Lesson on How To Understand Confusing Spanish Words
There is a group of Spanish words that seem to give everyone a difficult time. Most of the confusion comes when one English word has several equivalent words in Spanish. -- each with a slightly different meaning -- or used in a different situation. It could be a set of words in Spanish that all happen to translate to a single word in English. Or, it could be one word in Spanish that has shades of meanings, for which the English language has many words to
The purpose of this lesson is to make you aware of these words and give you some tips on how to handle them. Hopefully, this lesson will make you aware of these possible causes of confusion, and prepare you to be a better Spanish speaker.
Examples of Confusing Spanish Words
- To Ask -- Preguntar or Pedir Preguntar and Pedir get confused because they both translate into the English word to ask. In order to know which one to use, you must think about what is being asked. Preguntar is the asking of a question -- asking for information of some sort. The verb pedir is to ask for a thing or ask someone to do something.
- To Know -- Saber or Conocer Saber and Conocer both translate into To Know. In Spanish you say saber when you speak of knowing a fact or knowing how to play the violin. But you would use conocer if you ask if someone is acquainted with someone. Do you know Tom Jones? -- ¿Conoces a Tom Jones?
- Right -- Derecho or a la Derecha or Tener Razon Spanish uses 3 different words for the 3 meanings English gives to the word 'right'. The word derecho means you have a right under the law. To say 'human rights' say 'derechos humanos'. The word right used in the phrase 'to make a right turn' is translated into the words 'a la derecha'. (not to be confused with 'derecho' which is used to say 'straight ahead') To say someone is right as in they are correct, you use the Spanish 'tener razon'. So '¡tienes razon!' means 'you're right!'.
- To Play -- Jugar or Tocar Use jugar when you want to talk about playing a game of cards, baseball, monopoly, etc. When you want to say you play the guitar, be sure to use the word tocar.
- To Miss -- Perder or Extrañar The word perder is used to say miss as in 'I missed the appointment'. If you want to express that you 'miss' another person that you don't see as much as you want to use the word extrañar.
- Can -- Poder or Saber The Spanish word poder means to be able to do something like 'lift 100 pounds' -- El puede levantar cien libros. The word saber on the other hand, is used when you want to express knowing how to do something. -- El sabe arreglar carros.
ConclusionThese are some of the most popular confusing Spanish words. This should serve as an introduction and at least make you aware of the words with more than one definition word. You might want to dig in a little deeper and get full dictionary definitions for each of these words -- that way you'll fully understand all the shades of meaning involved.