Learning Post: Spanish Verbs That Require the Preposition "a" When Followed By An Infinitive


One of the most common errors that English speakers make when writing Spanish sentences is to insert the preposition "a" which is often translated as "to" with verb clauses of the following form: Conjugated Verb + Infinitive.

For example:

I want to eat.
Quiero a comer. (wrong)
Quiero comer (right)

In these situations, many Spanish verbs do not require the preposition "a" because the English infinitive is already in the form "to verb". Therefore the English translation of a Spanish infinitive already includes "to" in the English translation. Another example: I like to swim = Me gusta nadar, not Me gusta a nadar.

Below are the most common Spanish verbs that do require the preposition a when followed by an infinitive. Many of these verbs are verbs of movement or relate to starting something, or ordering / encouraging / daring/ forcing, etc. someone to do something. Verbs that require prepositions when followed by an infinitive ultimately require memorization or learning some phrases containing the verb + infinitive pattern. If you memorize phrases of verbs that require a preposition after them, it will sound unnatural NOT to include them when necessary. Other times....just leave the "a" out and you'll usually be right.

When the "a" is required before an infinitive (such as with ayudar/to help) just think of the "a" as an untranslated word, sort of like the "personal a." I help you to study = Te ayudo a estudiar. The "to" in the English translation comes from the English infinitive = "to study" If you thought the "a" in the Spanish should be translated as "to" the English sentence would read "I help you to to study." NOT thinking of the "a" where it IS required as "to" will help you to leave it out when it is not required.

Memorizing which verbs require prepositions is necessary in English also, for English learners. Most native English speakers just learn these by listening and reading. For example...One listens TO music, but one hears music. Why does one verb require a preposition and not the other. Who knows? Who cares? It may just "be the way it is."

acercarse a                          to approach
acertar a to manage to
acostumbrarse a to be/get used to
alcanzar a to manage to
animar a to encourage to
aprender a to learn to
atreverse a to dare to
ayudar a to help
bajar a to go down to
comenzar a to begin to
comprometerse a to undertake to
conducir a to lead to
contribuir a to contribute to
convidar a to invite to
cuidar a to take care of
decidirse a to decide to
dedicarse a to devote oneself to
desafiar a to challenge to
disponerse a to get ready to
echar(se) a to begin to
empezar a to begin to
enseñar a to teach to, show how to
forzar a to force to
impulsar a to urge to
incitar a to incite to
inclinar a to incline to
invitar a to invite to
ir a to be going to
limitarse a to limit oneself to
llegar a to manage to, succeed in, end up
llegar a ser to become
llevar a to lead to
mandar a to send to
meterse a to start to
negarse a to refuse to
obligar a to force, compel to
pasar a to go on to
persuadir a to persuade to
ponerse a to begin to, set about
prepararse a to get ready to
renunciar a to renounce
resignarse a to resign oneself to
resistirse a to resist
tender a to tend to
volver a to ___ again
updated Jul 10, 2017
edited by DilKen
posted by DilKen
Good one mate ,
Hi Ken I just added a Memrise course based on this. It pops up correctly but for some reason just says enter link description here on the post.
Echoline: "enter link description here" pops up when you create a link. It is a placeholder. You are supposed to replace those word with whatever brief description you desire. I'll edit you post so you can see what I mean.

8 Answers


I just created a Memrise course of DilKen's verb list. You can find it here, and use it to learn the list. It is free.

Spanish verbs + a + infinitive ("a" is required)

Verbs that require to be followed with an "a"

updated Jul 10, 2017
edited by DilKen
posted by Echoline
Echoline: great idea. Here's a link to the original source. You might want to Memrise the ones followed by de, por, en, etc.

Now if I could just remember them all. jajaja.

This will make a good series of posts if you continue with the other options.

Ayudar a:

Esto hilo me ayudará a mejorar mi español.

This thread will help me improve my Spanish.

updated Jul 10, 2017
posted by gringojrf
Nice reply and I love your sample sentence. The place to start is with the most commonly used verbs in the list. I will bold the ones that I think are most commonly used.

I don't plan on writing articles on the other verbs which require other prepositions such as de, con, en, etc. when followed by infinitives or nouns / noun phrases. But here is a very helpful web page that I use frequently that lists a dozen different possibilities.

When learning these, I like to follow a two-step process.

  1. Note the verbs that you already know, or if you are just starting out, note the verbs that you think might be used a lot because the English translation is quite common.

  2. Note the verbs that translate into English with prepositional endings in English which are different from the Spanish preposition that you might expect. For example, verbs that require the Spanish "de" when followed by an infinitive: most of these translate into English as English Verb + of, from or about. All of these are very common translations of "de" in Spanish. So you are likely to get these right without much difficulty. The Spanish verbs such as "tratar de" will be a little more difficult, and worth focusing on, because this translates to "try to" and "de" is not translated to "to" nearly as often.

The most common Spanish verbs that require "de" when followed by an infinitive involve stopping something: parar, dejar, cesar, terminar.

One final point on Spanish Verb + de + infinitive. With the ones dealing with stopping something you don't translate the "de" and you use the English present participle (or you might think of it as the gerund -ing form). For example: Deja de hablar = Stop talking.
Dejar de fumar es bueno para la salud. Stopping smoking is good for the/your health.

Spanish Verbs That Require Prepositions

updated Jul 10, 2017
edited by DilKen
posted by DilKen

A question today reminded me of this article that I wrote a couple years ago.

This is one of the most common mistakes that I see in the Spanish sentences posted by Spanish learners on SD games.

I thought it might be worth a read for some.

updated Jul 10, 2017
posted by DilKen
I need to read it every day for the rest of my life. ;-) I have to look up the list every time I use a verb followed by an infinitive. A few have become automatic, but not that many.

I remember having lessons about this in class some years ago. The difficulty is the meaning can change according to the preposition.

One you do not have, but which I learnt some time ago is 'asistir a' as I too often wascwriting to the teacher to explain why I could not attend class.

It is known as ' El complemento de régimen'

Here is a huge downloadable list plus he has exercises and games to help you remember

Professional ele

and here are some infographics


Here is a link to the blog


updated Jul 10, 2017
posted by Mardle
Mardle: Nice post. The reason that asistir isn't on the list is because the list is for: verb + prep + infinitive. Asistir in more often encountered as asistir + a + object. Asistir IS on the list of verbs req prep when followed by objects.
I gave the link to the original source of my list in reply to Echoline's answer here. :)


updated Mar 23, 2017
posted by DilKen
Ouch! lol

This is worth reviewing.

updated Jul 5, 2015
posted by ray76

Isa it?

updated Jul 5, 2015
posted by ray76