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Translating 'Get' to Spanish

Common Verb Has Dozens of Meanings

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Me puse feliz al leer su mensaje. (I got happy when I read your message.)

Photo by María José Fornerod; licensed via Creative Commons.

"Get" is one of those English verbs that is notoriously difficult to translate. It has a wide variety of meanings (as any English-language dictionary will tell you) and is also used in quite a few idioms. Each of them needs to be looked at individually to determine how best to say it in Spanish.

Here are some of the most common meanings of "get" and ways that you can say them in Spanish:

"Get" meaning "to obtain": Common verbs with this meaning include obtener (conjugated in the same way as tener) and conseguir (conjugated in the same way as seguir):

  • Voy a obtener la licenciatura que siempre quise. I'm going to get the degree I've always wanted.
  • Diseñan un barco que obtiene su energía de las olas. They are designing a boat that gets its energy from the waves.
  • El gobierno canadiense consiguió voto de confianza. The Canadian government got a vote of confidence.
  • Te conseguimos el mejor precio para tu coche nuevo. We got you the best price for your new car.

If "get" carries with it the ideas of obtaining and bringing, the verb traer can often be used: Tráeme dos galletas, por favor. Get me two cookies, please.

Recibir is frequently used with certain nouns: recibir un préstamo, to get a loan; recibir una respuesta, to get a response; recibir un e-mail, to get an email; recibir un trasplante, to get a transplant.

"Get" when referring to a change in emotion: It is common in English to say that a person gets angry, gets sad, gets happy and so on. Many of those phrases have particular verbs to express the thought in Spanish. Among them: enfadarse, to get angry; entristecerse, to get sad; alegrarse, to get happy; preocuparse, to get worried; confundirse, to get confused. It is also possible to use the verb ponerse to indicate a change in emotions.

  • Me puse feliz al leer su mensaje. I got happy when I read your message.
  • Se puso triste porque fue a la nevera a buscar mi botella de agua y estaba vacía. He got sad because he went to the refrigerator to look for his bottle of water and it was empty.
  • Mi decisión se debió sencillamente a que me fastidié de depender de la nicotina. My decision came about simply because I got annoyed at depending on nicotine.
  • En ocasiones me exaspero. Sometimes I get impatient.

"Get" meaning "to succeed at": Among the verb choices are llegar a and conseguir. Either of them are typically followed by an infinitive.

  • No llegaron a ver la luz del día. They didn't get to see daylight.
  • Llegué a estudiar a Santiago en 1982. I got to study in Santiago in 1982.
  • Consiguieron mirar una película de la acción de Hong Kong. They got to watch an action film from Hong Kong.
"Get" meaning "to understand": Either entender or comprender can usually be used. The verbs are usually interchangeable, although entender is more common in most areas.
  • No lo entiendo/comprendo. I don't get it.
  • No entiende/comprende por qué no le preguntó por su número de teléfono. He doesn't get why she never asked him for his telephone number.
"Get" meaning "to earn": Ganar can usually be used.
  • Gana cien pesos por hora. She gets 100 pesos per hour.
  • El ejército mexicano finalmente ganó la victoria más increíble de la historia militar. The Mexican army finally got the most incredible victory in military history.
"Get" meaning "to arrive": Llegar can be used to speak of arrivals.
  • Llegó a casa a las cinco. He got home at 5.
  • No llegaré a la oficina. I won't get to the office.
The above meanings don't represent all the ways that "to get" can be used. The important thing to remember when translating is to figure out first what it means by "to get," perhaps by coming up with a synonym.

The following page lists possible translations for many phrases using "get."

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