To Believe in Spanish – Creer vs Creerse


In Spanish, both creer and creerse are translated as ‘to believe’ or ‘to think’. As a result, a lot of learners are surprised when they find out that these words are not exactly synonyms. For that reason, many people wonder what’s the difference between ‘creer’ and ‘creerse’ in Spanish.

Creer is used to talking about beliefs, opinions, or considerations about actions and events. Creerse refers to the opinions or thoughts that people have about themselves. It also expresses that a person believes something to be true in an innocent way. It means ‘to believe’ or ‘to fall for it’. 

At first glance, ‘creer’ and ‘creerse’ seem to have the same meaning. But the truth is: in Spanish, each of these words has a different purpose. For that reason, in the following sections, we’ll explain the specific contexts where you need to use them. 

In order to help you apply these verbs into your conversations, we’ll provide you with examples and phrase structures that you can follow. Hopefully, by the end of this, you will be able to: 

  1. Know the difference between ‘creer’ and ‘creerse’
  2. Say ‘to believe’ in Spanish without affecting your fluency 

Difference Between ‘Creer’ and ‘Creerse’ in Spanish

Even though they both can be translated as ‘to believe’ or ‘to think’, in Spanish, ‘creer’ and ‘creerse’ have different purposes and slightly different meanings. So, using one instead of the other will affect your fluency. For that reason, you need to understand when to use these verbs.

Creer is the Spanish direct translation of ‘to believe’ or ‘to think’. As a result, it’s used to talk about beliefs, opinions, thoughts or considerations about events and actions. Here are some examples:

Creo que se te ve mejor el vestido azul
I think you look better in the blue dress

Mis hermanos todavía creen en Santa Claus
My brothers still believe in Santa Claus

Creerse is the reflexive form of ‘creer’. But like other Spanish reflexive verbs that change their meaning, ‘creerse’ is used to talk about the beliefs, thoughts, or considerations that a person has about her or himself. Additionally, ‘creerse’ is also used to express that a person believes that something is true in a very naive way. 

Tu prima se cree muy inteligente
Your cousin believes that she’s too smart

¿Matías se creyó que vamos a ir a la playa?
Did Matías believe that we’re going to the beach?

Even though the meaning may not be very clear in the translation, ‘creerse’ talks about: 

  • The thoughts that people have about themselves → My cousin thinks or believes that she’s quite smart. It may not be true, but this is what she thinks about herself. 
  • Things people believe in a naive/innocent way →  Matías fell for the fact that we’re going to the beach. We’re not, but he thinks we’re. 

Now, let’s see the contexts where you need to use these verbs as well as the phrase structures you will need to follow. 

When & How to Use ‘Creer’ in Spanish

In Spanish, ‘creer’ is used to express your beliefs, opinions, thoughts or considerations about a certain action or situation. Depending on the context as well as the elements that you use in your sentence, ‘creer’ can be translated as ‘to believe’ or ‘to think’.

Creer as a synonym of ‘to think’

When it means ‘to think’, people use creer as a way to express their opinions and thoughts about an idea, action or event. Here is a general phrase structure that you may use for this situation. Notice that ‘creer’ allows you to introduce your opinions or thoughts. 

[Creer conjugated] + que + [verb conjugated]

¿Por qué creen que necesitamos su ayuda?
Why do you think we need your help?

Creo que debemos irnos mañana temprano
I think we should leave early tomorrow   

No sé cómo está Matha, pero creo que está bien
I don’t know how Martha is, but I think she’s fine

¿Crees que te guste vivir en México?
Do you think you’re going to like living in Mexico?

Ally, ¿no crees que Tom tiene razón? Tenemos que pedir ayuda
Ally, don’t you think that Tom is right? We need to ask for help

In addition, when used as a synonym of ‘to think’, ‘creer’ can also be used to talk about information that we’re not completely sure is true

[Creer conjugated] + que + [determiner] + [noun]

Lisa y yo creemos que tu boleto está muy caro
Lisa and I think that your ticket is very expensive 

No creo que tu novio esté feo, pero no es muy amable
I don’t think your boyfriend is ugly, but he’s not very nice

Nelly cree que el camión sale a las ocho, pero no está segura
Nelly thinks that the bus leaves at eight, but she’s not sure

Creer in Spanish: To believe

Another common and useful way to use creer is to talk about people’s beliefs (social, political, religious, in other people, etc). Here is a popular phrase structure that you can use for this purpose:

[Creer conjugated] + en + [noun/pronoun] 

Mi hermana no cree en nada
My sister doesn’t believe in anything

Kevin y su familia creen en Dios
Kevin and his family believe in God

Simone, ¿crees en la vida después de la muerte?
Simone, do you believe in life after death?

