Contestar in Spanish: Conjugations, Meanings & Uses

In this short guide, we will cover the following topics for ‘contestar’ in Spanish:

  1. What does ‘Contestar’ mean?
  2. ‘Contestar’ Conjugations
  3. How to Use ‘Contestar’ in Spanish
  4. Expressions & Idioms with ‘Contestar’
  5. Synonyms of ‘Contestar’ in Spanish

What does ‘Contestar’ mean?

Definition – ‘Contestar’ means ‘to answer’ or ‘to respond’ to a question, demand or statement that another person made. In other contexts, contestar describes that someone replied to another person in a bad or disrespectful way.    

In Spanish, ‘contestar’ has two main uses. Notice that, depending on the context that is being used, this word might have slightly different translations:

  1. If referring to answering or responding to a question or statement, contestar means ‘to answer’ or ‘to respond’
  2. When describing that someone replied in a bad manner, ‘contestar’ means ‘to answer back’ or ‘to reply’. 

‘Contestar’ Conjugations 

In Spanish, ‘contestar’ is a regular verb. As a result, once you have obtained the stem by deleting the -AR ending of the verb (contest-), you’ll add the respective tense endings. Be aware that both future and conditional tenses don’t work with a stem, but rather with the verb in its infinitive form (contestar), so there’s no need to remove the -AR ending.

In the conjugation charts below you can check the corresponding endings for each tense and subject.  


Present tense conjugation

YocontestoI answer
contestasYou answer
Él / Ella / UstedcontestaHe/She answers
NosotroscontestamosWe answer
VosotroscontestáisYou  answer
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascontestanThey/You answer

Preterite tense conjugation

YocontestéI answered
contestasteYou answered
Él / Ella / UstedcontestóHe/She answered
NosotroscontestamosWe answered
VosotroscontestasteisYou answered
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascontestaronThey/You answered

Imperfect tense conjugation

YocontestabaI answered
contestabasYou answered
Él / Ella / UstedcontestabaHe/She answered
NosotroscontestábamosWe answered
VosotroscontestabaisYou answered
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascontestabanThey/You answered

Future tense conjugation

Remember that, in order to conjugate both the conditional and future tenses, you’ll keep the infinitive form ‘contestar’. After that, the next step is to add the endings according to each pronoun and tense.

YocontestaréI will answer
contestarásYou will answer
Él / Ella / UstedcontestaráHe/She will answer
NosotroscontestaremosWe will answer
VosotroscontestaréisYou will answer
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascontestaránThey/You will answer

Conditional tense conjugation

YocontestaríaI would answer
contestaríasYou would answer
Él / Ella / UstedcontestaríaHe/She would answer
NosotroscontestaríamosWe would answer
VosotroscontestaríaisYou would answer
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascontestaríanThey/You would answer

Progressive Tenses

Ya casi acabo, estoy contestando unos correos.
I’m almost done, I’m answering some emails.

Tom Hiddleston estuvo contestando las preguntas de sus fans.
Tom Hiddleston was answering his fans’ questions.

Perfect Tenses

No hemos contestado la encuesta que nos mandaste.
We haven’t answered the survey that you sent us. 

Para mañana, habré contestado 100 llamadas.
Tomorrow, I will have answered 100 calls.

Contestar Subjunctive Conjugations

Present subjunctive conjugation

YocontesteI answer
contestesYou answer
Él / Ella / UstedcontesteHe/She answers
NosotroscontestemosWe answer
VosotroscontestéisYou answer
Ustedes / Ellos / EllascontestenThey/You answer

Imperfect subjunctive conjugations

YoContestara / ContestaseI answered
Contestaras / ContestasesYou answered
Él / Ella / UstedContestara / ContestaseHe/She answered
NosotrosContestáramos / ContestásemosWe answered
VosotrosContestarais / ContestaseisYou  answered
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasContestaran / ContestasenThey/You answered

Perfect subjunctive

Espero que hayas contestado el teléfono.
I hope that you had answered the phone.

Si hubieras contestado todas las preguntas, no habría reprobado el examen.
If you had answered all the questions, you wouldn’t have failed the test.


