Using poner/poner(se) + a + infinitive = to start to carry out an action

The construction poner(se) a + infinitivo, prevalent in spoken Spanish, is used to mean to begin/start doing [something], to get something/someone to do [something], to set about doing [something] or to get on with [something].

This verb can be used as either a reflexive verb or a transitive verb.

1. Ponerse a + infinitivo

Reflexive verb ponerse conjugated + + infinitive

Read and listen to these examples:

¿Me pongo a estudiar ahora mismo?
Shall I begin to study right now?

Los niños se pusieron a llorar y nos fuimos.
The children began to cry and we left.

Nosotros nos vamos a poner a cantar en cinco minutos.
We are going to start singing in five minutes.

In the examples above, ponerse a + infinitivo suggests the beginning of an activity at a specific moment, usually as an unexpected action.

It is also commonly used to talk about the weather in an impersonal way, as an unexpected action:

De repente se puso a llover.
It suddenly started to rain.

¡Se ha puesto a nevar!
It has started to snow!

2. Poner + (algo/alguien) + a + infinitivo

¡Pon tu camisa secar!
Put your shirt out to dry!

Mi madre pone la ropa sucia a lavar.
My mother puts the laundry on. [lit: puts the dirty laundry to wash]

Los agricultores pondrán los tractores a cosechar.
The farmers will have the tractors start harvesting [lit: put the tractors to harvest].

Pon a los niños a ver la televisión.
Get the children to watch TV.

In the examples above, poner + (algo/a alguien) + a + infinitivo suggests that the subject of the sentence begins to do something. This time it is not reflexive but rather has a direct object.

Notice how in the last example above, the object refers to people (los niños), in which case the conjugated verb (poner) is followed by "a".

See also Empezar/comenzar + a + [infinitivo] = to begin/start doing something.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Pon a los niños a ver la televisión.
Get the children to watch TV.


Nosotros nos vamos a poner a cantar en cinco minutos.
We are going to start singing in five minutes.


¿Me pongo a estudiar ahora mismo?
Shall I begin to study right now?


Los agricultores pondrán los tractores a cosechar.
The farmers will have the tractors start harvesting [lit: put the tractors to harvest].


¡Pon tu camisa secar!
Put your shirt out to dry!


Mi madre pone la ropa sucia a lavar.
My mother puts the laundry on. [lit: puts the dirty laundry to wash]


Los niños se pusieron a llorar y nos fuimos.
The children began to cry and we left.


Q&A

William

Kwiziq community member

16 January 2019

1 reply

Se va a poner / va a ponerse

Laura ________ enseguida.Laura is about to start cleaning shortly.The answer given is " Laura se va a poner a limpiar enseguida." Is "Laura va a ponerse a limpiar enseguida" also an answer?

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

16 January 2019

16/01/19

Hola William
Yes, you can also say "va a ponerse a limpiar"; equally correct.

Un saludo

Inma

Getting that for you now.