How do you say “to grow” in Spanish?

"To grow" in Spanish?

So, you’re a beginner learner, and you’re wondering how do you say to grow in Spanish? ¡No pasa nada! We’ve got you covered. This is actually a full video lesson with practice (podcast version with exercise, transcripts, translation, and vocab word list available by clicking here), we’ll explore the different ways to express the concept of growth in Spanish, along with some common mistakes English speakers make when learning the language. You can just watch this video, or you can work deeply with the podcast version.

Buckle up, and let’s dive in!


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3 verbs for “to grow” in Spanish?

There are three primary verbs that can be used to convey the idea of growth in Spanish: crecer, criar, and cultivar. But we can use criar and its reflexive verb version criarse. So let’s say they are four. Here’s a brief rundown of each:


Crecer is the most common verb for “to grow” and is primarily used to refer to physical or numerical growth. For example, it can describe a person or an animal growing in size or a business expanding.


Criar is another verb that can mean “to grow” in certain contexts. It is more commonly used to refer to raising or nurturing something, such as a child or an animal.


The reflexive version of criar express the idea of growing up, being raised, or the process of one’s upbringing in a specific environment or culture. It focuses on the individual’s development from childhood to adulthood or the context in which they were raised.


Cultivar is used when talking about growing plants or crops. If you’re a gardener or a farmer, this is the verb you’ll want to use.

How to say “to grow” in Spanish?

Context and usage

Now that we’ve introduced the four verbs, let’s discuss how and when to use them. The key is understanding the context in which each verb is used. Remember, crecer is for physical or numerical growth, criar is for raising or nurturing, and also criarse, while and cultivar is for growing plants or crops.


To help you get a better grasp on these verbs, let’s take a look at some examples:

  • Mi hijo está creciendo muy rápido (My son is growing very fast) – Here, we use crecer to describe the physical growth of a person.
  • Estoy criando a mis hijos bilingües (I am raising my children bilingual) – In this case, we use criar to talk about nurturing and raising children.
  • Yo me crié en un pueblo pequeño. (I grew up in a small town) – We are talking about being raised. Funny thing we say it as if we did it to ourselves. Actually “criarse” and “crecer” is something in Spanish nobody does. Only the subject who/which is transforming is the one who “crece” or “se cria”.
  • Nosotros cultivamos nuestras propias verduras (We grow our own vegetables) – Cultivar is used here to describe the act of growing plants.

Difference between crecer, criar, criarse, and cultivar

Understanding the nuances between these verbs is essential for effective communication in Spanish. Let’s take a closer look at the differences:

Crecer vs. Criar

While both verbs can be used to describe growth, crecer is focused on the physical or numerical aspect, whereas criar refers to the process of raising or nurturing something, such as a child or an animal.

Criar vs. Criarse

Criarse is the reflexive form of criar, and it is used to express the idea of growing up or being raised. For example, Me crié en España (I grew up in Spain).

Cultivar vs. the rest

Cultivar is distinct from the other verbs, as it is specifically used for growing plants or crops. It does not apply to human or animal growth.

Common mistakes English speakers make in Spanish

People who speak English, whether native speakers or not, tend to choose the verb “to grow” for all of these contexts. As we explained in the video, this is not possible. I’ve mentioned it before: The verb “cultivar” and the verb “criar” have people (usually) as their subject, who cause something to grow. It could be plants, animals, or something else because we might also use it in a figurative sense. However, the verbs “criarse” and “crecer” do not have someone who makes those living beings “se críen” or “crezcan.” Those living beings undergoing that transformation are the ones that “criarse” or “crecer” on their own. So, a typical sentence that an English speaker would say as “Yo crezco lechugas” is incorrect. You “cultivas” lettuce, and the lettuce “crece.”


Now that we’ve explored the different ways to say “to grow” in Spanish and identified common mistakes English speakers make, you’re well on your way to becoming a more proficient Spanish speaker. Keep practicing, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes – they’re just part of the learning process. And remember, whether you’re talking about crecer, criarcriarse or cultivar, the key to mastering these verbs is understanding their context and usage.

Don’t forget that this is the video version of a podcast, which is a complete lesson because it includes a listening comprehension exercise (the podcast), a reading exercise (the transcription and translation), another comprehension exercise (an extra exercise), and a vocabulary list to include in the app you use to practice vocabulary. Or maybe you’re a classic and use a notebook – I love classics! You can access the podcast version with practice by clicking here.

¡Buena suerte!