How to say "supposed to" in Spanish

Rob Ashby

Rob Ashby

The Spanish Obsessive

In this new series, we look at the easiest way to say things in Spanish.

Some things in English are easy to translate, but others are tricky.

It can be hard to find a straight-forward translation of certain words and phrases – you look in the dictionary and see 50 different words which apparently all mean the same thing!

We’re obsessed with saying things the “natural” way in Spanish, and that’s why we’ve started this series, called “How to say… in Spanish”.

Ok, maybe not the most original title! 

We’ll look at how to translate those tricky words and phrases, looking at the most natural-sounding way you can say something in Spanish.

We’re starting with “supposed to”.

Saying “supposed to” in Spanish


So how do you really say “supposed to” in Spanish, something which I’ve often wondered about and never really found the best translation until quite recently, and that’s what this video is all about.

So this video is from a new series which we’re releasing on YouTube, how to say in Spanish, not the most original name, but the idea is we take those phrases and words in English and then give, like, the most natural translation in Spanish. So let’s start with… Let’s take the dictionary translation of supposed to.

Se supone que.

So you could look in the dictionary and read that, but it’s actually still quite tough to know how to use it. You might hear mistakes like yo supongo que, ella supone que [note: these are not incorrect phrases, but they are not the right way to say “supposed to”, meaning “I suppose that”, “she supposes that”].

And that’s not correct. So the key to getting this is to think of the English phrase, which you want to say and then strip out the I’m supposed to bit. So, for example, in the phrase, I’m supposed to go to the shop, let’s just take the action part of that, which would be I go to the shop. How do you say that in Spanish?

Shop is la tienda. Go to the shop, ir a la tienda, I go to the shop is voy a la tienda. All we do next is we take our se supone que, and we slap that in front of it. The full phrase would be se supone que yo voy a tienda. Remember the yo is optional.

So it’s really se supone que voy a la tienda. I’m supposed to go to the shop. It’s really as simple as that.

Let’s take another example. She’s supposed to arrive soon. So as a first step, we remove that “supposed to” and what are we left with? She arrives soon. And how do you say that in Spanish? Ella llega pronto. We take supone que and we put that in front of the phrase we’ve just created. So the full complete phrase would be se supone que ella llega pronto.

OK, here’s an example for you to try. How do you say he’s supposed to bring the money? Let’s use our process again. Let’s strip out that he’s supposed to. And we’re left with he brings the money. In Spanish, that is… Él trae el dinero. Or you could say él trae la plata, I like “la Plata”. That’s what they say in Colombia. So I’m going to use that. And we use se supone que. Just stick that in front and we end up with se supone que el trae la plata. He’s supposed to bring the money.

Let’s think about how we say “not supposed to”, so the opposite. Now, you could say no se supone que. But you end up with some really weird phrases if you do that, it sounds unnatural to Spanish speakers. So what I recommend is actually using the verb deber and we use that in the conditional, which would be debería, which means should.

And then obviously we’d use that in a negative. So “not supposed to” is basically the same as shouldn’t, no debería. And at the end of that, we put the infinitive. Let’s try a couple of examples. How would you say “you’re not supposed to do that”? So you could rewrite the phrase as “you shouldn’t do that”.

Let’s start from the back. To do that. Hacer eso. And then using our deber, we would say no deberías hacer eso. And that is the ice cream van.

And the final example for you is “you’re not supposed to go there”. So we rewrite that to “you shouldn’t go there”. And we use our verb, deber. To go there is ir allí. And you shouldn’t go there is tú no deberías ir allí. And of course, the is optional. So you could just say no deberías ir allí.

That is how to say supposed to in Spanish. I’m sure you’ll never make a mistake about that again. So thank you for checking out this video and make sure you hit the bell. Press the subscribe button. Also head over to, because there you can create a free account. You can get tons more resources. Check out our podcast and courses and a whole world of Spanish love and materials. Thank you very much. And I’ll see you in the next video.

4 Responses

  1. I learned to say your supposed to be here you would say something like, se supone que estar aqui. But it is also a tricky phrase that many people mess up.

  2. Thank you so much for the “real world” Spanish!
    I actually teach Spanish at the high school level and I didn’t know this.
    There is always more to learn! Thank you again!

  3. Your video about “supposed to” is very well done. Perhaps I am the only viewer who finds the background music/noise annoying. It is distracting and quite frankly, irritating. I believe the ability to focus on the lesson would be improved if the music/noise weren’t present.

    Nevertheless, thank you for a very good explanation of this tricky subject.

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