Imperative conjugation

Notice that the imperative form also works with the regular stem ‘contest’. Remember that each subject has a different ending that you can see underlined in the table below. 

NosotroscontestemosLet’s answer

Take Note: When using the negative imperative in Spanish, remember to use the present subjunctive conjugations and like most negative sentences, add the word No before the verb.

No contesten el teléfono, no sabemos quién es.
Do not answer the phone, we don’t know who that is.

How to Use ‘Contestar’ in Spanish with Examples

There is one main use of the verb ‘contestar’ in Spanish:

  1. To say ‘to answer’
  2. Express that someone reply in a bad way

In the next sections, I’ll show you how to use the verb ‘contestar’ in Spanish. In addition to explaining its meanings, I’ll also provide you with examples and phrase structures that you can use to apply this verb correctly.  

To say ‘to answer’

Translated as ‘to answer’ or ‘to respond’, contestar is used to express that someone answers, responds or replies to a question, statement or request. Notice that, depending on the elements that you’re working with, you might use one of the following phrase structures:  

[‘Contestar’ conjugated] + (determiner) + [noun]

Contesten las preguntas, tienen tiempo suficiente.
Answer the questions, you have enough time.

Si hubiera contestado esa pregunta, habría aprobado el examen.
If I had answered that question, I would have approved the exam.

Le escribí un correo electrónico y contestó 10 minutos después.
I wrote him an email and he replied 10 minutes later.

If instead, you want to emphasize to whom you’re responding to, you’ll need to use the following structure. Notice that the preposition ‘a’ introduces the person that you’re referring to. Of course, this information can be omitted if it’s already clear:

[Contestar conjugated] + [indirect object pronoun] + [preposition ‘a’] + [noun]

Contéstale a Karla, te está llamando.
Answer Karla, she is calling you.

Carlos no me contesta, creo que sigue molesto.
Carlos is not answering me, I think he’s still mad. 

No le he contestado a María, en unos minutos le respondo.
I haven’t responded to Maria, I’ll respond to her in a few minutes.

Take Note: Given that it’s the direct translation of ‘to answer’, in Spanish, we also use contestar when referring to answering the phone. In this case, this verb can be translated either as ‘to pick up’ or ‘to answer’. 

No conozco ese número, no contestaré.
I don’t know this number, I won’t pick it up.

Express that someone reply in a bad way

Another common use of the verb ‘contestar’ is to describe that someone is answering or replying to another person in a very bad or disrespectful way. In this context, ‘contestar’ means ‘to answer’, ‘to answer back’ or ‘to talk back’ and you usually follow the same structure for this meaning:

[Indirect object pronoun] + [‘contestar’ conjugated] + a + (definite article) + (noun)

¡A mí no me contestes así!
Do not answer me that way!

Julieta le contestaba a su mamá todo el tiempo.
Julieta talked back to her mom all the time. 

¡Qué groseros son esos niños! Siempre le contestan a la maestra.
How rude those kids are! They’re always talking back to the teacher.

Take Note: Notice that in examples #2 and #3 we use the preposition ‘a’ to introduce the person that the subject is talking back to. We do this either if we want to emphasize our sentence or if this information wasn’t clear for all people involved in the conversation. 

Contestar Expressions & Idioms

There are expressions in Spanish that you can use to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of how and when to use contestar in your daily conversations.  By doing this, you’ll improve your communication skills, and you will increase your vocabulary.

Contestar miradas: This phrase is used when two people “communicate with looks” and not with words. It can be translated as ‘answer with a look’ or ‘answer with your eyes’.

Contestar con evasivas: Translated as ‘to hedge’ or ‘to deflect’ in Spanish, this expression is used when a person answers evasively or avoids the main point of a conversation.

Contestar al aire: This expression is used when someone gives an answer without actually knowing what they are saying or with indifference. It can be translated as ’to answer randomly’. 

Synonyms of ‘Contestar’ in Spanish

Responder: It means ‘to respond’. As a result, in Spanish, this verb can also be used instead of ‘contestar’ when talking about answering a question or reacting to an action performed by others.

Replicar: In a more formal contest, this verb also means to say something in response to something someone has said. It’s the direct translation is ‘to replicate’, but in this context, it is translated as ‘to reply’.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

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