Despertar in Spanish: Conjugations, Meanings & Uses

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

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

What does ‘Despertar’ mean?

Definition – ‘Despertar’ means to wake up, to awaken, or to come to your senses. It’s more commonly used to express that a person’s sleep has finished or interrupted. As a result, despertar is more commonly translated as ‘to wake up’. 

However, depending on the context, this verb has several meanings in Spanish. Below there are some common situations where you can use ‘despertar’ along with their corresponding translations. 

  1. When describing that a person woke up, ‘despertar’ is translated as ‘to wake up’ or ‘to awake
  2. If talking about bringing back memories or describing feelings or desires caused by a certain situation, this verb is translated as ‘to awaken’ or ‘to arise’.
  3. If used to express that a person needs to think or reflect about something, despertar means ‘to wake up’ or ‘to come to your senses’. 

Take Note: In Spanish, despertar is a transitive verb. This means that ‘despertar’ works with an object. So, if you’re describing that you did and receive the action of waking up, ‘despertar’ will be a reflexive verb

‘Despertar’ Conjugations 

In most tenses, despertar is a regular verb, meaning that you’ll use the same stem. However, when conjugating in present, imperative and present subjunctive, despertar has some small irregularities that you need to keep in mind. 

Below there are some conjugation charts that will show you how to conjugate ‘despertar’ in Spanish. Notice that the conjugation patterns that you’ll see below will also be applied to the reflexive form despertarse. However, you’ll also need to add a reflexive pronoun.  


Present tense conjugation

In order to make the pronunciation easier, when conjugating ‘despertar’ in the present tense, you’ll use the stem despiert. This stem will be used for all the subjects and all you need to do is add the corresponding endings for each person.  

YodespiertoI wake up
despiertasYou wake up
Él / Ella / UsteddespiertaHe/She wakes up
NosotrosdespertamosWe wake up
VosotrosdespertáisYou  wake up
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdespiertanThey/You wake up

Preterite tense conjugation

Despertar in preterite tense is a regular verb. This means that you just need to remove the -AR ending, which will leave you with the stem despert- and then add the proper ending.

YodespertéI woke up
despertasteYou woke up
Él / Ella / UsteddespertóHe/She woke up
NosotrosdespertamosWe woke up
VosotrosdespertasteisYou woke up
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdespertaronThey/You woke up

Imperfect tense conjugation

YodespertabaI woke up
despertabasYou woke up
Él / Ella / UsteddespertabaHe/She woke up
NosotrosdespertábamosWe woke up
VosotrosdespertabaisYou woke up
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdespertabanThey/You woke up

Future tense conjugation

To conjugate despertar in the future tense, just add the endings underlined in the table below to the infinitive form of the verb.  

YodespertaréI will wake up
despertarásYou will wake up
Él / Ella / UsteddespertaráHe/She will wake up
NosotrosdespertaremosWe will wake up
VosotrosdespertaréisYou will wake up
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdespertaránThey/You will wake up

Conditional tense conjugation

In the conditional tense, despertar doesn’t have any irregularities since we work with its infinitive form to conjugate it to the conditional tense. Just make sure to add the proper endings. 

YodespertaríaI would wake up
despertaríasYou would wake up
Él / Ella / UsteddespertaríaHe/She would wake up
NosotrosdespertaríamosWe would wake up
VosotrosdespertaríaisYou would wake up
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdesperataríanThey/You would wake up

Progressive Tenses

conjugation chart showing how to conjugate despertar in progressive tenses

El bebé se está despertando.
The baby is waking up.

Esta semana no nos estemos despertando temprano.
This week we’re not waking up early.

Perfect Tenses

conjugation charts showing how to conjugate despertar in perfect tenses

Marta ha despertado a mis hermanas.
Marta has waken my sisters up.

En unas horas, los niños habrán despertado.
In a few hours, the kids will have awakened. 

Despertar Subjunctive Conjugations

Present subjunctive conjugation

In the present subjunctive, despertar has some spelling irregularities. So, to conjugate to this mood, you’ll use the stem ‘despiert’ for most of the subjects. Notice that only ‘nosotros’ and ‘vosotros’ don’t have these changes in spelling of the stem. 

YodespierteTo wake up
despiertesTo wake up
Él / Ella / UsteddespierteTo wake up
NosotrosdespertemosTo wake up
VosotrosdespertéisTo wake up
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasdespiertenTo wake up

Imperfect subjunctive conjugations

For the imperfect subjunctive, keep the stem ‘despert’ and add the ending according for each corresponding pronoun as shown in the table below.

YoDespertara / depertaseI wake up
Despertaras / despertasesYou wake up
Él / Ella / UstedDespertara / despertasesHe/She wakes up
NosotrosDespertáramos / despertásemosWe wake up
VosotrosDespertarais / despertaseisYou wake up
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasDespertaran / despertasenThey/You wake up

Perfect subjunctive 

graphic showing how to conjugate despertar in perfect subjunctive

Ojala se hayan despertado temprano.
I hope they woke up early.

