How do Spanish speakers ‘look forward to’ something?

Not in the way you've probably been taught

Us English speakers get a hefty amount of use out of the phrase “to look forward to”.

“I’m looking forward to hitting the beach”; “she’s really looking forward to getting out of that hell hole”; “we’re looking forward to working with you”.

It’s a nice, neat expression which we can apply to formal and social situations alike.

Here we should take a moment to pity our Spanish-speaking counterparts as they have no precise equivalent of this phrase. Aww.

That doesn’t stop them “looking forward to” things as much as we do. But it does mean that, when speaking Spanish, we need to do a bit of verbal gymnastics to get as close as we can to the English expression.

Indeed, sometimes we need to completely rephrase the whole sentence just to convey the same idea.

‘Looking forward’ in Spanish

Some dictionaries and phrasebooks suggest estar ansioso de (roughly “to be anxious to”) as a possible translation of this beloved phrase. Fair enough.

Yet, in many parts of the Spanish-speaking world this expression honestly isn’t used with any frequency. And it doesn’t cover nearly half the situations for which we’d use “to look forward to” in English.

While no expression is a perfect fit for “to look forward to”, we reckon that the idioms tener (muchas) ganas de… and no ver la hora de… are the best of an imperfect bunch. These two mean loosely: “to be (really) up for…/to really want to…” and “to not to be able to wait to/for…”.

Tener (muchas) ganas de…

In Spanish, tener ganas is a way of saying that you really want something e.g. tengo muchas ganas de un helado would be a good phrase to use if you were really in the mood for an ice cream.

In some circumstances, the same expression can be used as a close equivalent of “to look forward to”. Time to look at some examples…

The expression:

volume_muteTengo muchas ganas de verte

would be something like “I really want to see you” / “I’m really looking forward to seeing you”.

Beware, though, that this specific expression can sometimes have romantic, sentimental or even sexual overtones (the phrase “tengo muchas ganas de tí”, for instance, is alarmingly similar to the English phrase “I want you”). With that in mind, you might want to skip this one when chatting to your boss.

You’d be on safer ground if working this phrase in after a long, tiring day traipsing all over the city. Feeling despondent, you might meekly say:

Tengo muchas ganas de volver a la casavolume_mute

That is, “I’m really looking forward to getting back home”.

Excellent though this phrase is (if we do say so ourselves), remember that it still isn’t a 100% interchangeable with “to look forward to” in all situations.

When dying for the bathroom, for example, a native speaker may comment:

volume_muteTengo muchas ganas de ir al baño

Here, they just mean that they’ve really gotta go — not that they’re tremendously excited about the world of delights awaiting them on the other side of the toilet door.

No ver la hora (de)…

This is another good way to describe how you feel about something fun coming up on the horizon. No veo la hora de… is basically the Spanish way of saying “I can’t wait for…”.

It is very definitely a superior translation of this idea than the more literal no puedo esperar, which is an expression a native speaker would use only rarely, if ever.

The literal version sounds off, as it’s overly dramatic; almost like you’re going to have a heart attack and die right now if whatever you’re looking forward doesn’t happen immediately. That’s probably a little excessive.

So let’s move onto a couple of examples to illustrate the use of the superior phrase: no veo la hora de….

Book yourself a trip to a luxury Caribbean resort, for instance, and you’d be well within your rights to say to your friends:

volume_muteNo veo la hora de estar en la playa

In other words, “I can’t wait to get to the beach” or “I’m really looking forward to being at the beach”. (For “I can’t wait to go on vacation” you could also plump for no veo la hora de ir de vacaciones).

Similarly, when starving hungry, or excited about an upcoming feast of tasty delights, you could venture:

No veo la hora de comervolume_mute

For this, the translation would be: “I can’t wait to eat”.

All this is to show that Spanish speakers do “look forward” to stuff. They just don’t express it in quite the same way that we do.

Questions or suggestions about how to look forward to things in Spanish? Please write ‘em below! Quedamos a la espera de tus comentarios…

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