Nosotros creemos en ti, no tengas miedo
We believe in you, don’t be afraid 

Lo siento, pero mi hermana ya no cree en lo que dices
I’m sorry but my sister doesn’t believe in what you say anymore

Take Note: As any other Spanish verb, creer can work with indirect pronouns. For Spanish learners that are not familiar with reflexive and indirect pronouns, this can be confusing. Keep in mind that, in this context, creer would be used to talk about someone else, not about yourself. 

La verdad yo no le creo a Cassie, siempre nos miente
To be honest, I don’t believe Cassie, she’s always lying

Mi papá no nos cree que nosotros no rompimos la ventana
My dad doesn’t believe us that we didn’t break the window 

When & How to Use ‘Creerse’ in Spanish

Just like ‘creer’, creerse is also used to talk about their personal beliefs, opinions or thoughts. In this case, this verb is used to talk about the opinions or thoughts that people personally hold or have about themselves. In this context, ‘creerse’ could be translated as:

  • To think too much of yourself
  • Conceited
  • Bigheaded 
  • To think someone is better than others 
  • To think

[Creerse conjugated] + (adjective)

Martha y Luisa se creen muy inteligentes
Martha and Luisa think they’re very smart

Sandra siempre se cree mejor que los demas
Sandra always thinks that she’s better than others

¿Te crees mucho porque tienes un auto caro?
You think so much of yourself because you have an expensive car?

No me agrada la chica nueva porque se cree mucho
I don’t like the new girl because she’s so bigheaded 

Elliot es el mejor de nuestra clase y por eso se cree mucho
Elliot is the best in our class and for that, he’s very conceited  

¿Quién te crees que eres para tratarnos así?
Who do you think you are to treat us like this

Oye, Joaquín, ¿en serio te crees eso de que hay extraterrestres?
Hey, Joaquin, did you really believe that there are aliens?

Take Note: In this context, ‘creerse’ has a negative connotation because people believe something about themselves that is not true.  

Another common way to use creerse is to express that a person believes something that is not true in a very innocent and naive way. As a result, in this situation, this verb could be translated as to:

  • Believe
  • Fall for it
  • Buy it 

[Creerse conjugated] + [info]

Yo no me creo tus mentiras
I don’t fall for your lies

¿Te creíste todo lo que te dije? Estaba jugando
Did you believe everything I told you? I was joking

Phil se cree todas las mentiras que su novia le dice
Phil believes all the lies that his girlfriend tells him

Mi hermanita se cree todas las historias que mi hermano le inventa
My baby sister falls for all the stories that my brother makes up

¿Tus papás se creyeron que no vas a ir a la fiesta?
Did your parents buy that you’re not going to the party?

Take Note: As a reflexive verb, creerse always needs to work with pronouns. So if you want to use it properly, make sure you follow the Spanish reflexive verb conjugation

Wrapping Up

When learning Spanish, knowing the difference between ‘creer’ and ‘creerse’ can be a little bit challenging. But even though these verbs look very similar, we use them in different situations. 

For that reason in this article, we talked about the difference between these verbs as well as the contexts and the elements you need to use in each case. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

Creer

  • Depending on the context, it means ‘to believe’ or ‘to think’.
  • Used to talk about beliefs, opinions, thoughts or considerations about a situation. 
  • Creo que is used to talk about opinions, thoughts and things you’re not completely sure.
  • Creo en expresses someone’s beliefs (religion, politics, social, in another person, etc).  

Creerse

  • Expresses the beliefs, opinions, thoughts or considerations that people have about themselves
  • Expresses that a person believes something untrue in a naive or innocent way.
  • Depending on the context, it means: ‘to believe’, ‘to fall for it’, ‘to buy it’, ‘big-headed’ or ‘conceited’. 

Hopefully, now you know how to say ‘to believe’ in Spanish and you understand the difference between ‘creer’ and ‘creerse’.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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