Vale la Pena in Spanish: Meaning & How to Use it

Meaning: Vale la pena means “it’s worth it”. You might also translate it as “to be worth your while”, “to be worth the trouble”, “to pay off”, or “to be worthwhile”. Read on to learn how to use this phrase in different situations, and alternatives to it. 

What does vale la pena mean literally? 

Una pena by itself isn’t usually a good thing. But once you understand it, the expression vale la pena (valer la pena in the infinitive) makes more sense. 

Pena it looks like “pain” in English, and it has some similarities to that word (both English “pain” and Spanish “pena” come from Latin “Poena”).

Pena can mean: 

Sadness, sorrow:Andrea sintió mucha pena cuando su amiga se fue a otro colegio
Andrea was very sad (“felt sorrow”) when her friend went to another school
(What a ) shame, pity:¡Qué pena que no puedas venir a la fiesta! What a shame that you can’t come to the party!
Embarrassment, Shame:¿No te da pena portarte así?Aren’t you ashamed to behave like this?
Sentence, Punishment:Al ladrón le dieron una pena de tres añosThe thief got a sentence of three years
Struggle, Hardship:Estaban tristes, querían olvidar sus penas They were sad, they wanted to forget their struggles/troubles
See pena on wordreference.com for more

Valer has several meanings, but the key meaning here is “to be worth”. You can associate it with “value” or “evaluate” in English.  

So vale la pena literally means “it is worth the struggle/difficulty”. 

But in everyday life, it means that something is worth it. 

How do you pronounce vale la pena?

Vale la pena is relatively easy to pronounce. The key to sounding more like a native Spanish speaker in this phrase are the vowels and the L’s. 

Listen to this speaker and see if you can replicate how they say it: 


Examples of How to use vale la pena

Vale la pena is a versatile expression. It’s not especially formal or informal, so you’ll hear it in a wide variety of contexts. 

Here are a few examples of situations where you can use it: 

When something is/is not worth it (present tense)

These examples use valer in the present tense.

  • Vale la pena aprender a cocinar
    • It’s worth it to learn to cook
  • Este libro no vale la pena 
    • This book is not worth it (not worth reading)

Related: How to say I’ll be right back in Spanish

When something was/was not worth it

These examples use valer in the preterite tense.

  • El viaje a Panamá valió la pena 
    • The trip to Panama was worth it
  • Intenté convencerlo pero no valió la pena 
    • I tried to convince him but it wasn’t worth it

When something will be/won’t be worth it

These examples use valer in the future tense.

  • Todos tus esfuerzos valdrán la pena, te lo prometo. 
    • All your efforts will be worth it, I promise.
  • No valdrá la pena seguir trabajando en ese campo.
    • It won’t be worth it to keep working in that field.

When something would be/would not be worth it

These examples use valer in the conditional tense.

  • Valdría la pena juntarnos mañana para trabajar en esto 
    • It would be worth getting together tomorrow to work on this
  • Podríamos ir, pero no valdría la pena, ya es tarde 
    • We could go but it wouldn’t be worth it, it’s already late

When it’s unclear if something is worth it

These examples use valer in the subjunctive.

  • No creo que valga la pena hacerlo así 
    • I don’t think it’s worth doing it like that
  • Puede que no valga la pena
    • It might not be worth it

Related: How to use Saludos like a native speaker

Other ways to say vale la pena

  • Merecer la pena 
    • Literally, “to deserve the trouble”
    • ¿Crees que merece la pena?  
    • Do you think it’s worth it?
  • Merecer el esfuerzo 
    • Lit., “To deserve the effort”
    • Creo que el riesgo merece el esfuerzo
    • I think the risk is worth the effort
  • No te vas a arrepentir
    • Literally, you won’t regret it
    • Contrátalos, no te vas a arrepentir 
    • Hire them, you won’t regret it

Hey there, I'm Connor. I help motivated learners speak Spanish without slogging through grammar books or tapping through every new app. I started Breakthrough Spanish to give more people the confidence and focus to learn effectively Spanish from home.

Leave a Comment