Poder in Spanish: Conjugations, Meanings & Uses


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

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

What does ‘Poder’ mean?

In Spanish ‘poder’ is used to talk about capability and possibility. Therefore, it means ‘can’, ‘to be able to’, ‘may’ or ‘might’. Additionally, it can be used to describe how a person is dealing with a certain situation.

  1. When talking about what a person is able to do, ‘poder’ is translated as ‘can’ or ‘to be able to’.
  2. If referring to a situation that could happen or not, ‘poder’ means ‘could’, ‘may’ or ‘might’.
  3. To talk about a person’s tolerance of a certain situation or other people, ‘poder’ can be translated as ‘to stand’, handle’ or ‘to put up with’.

‘Poder’ Conjugations

‘Poder’ is an irregular verb. This means that you’ll need to use different stems depending on the tense and subject.

poder changes in spanish

Although dealing with different stems might sound challenging, in the conjugation tables below, I’ll explain the changes that you need to keep in mind for each tense and the endings that you need to add. 

Indicative

Present tense conjugation

In the present, poder has some spelling changes. As you can see, the ‘o’ changes to ‘ue’ for some of the subjects. To put it simply, the stem for ‘nosotros’ and ‘vosotros’ is pod while for the rest of the subjects it is pued.

PersonConjugationTranslation
YoPuedoI can
PuedesYou can
Él / Ella / UstedPuedeHe/She can
NosotrosPodemosWe can
VosotrosPodeisYou can
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasPuedenThey/You can

Preterite tense conjugation

To conjugate to the preterite tense, you’ll need to add the proper endings to the stem pud.

PersonConjugationTranslation
YoPudeI could
PudisteYou could
Él / Ella / UstedPudoHe/She could
NosotrosPudimosWe could
VosotrosPudisteisYou could
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasPudieronThey/You could

Imperfect tense conjugation

In the imperfect tense, ‘poder’ is a regular verb. As a result, you only need to eliminate the -ER ending and add the proper terminations to its regular stem ‘pod’.

PersonConjugationTranslation
YoPodíaI could
PodíasYou could
Él / Ella / UstedPodíaHe/She could
NosotrosPodíamosWe could
VosotrosPodíaisYou could
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasPodíanThey/You could

Future tense conjugation

To conjugate ‘poder’ to the future tense, you’ll add the future endings to the irregular stem podr.

PersonConjugationTranslation
YoPodréI can
PodrásYou can
Él / Ella / UstedPodráHe/She will be able to
NosotrosPodremosWe will be able to
VosotrosPodréisYou will be able to
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasPodránThey/You will be able to

Conditional tense conjugation

In the conditional tense, ‘poder’ is an irregular verb. This means that to conjugate this tense, you’ll use the stem ‘podrand the corresponding endings for each subject. 

PersonConjugationTranslation
YoPodríaI could
PodríasYou could
Él / Ella / UstedPodríaHe/She could
NosotrosPodríamosWe could
VosotrosPodríaisYou could
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasPodríanThey/You could

Progressive Tenses

graphic showing how to conjugate poder to progressive tenses in spanish

En el otro trabajo estaríamos pudiendo ganar miles.
In the other job, we would be able to earn thousands.

Perfect Tenses

graphic showing how to conjugate poder to indicative perfect tenses in spanish

¿No has podido arreglar el lavabo?
You haven’t been able to fix the sink?

Con más práctica habríamos podido ganar.
With more practice, we could have won.

Poder Subjunctive Conjugations

Present subjunctive conjugation

To conjugate to the present subjunctive, nosotros and vosotros will use the stem pod while the rest of the subjects will use pued as the stem.

PersonConjugationTranslation
YoPuedaCan
PuedasCan
Él / Ella / UstedPuedaCan
NosotrosPodamosCan
VosotrosPodáisCan
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasPuedanCan

Imperfect subjunctive conjugations

When conjugating to the imperfect subjunctive, you’ll need to add the proper endings to the stem pud.

PersonConjugationTranslation
YoPudiera / PudieseI was able to
Pudieras / PudiesesYou were able to
Él / Ella / UstedPudiera / PudieseHe/She was able to
NosotrosPudiéramos / PudiésemosWe were able to
VosotrosPudierais / PudieseisYou were able to
Ustedes / Ellos / EllasPudieran / PudiesenThey/You were able to

Perfect subjunctive

graphic showing how to conjugate poder to perfect subjunctive

Hubieras podido esforzarte más.
You could have tried harder.

