Spanish verbs crear, creer and criar

There are some verbs in Spanish that have a very similar spelling and it's why they often create confusion when they are conjugated. Take for example the three Spanish verbs: crear, creer and criar.

Crear, creer, criar: similar spelling

Crearto create

Creer to believe

Criar to raise

By looking at the spelling of these verbs, we can see how Spanish learners can get confused when using them. They do look and sound very similar. Someone could easily get them mixed up. 

If we have a look at some of their conjugations, some forms actually coincide and this adds a layer of complication. 

 

Same yo form in the present indicative: creo

The first person singular of the present indicative of both crear and creer coincide, i.e. they are the same. This makes it difficult to realize which one is being used.We always need to look for clues in the context:

See some examples:

Yo no creo en Dios.I don't believe in God.

Yo creo que deberíamos irnos.I think / I believe we should go.

En mi trabajo creo unas pautas cada día para ser más productivo.At work I create some guidelines everyday to be more productive.

Yo creo piezas muy originales en mi estudio.I create very original pieces at my studio.

 

More coincidences: crear, creer

Other conjugations of crear and creer coincide in their spelling. Have a look a the following table; for crear it is the present indicative and for creer it is the present subjunctive. 

yo crea
creas
él / ella / usted crea
nosotros creamos
vosotros creáis
ellos / ustedes  crean

 

This table belongs to both verbs, crear and creer, but it is showing a different tense for each of them. Here are some sentences to illustrate this: 

Marcos y Luisa crean un ambiente especial en sus fiestas.Marcos and Luisa create a special athmosphere at their parties. (present indicative of crear)

Ojalá mis padres me crean cuando les cuente esa mentira.I hope my parents believe me when I tell them that lie. (present subjunctive of creer)

Mi jefe cree que deberíamos promocionar el producto pronto.My boss believes that we should promote the product soon. (present indicative of creer)

Mi jefe quiere que cree una campaña publicitaria para nuestro nuevo producto.My boss wants me to create an advertising campaign for our new product. (present subjunctive of crear)

 

Often confusing: the preterite forms of crear, creer and criar

How to form the Spanish preterite / simple past tense (El Pretérito Indefinido) of these three verbs is often a struggle for Spanish language learners: 

  CREAR CREER CRIAR
yo creé creí crie
creaste creíste criaste
él / ella / usted creó creyó crio
nosotros creamos creímos criamos
vosotros creasteis creísteis criasteis
ellos / ustedes crearon creyeron criaron

 

Note that the forms of criar do not take an accent on crie, crio.

 

The third person singular (él, ella, usted) is probably the form that gets more confused because of their very similar spelling and pronunciation. Have a listen:

creóhe / she / you formal created

creyóhe / she / you formal believed / thought

criohe / she / you formal raised

 

Often confusing: the gerund / present participle forms of crear, creer and criar

 

The gerund or present participle form of these verbs are often  mixed up. One of them has as an irregular gerund/present participle form using "y" - but which one is it? 

List of Spanish irregular gerunds/present participles of the form -yendo

crear is a regular -ar verb gerund; crear → creando

creer is an -er verb with a double ecreer → creyendo

criar is a regular -ar verb gerund; criar → criando 

It's often harder to remember the correct gerund construction for Spanish verbs that have a vowel right before the infinitive ending (cre-ar, cre-er, cri-ar).

Here are some examples using the gerund / present participle of:

crear 

Los alumnos de Arte estuvieron creando unas máscaras muy bonitas.The Art students were creating some very nice masks.

Con tu actitud terminarás creando más problemas.With your attitude you'll end up creating more problems.

 

creer

Necesitamos seguir creyendo en el amor.We need to continue to believe [lit: believing] in love.

¿Tú crees que yo me estoy creyendo tus mentiras?Do you think I am believing your lies?

 

criar

Verónica está criando a sus hijos sola.Verónica is raising her children alone.

Estamos muy contentos aquí en el campo, criando animales de granja. We are very happy here in the countryside, raising farm animals.

See also:

 

 

 

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Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Creer to believe
creóhe / she / you formal created
creyóhe / she / you formal believed / thought
Criar to raise
Ojalá mis padres me crean cuando les cuente esa mentira.I hope my parents believe me when I tell them that lie. (present subjunctive of creer)
criohe / she / you formal raised
Marcos y Luisa crean un ambiente especial en sus fiestas.Marcos and Luisa create a special athmosphere at their parties. (present indicative of crear)
Con tu actitud terminarás creando más problemas.With your attitude you'll end up creating more problems.
Mi jefe cree que deberíamos promocionar el producto pronto.My boss believes that we should promote the product soon. (present indicative of creer)
Los alumnos de Arte estuvieron creando unas máscaras muy bonitas.The Art students were creating some very nice masks.
Necesitamos seguir creyendo en el amor.We need to continue to believe [lit: believing] in love.
¿Tú crees que yo me estoy creyendo tus mentiras?Do you think I am believing your lies?
Verónica está criando a sus hijos sola.Verónica is raising her children alone.
Estamos muy contentos aquí en el campo, criando animales de granja. We are very happy here in the countryside, raising farm animals.
Yo no creo en Dios.I don't believe in God.
Yo creo que deberíamos irnos.I think / I believe we should go.
En mi trabajo creo unas pautas cada día para ser más productivo.At work I create some guidelines everyday to be more productive.
Yo creo piezas muy originales en mi estudio.I create very original pieces at my studio.
Crearto create
Mi jefe quiere que cree una campaña publicitaria para nuestro nuevo producto.My boss wants me to create an advertising campaign for our new product. (present subjunctive of crear)
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