With few exceptions, the Spanish verb creer can be used much the same way as the English verb "to believe." It sometimes can be a bit weaker in meaning than "to believe" and is thus often better translated as "to think." In other words, creer is often used to mean that someone believes something is probable rather than that it is a certain fact.
Creer que: When a statement is made about what a person believes or thinks, creer is typically followed by que and the statement of belief:
- Creo que el presidente hizo lo que tenía que hacer. I think the president did what he had to do.
- Los mayas creeron que las formas en la luna que muchos ven como "el hombre en la luna" son un conejo que salta. The Mayans believed that the shapes in the moon that many see as "the man in the moon" are a jumping rabbit.
- Creen que los estudiantes no estudian. They think the students aren't studying.
- Creemos que tenemos una mínima chance. We believe we have a slight chance.
No creer: If creer is used in a negative form, the verb following que typically is in the subjunctive mood:
- No creo que el país esté en crisis. I don't think the country is in a crisis.
- No creemos que exista un teléfono perfecto para todos. We don't believe there exists a perfect telephone for everyone.
- La Comisión Europea no cree que el motor de búsqueda vulnere la privacidad del usuario. The European Commission doesn't believe that the search engine violates the user's privacy.
Creer + object: Creer also can be followed by a direct object rather than que:
- No creo lo que me dices. I don't believe what you're telling me.
- Cree las noticias malas y desconfía de las buenas. He believes the bad news and distrusts the good news.
- Creo la televisión. I believe the television.
Creer en: Creer en is typically the equivalent of the English "to believe in" or "to have faith in." It can mean either to give credence to a concept or to have trust or faith in a person.
- Algunos no creen en la evolución. Some don't believe in evolution.
- Creo en la educación bilingüe. I believe in bilingual education.
- No creemos en las políticas de extrema derecha. We don't believe in the politics of the extreme right.
- Cuando se lucha por una causa, es porque se cree en ella. When one fights for a cause, it is because one believes in it.
- Parece que el único que cree en Pablo es él mismo. It seems that the only one who believes in Pablo is he himself.
- El país cree en Presidente y en las fuerzas armadas. The country trusts the president and the armed forces.
Creer in a religious context: In some contexts, creer standing alone can have a religious meaning, just as does "to believe" in English. Thus in some contexts, "Creo" (I believe) is the equivalent of "Creo en Dios" (I believe in God).
Creerse: The reflexive form, creerse, is often used with little discernible change in meaning from creer. However, the reflexive form sometimes is used to add emphasis: Me creo que eres mi ángel de la guarda. (I truly believe you are my guardian angel.) The negative reflexive form often offers a tone of incredulity: ¡No me lo creo! (I can't believe it!)
Related words: Creer is a cousin of English words such as "creed," "credibility," "credible" and "credence," all of which have meanings related to the concept of belief. Related words in Spanish include creencia (belief), creíble (credible), credo (creed), creyente (believer) and crédulo (credulous). Negative forms use the prefix in-: increencia, increíble, incrédulo.
Conjugation: Creer is conjugated regularly in terms of pronunciation but not in terms of spelling. Irregular forms you're most likely to run across are the past participle (creído), the gerund (creyendo) and the preterite forms (yo creí, tu creíste, usted/él/ella creyó, nosotros/as creímos, vosotros/as creísteis, ustedes/ellos/ellas creyeron).