"Hablar" vs. "Decir" vs. "Contar"

Quick Answer

The Spanish verbs hablar, decir, and contarare all actions that involve communication, but they are not interchangeable. As you can see in the chart below, decir and contar both translate as to tell, so it's more of a challenge to differentiate between these two verbs than it is to differentiate between them and hablar. ¡No te preocupes!(Don't worry!) After reading this article, you'll have a good handle on how to distinguish between all three verbs.

Verb in SpanishMeaning in English

hablar

to speak/to talk

decir

to say/to tell

contar

to tell/to narrate

Conjugation Review Time

The verb hablar is regular in all forms and tenses while the forms of decir and contar are often irregular. Click on the links to view the conjugation charts of these must-know verbs!

Hablemos de Hablar

Let's talk about the verb hablar in depth!

Uses of Hablar

Hablar is a verb that can be used on its own, as well as in a variety of expressions to talk about what languages you speak/are spoken, who someone is talking to, and how people communicate.

Let's take a closer look at some examples of these common uses of hablar.

1. Hablar on Its Own

The verb hablar is used on its own to refer to the general act of speaking or talking.

Let's take a look at some examples.

examples
Me gusta mucho hablar.
I really like to talk.
Le molesta que lo interrumpan cuando está hablando.
It bothers him to be interrupted while he's speaking.

2. Saying What/How Many Languages You Speak

One of the most common uses of hablar is talking about what languages you speak.

Check out these examples.

examples
¿Hablas español?
Do you speak Spanish?
Hablo español e inglés.
I speak English and Spanish.

3. Saying What Language Is Spoken

To state what language is spoken/what language people speak, we use the phrase se habla. This grammatical construction is called the impersonal se.

examples
En Quebec se habla francés.
People speak French in Quebec.
¿Sabes si se habla español o inglés en Guyana?
Do you know whether Spanish or English is spoken in Guyana?

4. Speaking to Other People

To specify to whom someone is speaking, we use the preposition con.

examples
Necesito hablar contigo.
I need to talk to you.
Quiero hablar con el gerente.
I want to talk to your manager.

con + = conmigo(with me)

con + ti = contigo(with you)

5. How People Communicate

Hablar poris used to talk about how people communicate.

Take a look at the following examples.

examples
A mi mamá le encanta hablar por teléfono.
My mom loves talking on the phone.
Hablan por WhatsApp una vez por semana.
They talk on WhatsApp once a week.

¿Qué Te Decimos sobre Decir?

What can we tell you about decir? A lot! Read on to find out how to use this talkative verb.

Uses of Decir

Hablar is used to refer to the general act of speaking, while decir is used to talk about the content of what was said.

Let’s take a look at the common uses of decir.

1. What People Say Matters

The main difference between hablar and decir is that we use hablar to talk about speaking and decir to talk about what was said/told.

examples
No me dijo su nombre.
She didn’t tell me her name.
Te voy a decir algo importante.
I’m going to tell you something important.

2. Asking For/Giving Information

We use the verb decir to ask for or give specific information.

Take a look at these examples.

examples
¿Me puedes decir la hora?
Can you tell me the time?
¿Me puede decir dónde hay un cajero automático?
Can you tell me where I can find an ATM?

3. Decir Que

Decir is often used with queto repeat information, give an opinion, or order someone to do something.

examples
Pedro me dijo que te vas a mudar a Alemania.
Pedro told me that you’re moving to Germany.
Mi amigo italiano dice que no vale la pena visitar el Coliseo.
My Italian friend says that the Colosseum isn’t worth visiting.
Mi madre me dijo que fuera al supermercado.
My mom told me to go to the supermarket.

¿Te Contamos Algo sobre Contar?

Ready for us to tell you about contar? Read on!

Uses of Contar

We use contar when what is being told includes details. In other words, contar is used when the speaker is narrating an event, situation, story, or anecdote.

We also use contar in the phrase contar un chiste, which means to tell a joke.

Let’s take a look at some examples.

examples
¿Qué tal tu viaje? ¡Cuéntame todo!
How was your trip? Tell me everything!
Me contó cómo conoció a su esposo.
She told me how she met her husband.

Decir vs. Contar

Since decir and contar are so similar, let’s take a look at some more examples to make sure we have the differences down pat.

examples
Dime lo que quieres hacer.
Tell me what you want to do.
Cuéntame qué pasó en la escuela.
Tell me what happened at school.
Me dijo la verdad.
He told me the truth.
Me contó sobre su niñez.
He told me about his childhood.
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