustedes)les duele(n)
(A ellos/ellas)lesduele(n)
And the verb stays the same?
Well, it will change depending on what's hurting you.
Oh, I see... that is why we say me duele el pie and me duelen los dientes.
That's right! duele is for singular (just one thing is hurting) and duelen is for plural (two or more things are hurting).
The third verb: TENER
We can also use this verb adding dolor afterwards.
Like, "tengo dolor de cabeza"?
Exactly, that means the same thing as saying "me duele la cabeza".
Can we combine it with other nouns?
Yes! We use tener in these cases:
Tengo dolor de cabeza
My head hurts.
Tengo tos.
I have a cough.
Tengo fiebre.
I have fever.
Tengo sueño.
I am sleepy.