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Using the Verb 'Apagar'

Meanings More Flexible Than 'Extinguish' or 'Wane'



No apagó las velas. (She did not put out the candles.)

Photo by Echiner1; licensed via Creative Commons.

The Spanish verb apagar is a fine example of a verb whose meanings have a common theme but whose translations can vary considerably depending on context. One of its oldest specific meanings refers to the putting out of a fire or flame, but it also can be applied to many other types of extinguishing or waning.

Some examples of its application to fire or flame:

  • Se quedó dormida y no apagó las velas. She remained asleep and did not put out the candle.
  • Los bomberos controlaron y apagaron 400 incendios forestales. The firefighters controlled and extinguished 400 forest fires.
  • Si no tienes agua puedes apagar la fogata con tierra y arena. If you don't have water you can put out the campfire with dirt and sand.

Once electricity came into use, apagar was applied not only to extinguishing fires, but also to the turning off of lights and later all sorts of devices:

  • ¡No olvide apagar las luces! Don't forget to turn off the lights!
  • A veces el aire acondicionado se apaga automáticamente debido a la sobrecarga del compresor. Sometimes the air conditioning shuts down automatically because the compressor is overcharged.
  • Sony lanza un televisor que se apaga si no lo mira nadie. Sony is introducing a television that turns itself off if nobody is watching it.

Apagar can also refer to fading, whether literally or figuratively:

  • Los colores apagados expresan oscuridad, muerte y seriedad, mientras que los de pastel sugieren luz, frescura y naturalidad. Faded colors express darkness, death and seriousness, while pastels suggest light, freshness and naturalness.
  • No dejes apagar el entusiasmo. Don't let your enthusiasm wane.
  • El amor es como una vela al viento. Si no la cuidas se apagara. Love is like a candle facing the wind. If you don't take care of it, it will die out.

One common use of apagar is to refer to the quenching of thirst: El objetivo de la campaña es demostrar al cliente que Coca-Cola apaga la sed, incluso la más grande. The goal of the campaign is to show the customer that Coca-Cola quenches thirst, including the most severe.

Conjugation: Apagar is conjugated in the same way as pagar. In other words, it is regularly conjugated in terms of pronunciation, but the g is changed to gu when preceding an e.

Etymology: Apagar and pagar (which usually means "to pay") both descended from the Latin pacare, which meant to calm or alleviate. The most closely related English verb is "pacify."

References: Sample sentences are adapted from online publications including Terra.com, Mensajes Cortos de Amor, El País (Uruguay), Webadicto.net, eHow en Español, MarketingDirecto.com and DesarrolloWeb.com.

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