Clothing in Spanish
There’s only one thing other than the two-month long holiday at the end of the year* I miss about school: wearing a uniform! I went to the same school for 14 years, and for 12 of those years, I wore a uniform! Now, it’s been almost ten years since I graduated, but I just realized that for almost half my life I’ve known what to wear! Don’t you think it would be easier sometimes if you didn’t have to decide what to wear every single day? Just think of those days you stay at home wearing pajamas. Isn’t it nice not having to think about clothes or what to wear? Since you’re starting to learn Spanish, you’ll start thinking about these things in Spanish, too: ¿Qué me pongo? – What should I put on?
Nuestro uniforme era un pantalón o falda gris y una camisa polo blanca. (Our uniform was grey pants or skirt and a white polo shirt.) Just imagine a couple hundred children wearing the same clothes! While wearing a uniform makes life so much easier, I do like being able to decide what to wear. I love wearing vestidos (dresses) and botas de combate negras (black combat boots) – that would have been a big no-no at school! So, today let’s learn how to describe the clothes we wear – la ropa que nos ponemos.
*Fun fact: In Guatemala, the school year begins in January and ends in October!
If you want to hear the pronunciation of the following phrases and vocabulary, check out our video! You can also download the printable version of this blog (with some extra exercises) here:
¿Qué te pones o qué llevas puesto?
While there is more than one way to say ‘to put on’ and ‘to wear’ in Spanish, we will focus today on ponerse (to put on – the act of getting dressed) and llevar puesto (to wear – the act of using clothes).
The main difference between the two is that you say ponerse when you’re referring to the action of putting clothes on only.
Ponerse is a reflexive verb.
‘Poner’ means to put, and ‘-se’ means oneself.
This means that in Spanish you are literally putting clothes on yourself – not just ‘on!’
As we’ve mentioned several times, language is way more than just translating words. Something interesting happens here:
- In English, when you’re wondering which dress would be best for your cousin’s wedding you ask: What should I wear to the wedding? – referring to the action of already having the clothes on, of using them.
- In Spanish, however, you would ask: ¿Qué me pongo para la boda? – What do I put on for the wedding? – referring to the action of putting on clothes, instead of starting to use them.
As we learned above, ponerse is a reflexive verb. We use a reflexive verb when we want to say that the subject in a sentence performs an action on itself. In this case, we are putting the clothes on ourselves. We conjugate this verb like this:
Use of Articles
As we have seen above, the use of articles- or lack thereof – depends largely on the context. Let’s review!
Llevar means to carry. In the context of clothes, we say in Spanish that we carry the clothes that are on us. The way to say this is to use the adjective* puesto to describe where the clothes are. Llevar puesto [insert noun here] then means that we are actively using the clothes, carrying them placed onus: we are wearing them!
llevar ropa puesta
llevar – to carry, ropa – clothes, puesta – placed/put on us
* puesto is also the participle of the verb poner – in Spanish (just like in English), we can use participles as adjectives to describe nouns!
Something very important to note here is that since puesto is an adjective, it needs to match the noun it refers to! The matching needs to occur both in number and gender.
Let’s look at it:
Since puesto is an adjective, we can place it both before or after the noun. Whether it goes before or after depends on what you’re saying! Check out more on Spanish adjective placement here. So we can say:
* Keep in mind the use of articles with ponerse. We use them the same way we would with llevar puesto! If you need a refresher, check out the table above once more!
Conjugating llevar puesto
When we conjugate llevar puesto [noun], we need to keep in mind that
- the verb llevar matches the subject of the sentence,
- the adjective puesto matches the noun that the subject of the sentence is wearing!
The best way to learn how to describe what you’re wearing is to practice every day as you’re getting dressed! I suggest adding the articles every time so that you get extra practice with the new vocabulary! As an example, let me tell you what my morning looked like:
Yo me pongo el pantalón. Yo me pongo la playera. Yo me pongo las calcetas. Yo me pongo los zapatos. Me pongo gorra antes de salir. Al estar afuera, pienso, ¡llevo puesta toda esta ropa!
(I put on pants. I put on a T-shirt. I put on socks. I put on my shoes. I put on a cap before I leave. Once I’m outside, I think, “I’m wearing all these clothes!”)
Now it’s YOUR turn to practice! Book your FREE CLASS with us so that you can tell us all about your favorite clothes and when you like to wear them!
For more practice, download this PDF complete with exercises and an answer key!
Don’t forget to practice your pronunciation with our supporting video lesson!