No creo que Rubén haya podido terminar su tarea a tiempo.
I don’t think Rubén was able to finish his homework on time.

Imperative

Imperative conjugation

In Spanish, we don’t use the imperative form of poder since given commands about a person’s abilities sound a little awkward.

How to Use ‘Poder’ in Spanish with Examples

‘Poder’ is an extremely common verb in Spanish. As it expresses capability and possibility it can be used in a wide variety of situations, including making requests, suggestions and assumptions. It can also be useful when talking about someone’s tolerance towards a situation.

  1. To express capability
  2. To indicate possibility
  3. Talking about dealing with something

To express capability

In Spanish, ‘poder’ works the same way as the auxiliary verb ‘can’ in English. As a result, it is used to talk about skills, abilities and things that someone or something is able to do in general.

[‘Poder’ conjugated] + [verb in infinitive form] + [complement]

Hoy no puedo ir a trabajar.
I can’t go to work today.

Los gatos pueden dormir hasta 20 horas al día.
Cats can sleep up to 20 hours a day.

No puedo creer lo que me dices.
I can’t believe what you’re telling me.

Te dije que no podías ir a esa fiesta. 
I told you that you couldn’t go to that party. 

You can also use this verb to make polite requests or questions. To do this, you’ll usually need to add an indirect pronoun before or after ‘poder’.

[Indirect pronoun] + [‘poder’ conjugated] + [verb in infinitive]

Disculpe, ¿nos puede dar la hora?
Excuse me, can you give us the time?

¿Le puedes pasar la sal a tu papá?
Can you pass the salt to your dad?

¿Podrías llamarme más tarde?
Could you call me later?

Lucy, ¿puedes darle estos papeles a Mayra?
Lucy, could you give Mayra these papers?

To indicate possibility

In Spanish, ‘poder’ can be used to convey that something might or might not have happened. This means that this verb is used to make assumptions, suggestions, and complaints about things that could have been different. In this context, it can be translated as ‘could’, ‘may’ or ‘might’

To talk about circumstances that already happened but could have been a different way, the phrase structure you can use is the following:

[‘Poder’ in preterite tense] + [haber] +  [past participle]

Pudiste haberme dicho.
You could have told me.

Él pudo haber perdido su trabajo.
He could have lost his job.

Pudimos haber ganado el campeonato.
We could have won the championship.

When making an assumption about a situation, you can add the phrase ‘puede que’ before the thing you’re assuming.

[‘Puede que’] + [verb in present subjunctive] +  [complement]

Tu hermano no ha llegado, puede que esté con sus amigos.
Your brother has not come home, he might be with his friends.

Compré pizza, pero puede que no te guste.
I bought pizza, but you may not like it.

Puede que haga mucho frío mañana.
It may be very cold tomorrow.

Talking about dealing with something

In certain contexts, you can use ‘poder’ to talk about putting up or dealing with a situation or a person. In these cases, ‘poder’ can be translated as ‘to handle’, ‘to stand’ or ‘to put up with’.

[‘Poder’ conjugated] + con + [complement]

Puedes con esto y mucho más.
You can handle this and much more.

No puedo con esta situación.
I can’t stand this situation.

Si no puedes con la presión, deberías dedicarte a otra cosa.
If you can’t handle the pressure, you should do something else.

No puedo con esta chava, es muy grosera. 
I can’t put up with this girl, she’s so rude. 

Poder Expressions & Idioms

These are some frequently used expressions that contain the verb ‘poder’ and that will help you improve your Spanish.

A más no poder refers to the maximum level of effort, some rough translations are ‘with all your strength’ or ‘for all you are worth’.

Querer es poder expresses the idea that if you want to do something there’s no excuse to not do it. It can be translated as ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’.

Synonyms of ‘Poder’ in Spanish

Ser capaz is the direct translation of ‘being capable of’. This is mostly used when trying to emphasize what a person can do.

Soportar means ‘to bear’, ‘to stand’, or ‘to put up with’.

Resistir is translated as ‘to resist’, however, when used as a synonym of ‘poder’ it means ‘to stand’ or ‘to bear’ and is used in more formal contexts.

Lograr means ‘to achieve’. It’s used mostly when talking about important accomplishments.

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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