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Verbs Derived From 'Escribir'

Many Have Meanings Beyond Their English Counterparts

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Escribir con una pluma estilográfica. (Writing with a fountain pen.)

Photo by Ángel Raúl Ravelo Rodríguez; licensed via Creative Commons license.

Escribir, the Spanish verb for "to write," can be combined with numerous prefixes to form other verbs. While most of them have English equivalents that end in "-scribe," they often have meanings in addition to those of their English cognates.

Here are the most common verbs derived from escribir:

Describir usually refers to describing, although often a more accurate translation is "to explain":

  • No quiero describir mucho más. I don't want to explain much more.
  • Científicos canadienses describieron cómo la marihuana afecta la memoria. Canadian scientists explained how marijuana affects memory.
  • Has descrito perfectamente mis sentimientos sobre mi madre. You've described perfectly my feelings about my mother.
  • Me describo como una persona amable, deportista y de muy buen humor. I describe myself as a friendly, athletic and very upbeat person.

Related words include la descripción (description or explanation) and descriptivo (descriptive).

Although inscribir can mean to inscribe, it far more often means to enroll or to register, as for a class or in legal situations.

  • La provincia de Tierra del Fuego inscribió por primera vez a un hombre nacido en las Islas Malvinas como ciudadano argentino. For the first time, the Tierra del Fuego province registered a man born in the Malvinas Islands as an Argentine citizen.
  • Inscriben para el curso de administración de empresas. They are enrolling in the business administration course.
  • Andérez inscribió formalmente su candidatura ante la Comisión Electoral. Andérez formally registered his candidacy before the Electoral Commission.

The most common related word is la inscripción, which usually refers to an enrollment or registration.

Proscribir typically means "to prohibit" or "to ban." When its object is a person, it usually means "to exile."

  • El Artículo 119 de la Convención Europea está limitado a proscribir la discriminación salarial con base en sexo. Article 119 of the European Convention is limited to banning wage discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • Los nacionalistas condenan los intentos por proscribir al presidente. The nationalists are condemning attempts to exile the president.

Una proscripción is a ban or exile. An outlaw or person who has been exiled can be referred to as un proscrito or una proscrita.

Suscribir (sometimes spelled subscribir) usually refers to signing something, especially at the bottom of a page. It can also refer to obtaining a subscription.

  • En un acto histórico y sin precedentes, el presidente suscribió el contrato con el Consorcio Ecoturístico Choquequirao. In a historic, unprecedented act, the president signed the contract with the Choquequirao Ecotouristic Consortium.
  • El miércoles vamos a suscribir un memorando de entendimiento. On Wednesday we're going to sign a memorandum of understanding.
  • Si tiene algún problema con esa página, por favor cliquea aquí para suscribir. If you have any problem with that page, please click here to subscribe.

Una suscripción is a subscription or the act of signing. A subscriber or signer is un suscritor or una suscritora.

Less commonly used verbs derived from escribir include adscribir (to ascribe or assign), circunscribir (to circumscribe or to limit), manuscribir (to write by hand), prescribir (to prescribe, although more often in a nonmedical context than in English), rescribir (to respond in writing), sobrescribir (to overwrite) and transcribir (sometimes spelled trascribir, to transcribe or copy in writing).


Etymology: Escribir comes from the Latin verb scribere (to write), also the source of English words such as "scribe" and "script."

Conjugation: All the escribir verbs are conjugated regularly, following the pattern of vivir except that the past participle ends in -scrito because the past participle of escribir is escrito. Thus the past participle of describir is descrito, and the past participle of transcribir is transcrito. In parts of South America, the past participle of all these verbs except for escribir itself can end in -scripto. Thus you may find in some areas that the participle prescrito is spelled as prescripto, for example.


Sources: Sample sentences are adapted from the writings of native speakers. Among sources consulted for this lesson were Universidad de los Andes, Cerebros No Lavados, Cooperativa.cl, Mforos.com, Terra.com.ar, Conseguir Trabajo en Uruguay, Lahaine.org, Buscando Citas, Programa de Equidad de Género en la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación (Mexico), RoxanaJones.com, Gobierno Regional de Apurimac and Colombia Hoy.

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