Si te hubieras despertado temprano, habríamos llegado a tiempo.
If you had woken up early, we would have arrived on time.


Imperative conjugation

For the positive imperative in Spanish, the irregular stem ‘despiert’ is used for and ustedes. However, for vosotros and nosotros, you’ll use the regular stem ‘despert’. 

despiertesWake up
NosotrosdespertemosLet’s wake up
VosotrosdespertadWake up
UstedesdespiertenWake up

Take Note: The negative imperative works slightly differently than the positive imperative shown above. To conjugate the negative imperative, you need to use the present subjunctive conjugation (despierte, despiertes, etc.). Just make sure to add the word No before the verb and have a bossy voice tone 😉

No despiertes a mamá, necesita descansar.
Don’t wake mom up, she has to rest.

How to Use ‘Despertar’ in Spanish with Examples

  1. To describe that a person stopped sleeping
  2. To express that an idea, desire, feeling, or memory arised
  3. When someone reflects or thinks about something

Below, I’ll explain how to use this verb in your daily conversations.

To describe that a person stopped sleeping

In Spanish, we use ‘despertar’ to talk about stopping or interrupting someone’s sleep. So in this context, despertar can be translated as ‘to wake up’ or ‘awaken’. Keep in mind that with this meaning, ‘despertar’ can have a reflexive form. 

[Despertar conjugated] + [complement]

¡Ya despiértense! ¡Son las 7!
Wake up! It’s 7 already!

Ana Laura no me despertará mañana. 
Ana Laura will not wake me up tomorrow.

Me desperté tarde y ya no había nadie en casa.
I woke up late and no one was home.

Julia me dijo que la despertara en caso de que su alarma no funcionara.
Julia told me to wake her up in case her alarm didn’t work.

Take Note: Notice that in this context we use direct object pronouns if the person awaking is different from the person performing the action. However, if I wake up myself without the help of another, I’ll use a reflexive pronoun. Check the examples below. 

Clara te despertó ayer. 
Clara woke you up yesterday.

¿Podrás despertarte mañana a las 7 a.m.?
Will you be able to wake up tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.?

To express that a desire, feeling, or memory arised   

‘Despertar’ is also used to refer to bringing out memories, feelings, desires or ideas. In this context, it can be translated as ‘arise’ or ‘bring back’.

[‘Despertar’ conjugated] + [complement]

Caminar desde el centro de la ciudad a la casa despertó mi apetito.
Walking from the city center to the house whetted my appetite.

Ver las fotos del campamento despertó buenos recuerdos en la familia.
Seeing the photos of the camp awakened good memories in the family.

Ir al volcán despertó nuevas emociones en los excursionistas.
Going to the volcano awakened new emotions in the hikers.

Expressing reflection or thinking

‘Despertar’ is also used to refer to making someone reflect or be aware of something. As a result, in this situation, it can be translated as ‘wake up to’, ‘to come to your senses’ or ‘raise’. 

El objetivo de las conferencias es despertar la conciencia en los estudiantes.
The aim of the lectures is to raise awareness among students.

Afortunadamente despertó ante la situación que le afectaba.
Fortunately, he woke up to the situation affecting him.

¡Despierta! ¿No te das cuenta del daño ocasionado?
Wake up! Don’t you realize the damage you have done?

Despertar Expressions & Idioms

There are some Spanish expressions with ‘despertar’ that you can use to improve your vocabulary and communication. 

Despertar interés: In Spanish, despertar el interés is used when talking about the curiosity or attention that a person or thing provokes in someone. It can be translated as ‘awaken interest’.

Ser una persona despierta: this Spanish expression is used to describe a clever person or kids that learn something very quick and easily. It’s closer in meaning to ‘sharp’, ‘smart’ or ‘clever’. 

Despertar el hambre: this phrase is used to express that the feeling of hunger is being stimulated or aroused. It means ‘to whet your appetite. Although this expression is common in Spanish, its variation abrir el apetito is more popular. 

Synonyms of ‘Despertar’ in Spanish

Levantarse: In Spanish, levantarse is also used when referring to stopping or interrupting someone’s sleep. As a result, Spanish speakers use this verb as a synonym of ‘despertarse’. Levantarse means ‘to wake up or ‘to get up.

Despabilar: Despabilar or espabilar are used to express that a person needs to wake up or be more energetic. Both of these verbs are slightly more formal than ‘despertar’. ‘Despabilar’ can be translated as ‘to wake up’, ‘to pay attention’ or ‘to liven up.  

Recordar: Recordar can be a synonym of ‘despertar’ when used to talk about bringing back memories, feelings, desires or ideas. ‘Recordar’ means ‘to remember’ or ‘to recall’.

Avivar: In Spanish, avivar can be an informal synonym of ‘despertar’ when referring to becoming aware of something. It means ‘to spark off’ or ‘to reflect’.

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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