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Using 'Trabajar'

Verb Almost Always Translatable as 'To Work'


Mérida, Venezuela

Trabajamos por un mundo sin pobreza. (We're working for a world without poverty.)

Photo by Jorge Andrés Paprona Bruzual; licensed via Creative Commons.

The Spanish verb trabajar can almost always be translated as "to work" in English, even though it has several meanings.

Most commonly, trabajar refers to working in one's job or occupation:

  • Casi cinco millones de niños trabajan en México. Almost 5 million children work in Mexico.
  • Mi hermano trabaja en artes gráficas. My brother works in graphic arts.
  • Algunas veces trabaja como modelo, pero su pasión es pintar. Sometimes she works as a model, but her passion is painting.
  • La compañía admite que menores de edad trabajaron en sus fábricas. The company admits that minors worked in its factories.
  • ¿En qué trabajas? What kind of work do you do?

Trabajar can also refer to activities that don't have anything to do with employment:

  • Trabajamos por un mundo sin pobreza. We're working for a world without poverty.
  • Trabaja en una gran cantidad de proyectos para su madre. He's working on a lot of projects for his mother.
  • Trabajo para ser mentalmente fuerte. I'm working to be mentally strong.

When referring to a machine, trabajar can mean "to function" (and funcionar can also be used and is often preferred): La segunda señal es cuando la computadora trabaja excesivamente lenta. The second sign is when the computer is working too slowly.

In various contexts, trabajar can carry the idea of physically manipulating something in some way:

  • Los gauchos nos mostraron como trabajan a mano el cuero para hacer lazos y azoteas. The gauchos showed us how to work the leather by hand in order to make ropes and whips.
  • Los esclavos eran los que trabajaban el campo. The slaves were the ones who worked the field.
  • Es importante trabajar los músculos desde todos los ángulos posibles. It's important to work your muscles from all possible angles.
Using Other Verbs

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