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Understand Saying "Help" in Spanish

written by: Eric W. Vogt • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 2/14/2012

The Beatles never said it better, but in Spanish there are a number of words that answer to the various ways in which "help" is used in English!

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    Help is On the Way... !

    Let's start with a short list of various verbs or verb phrases that answer to the one English word help. After that, we'll see some examples and also a few common errors in translating help into Spanish. The primary meaning of all these words or phrases is to help, but with the added nuances as indicated below:

    ayudar: to help -- this is the most generic and safe translation of help, but it isn't applicable in each case, just most!

    Juan me ayuda con la tarea (Juan helps me with homework).

    apoyar: to support, assist, aid -- this verb covers a lot of the same situations as ayudar, but with the added dimension of moral support. Watch out not to use asistir -- which means to attend (as in to attend class or a meeting).

    Ella siempre apoya a sus amigos (She always supports her friends).

    respaldar: to back up, support -- this verb is used in many contexts, such as to back up an investment or to give someone the political backing he or she needs. It is easy to visualize -- the root word is espalda (the back -- of one's body)

    Los senadores respaldan los esfuerzos del Presidente (The senators support the efforts of the President).

    echar una mano: to lend a hand -- this phrase is used often in a situation of physical work, or figuratively, when one needs a hand in accomplishing any task.

    Oye, échame una mano con esto (Hey, lend me a hand with this).

    Finally, among the most common verbs and phrases that mean help, there is socorrer -- to rush to the aid of a person, mostly used in the context of a life-threatening emergency. A person in danger would not yell ¡ayúdame!, but rather ¡socorro!

    I must mention soportar, because unfortunately, many lazy translators and non-language experts who have been on the Internet have grabbed hold of this verb because it looks and sounds like support -- as in tech support. This is a major error in Spanish!! I've seen línea de soporte over and over (in an attempt to translate support line) and I usually send a note to the webmaster to point out that soportar means to stand, as in to tolerate. No lo soporto means I can't stand it. The noun soporte refers to an architectural support in a building to keep it from falling down. A far cry from what support means in English, at least in the context of tech help. The best translation for tech support line would simply be línea de apoyo técnico.

Spanish Usage

The articles in this series deal with various questions about the right choice of word or phrase when English may have one or two structures but Spanish has more. They often deal with prepositional issues.
  1. Spanish Usage Questions: "Above"
  2. Using "Actual" and "Actually" in Spanish
  3. A Problem Preposition: The Ways "About" is Expressed in Spanish
  4. The Many Spanish Faces of the English Verb "to Agree"
  5. Spanish Usage Questions: Ways to say "Again"
  6. Expressing the Many Meanings of After
  7. Spanish Usage Questions: How to Say "Ahead"
  8. Spanish Usage Questions: "Anyone" and "Anybody"
  9. Using "Anyway..." in Spanish
  10. Let's Learn About How to Talk About Appointments & Dating
  11. What Do You Use for "Around" in Spanish
  12. The Spanish Verbs Meaning "to Ask" are Many!
  13. Beware of False Cognates! How to Express "Attend," "Assist," and "Help"
  14. Are You "Cool" or "Cold"? Explore the Nuances in Spanish
  15. The Difference Between "Why" and "Because" in Spanish
  16. The Temporal and Spacial Meanings of "Before": How to Get it Right in Spanish
  17. Don't Be Left in the Dust! Learn to Express the Meanings of "Behind" in Spanish
  18. Get the Low Down on the Preposition "Below" and Say it Right in Spanish!
  19. Understand Saying "Help" in Spanish
  20. Translating "Beside" & "Besides" into Spanish: Interesting Solutions!
  21. Not all Meanings of "But" Are Equal!
  22. Expressing the Various Meanings of the Preposition "By" in Spanish
  23. What Can the English Word "Can" Mean and How to Get it Right in Spanish
  24. Spanish Usage Questions: "Corner"
  25. The Word "Country" in Spanish
  26. The Various Meanings of "Outweigh" in English and How to Express Them in Spanish
  27. Expressing the Idea of "Ownership" in Spanish
  28. How to Express "Time & Distance" in Spanish
  29. Treat, Try, Attempt, Deal with... In Spanish, You Probably Need "Tratar"
  30. Spanish Usage Questions: "Having Fun"
  31. Even a Word Like "Even" Has Many Counterparts in Spanish
  32. Don't Go Wrong When You Look for Ways to Express "to fail"
  33. Do You Mean "Fair" Weather, a "Fair" Game or a "Fair" Complexion? Learn How to Say Them in Spanish!
  34. Love, Desire and Wanting -- Spanish Style!
  35. Discover the Right Spanish Verbs for Taking, Holding, Grabbing... and More
  36. You Have Nothing to Fear Except Not Knowing How to Say "Fear" in Spanish!
  37. Spanish Equivalents of the Common English Word "Find"
  38. Discover the Various Meanings of "Middle" and How to Say Them in Spanish
  39. Not All Spanish Words Meaning "Worker" Are Created Equal