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Verbs with Similar Meanings

Verbs with Similar Meanings

Author: Sophia Tutorial

Distinguish between verbs that have similar meanings in Spanish.

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what's covered
In this lesson, you will learn about the differences between several verbs that appear to have similar meanings but should actually be used in different contexts. Specifically, this lesson will cover:
  1. Los Verbos con Significados Semejantes (Verbs With Similar Meanings)
    1. Ser and Estar
    2. Saber and Conocer
    3. Llenar and Surtir
    4. Volver, Devolver, and Regresar
    5. Preguntar and Pedir

1. Los Verbos con Significados Semejantes (Verbs With Similar Meanings)

Certain verbs in Spanish have very similar meanings. However, you do need to make a distinction between them since they are used differently. You can refer back to the verb list as you note these differences.

1a. Ser and Estar

Both ser and estar mean to be. "Ser" is used to describe the essence of something/someone, while "estar" is used to describe the state of being of something/someone.

In other words, "ser" is used to describe things that are more permanent and "estar" is used to describe things that are more temporary (like location and temporary conditions). "Ser" has many more uses and you will see examples of them throughout the rest of this program.

In Course 2, you learned examples of descriptive adjectives. Now, you can look at some of those adjectives again to see whether they should be used with "ser" or "estar."

Examples of permanent characteristics (use "ser" with these adjectives):

Adjective English Translation Adjective English Translation
grande big pequeño small
bueno good malo bad
alto tall bajo short
delgado thin gordo fat
joven young anciano old (person)
nuevo new viejo old (object)
dulce sweet agrio sour
caro expensive barato inexpensive

Examples of temporary characteristics (use "estar" with these adjectives):

Adjective English Translation Adjective English Translation
sano healthy enfermo sick
mejor better peor worse
fuerte strong débil weak
relajado relaxed preocupado worried

1b. Saber and Conocer

Saber and conocer both mean to know. Use "conocer" when stating that you know (are familiar with) a person or place. Use "saber" when speaking of factual or procedural knowledge.

Example Sentence English Translation
Ella sabe tomar la medicina. She knows how to take the medicine.
Ella conoce a Juan. She knows Juan.

1c. Llenar and Surtir

Llenar and surtir both mean to to fill. However, "llenar" means "to fill out" as in a form, while "surtir" means "to fill" as in a prescription.

Example Sentence English Translation
María llena la forma. María fills out the form.
Yo surto la receta. I fill the prescription.

1d. Volver, Devolver, and Regresar

Volver, devolver, and regresar all mean to return. Use "volver" or "regresar" when speaking of a person returning to a location. Use "devolver" to speak of an object that is being returned for a refund.

Example Sentence English Translation
Yo vuelvo a casa. I return home.
Pepe devuelve la receta a la farmacia. Pepe returns the prescription to the pharmacy.

1e. Preguntar and Pedir

Preguntar and pedir both mean versions of to ask. "Preguntar" is used when asking a question, and "pedir" is used when asking for something, such as a favor or an object.

Example Sentence English Translation
Yo pregunto a la paciente que tipo de seguro médico tiene. I ask the patient what type of medical insurance she has.
La paciente pide otro medicamento. The patient asks for another medication.

In this lesson, you learned that some verbs in Spanish have similar meanings even though they are used in different ways. These verbs include ser and estar; saber and conocer; llenar and surtir; volver, devolver, and regresar; and preguntar and pedir. Distinguishing between the usages of these verbs is essential to communicating clearly in Spanish.

¡Buena suerte!


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Source: This content has been adapted from "Pharmacy Spanish" by Stephanie Langston.