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Expressing the Idea of "Ownership" in Spanish

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

This is almost a loaded word in English. Learn more about the various denotations and connotations of this word and how they are best rendered in Spanish. In general, English words ending in "-ship" present interesting and unexpected translations in Spanish.

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    Literal or Figurative -- That is Often the Question

    The first and most general observation about this word is to note that English words ending in the suffix -ship (a Germanic suffix, related to -schaft in German) are often not translated into one word in Spanish. Those that are, such as friendship -- amistad -- often fall into that category of Spanish nouns ending in -tad or -tud (and are, by the way, all grammatically feminine).

    The concept of ownership, when speaking literally of property, is not expressed by one noun that refers to the abstraction of ownership. The nouns propiedad (property) and dueño/a (owner) are enlisted in phrases to show that something, such as a house, is the property of so-and-so or that so-and-so is the owner of the house.

    Juan es dueño de esta casa (Juan is the owner of this house).

    Esta casa es propiedad de Juan (This house is Juan's property).

    To ask about ownership -- ¿De quién es/son...? is the most common expression. Note the following examples of how this expression is used:

    ¿De quién es este terreno? (Whose land is this?)

    ¿De quién son estas herramientas? (Whose tools are these?)

    If the one asking expects there to be more than one owner, the plural of the interrogative pronoun must be used. Note that the thing owned may still be singular:

    ¿De quiénes es esta casa? (Whose house is this? or more clearly expecting a plural answer in English: Who are the owners of this house?)

    The word cuyo and its derivatives (cuya, cuyos and cuyas) all mean whose. Note how it agrees in gender and number with the thing owned, not the owner!

    El hombre, cuya casa está en la colina, acaba de comprar este terreno (The man whose house is on the hill, just bought this parcel).

    When the word ownership is used as a verb in English with its focus on property ownership, the verb for taking ownership is adueñarse or apoderarse (to take possession). However, when the verb implies taking responsibility, stepping up to the plate in some sense, committing oneself to something, the verbs to use in such cases are: responsabilizarse, encargarse, comprometerse.

References

  • Author's more than 20 years experience teaching and translating Spanish.

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.
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  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"
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  9. Using "Anyway..." in Spanish
  10. Let's Learn About How to Talk About Appointments & Dating
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  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
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  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!
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