I recently learned the phrase "Pon a llenar la tina" from a Venezuelan friend, meaning "Fill the tub [with water]." It seems like a strange phrase to me, and I'm trying to figure out if there are any other circumstances in which "poner a llenar" could be used. For example:

  • Ya que es primavera, él pone a llenar la piscina
  • Me gustaría jugo. ¿Puedes poner a llenar mi taza?
  • Pon a llenar de carne el sartén
  • Por favor, ponga a llenar el balde de piedras

Do any of these phrases make sense, or is this phrase limited to this particular use?

Acabo de aprender la frase "pon a llenar la tina", y me parece rara. Me gustaría saber si se puede usar "pon a llenar" en otros contextos, como:

  • Ya que es primavera, él pone a llenar la piscina
  • Me gustaría jugo. ¿Puedes poner a llenar mi taza?
  • Pon a llenar de carne el sartén
  • Por favor, ponga a llenar el balde de piedras

¿O solamente se puede usar en la frase "pon a llenar la tina"?

3 Answers 3


The construction "poner a + infinitive" carries the meaning of "prepare/put something so this other thing (the verb in infinitive form) gets accomplished as a continuous action".

Compare "Hierve agua" (boil water) with "pon el agua a hervir" (more or less, "put the teapot or container in the fire so over time water starts to boil").

Compare "fill the bucket" (Llena el cubo) to "put the bucket to get filled". With the first one you are an active agent. You are going to get the hose and fill the bucket with water. With the second one, you will put the bucket so water fills it (with the hose? with rain water?). You may oversee this action, but there is no active part on your part (except for overseeing) to get the action of the verb in infinitive done.



  1. prnl. Comenzar a ejecutar una determinada acción. Ponerse A escribir, A estudiar.

Place something in the right place so the second action gets completed/started.

You would not say "Pon a llenar de carne el sartén" or "Ponga a llenar el balde de piedras", because those seems like actions that need your active action to be completed. You could say

Pon la carne a freir (put the meat -to get done- in the pan)

Because you put the meat in the pan (that is your active action) and then the meat gets done in the pan.

Pon a los niños a comer o a ver la tele (Put the kids to eat or to watch tv)

Because you action gets limited to get something started, and then that actions continues without your active intervention (the children eat or watch tv).


Ponerse a hacer algo just means to start doing something.

Poner algo a [verbo infinitivo]: See below. It is a passive and depends on what verb is used.

However, your examples are not really idiomatic in Spanish and their translations would be odd also.

  • Él se puso a llenar la piscina. He started to fill the pool [with water].
  • Me puse a hacer mis deberes. I started doing my homework.
  • Nos pusimos a hacer el trabajo. We started to do the job.

When the verb is not reflexive you get:

  • Pon a llenar la tina. Put the bucket under the spigot/tap so it fills up.

  • Pon a cocer las patatas. Put the potatoes on [to cook].

  • Pon la ropa a secar. Put the clothes out to dry or Put the clothes in the dryer (depends on the context).

As you can see, depending on what infinitive verb is used, the sentence in English might be longer. I apologize for missing this the first time round.

  • 2
    I think tina in OP's question was a bathtub (although I agree that it could be a tub or a big bucket). // Also, I agree with Nathaniel. The phrase "ponerse a hacer algo" is a lovely expression but it's different from "poner a hacer algo." Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 5:14
  • Sorry, I had not read the second half of your answer carefully. I did a formal edit so I could change my vote. I like your potatoes and clothes examples. Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 5:46
  • I really don't like the edit but will overlook it. As for tina, one can't know every word for everyday things in every country. That is a minor point here. The main point is the structural point.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 11, 2018 at 13:36

"Poner a (verbo)" is a transitive verb meaning to start or initiate (a process). Examples:

  • Poner a llenar la tina: To run/draw a bath, i.e. start filling the bathtub

  • Poner el agua a hervir: To put the kettle on, i.e. start bringing the water to a boil

  • Poner a vibrar una cuerda: To set a string to vibrating

  • Poner a rodar la película: To roll the film

  • Poner el pastel a enfriar: To set the cake to cool

  • Poner la olla a remojar: To set the pot to soak

Of your four proposed examples, only the first one works. Filling a pool is a long enough process that you can turn on a spigot and walk away while it fills. But the other filling processes you described are different. Those containers don't fill themselves. A person is there, actively filling the bucket with stones, until it's full. (If there were a hopper, with an on/off switch, and it took some time for the container to fill, then you could use "poner a llenar.")

There are pronominal versions. For example:

  • Me puse a pensar: I did some thinking

  • Me puse a coser: I sat down to some sewing

  • Nos pusimos a correr: We broke out in a run

  • Ponerse a correr: Start running

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