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Discover the Right Spanish Verbs for Taking, Holding, Grabbing... and More

written by: Eric W. Vogt • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/17/2012

Get a grip on verbs having to do with actions performed by our hands! Both English and Spanish have a multitude of verbs with as many nuances about taking hold of something, or having something in your hand. Here's where you can grasp a lot of them!

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    Here, Take this...

    Let's start with the verbs that can be used when you hand something to someone and tell them to take it. The Ud. forms will be used for commands, but you could use any appropriate command.

    The verb tener is the most versatile of the verbs for expressing almost all the concepts covered in this brief article. Since it is irregular and so common, students are advised to be sure to know all its forms. For saying, take this, one would say, Tenga [esto], which literally means Have [this]. The action is viewed from the point of view of the speaker, or giver. One can also say Tome [esto] that simply looks at the action from the receiver's point of view -- that he or she is grasping the thing the speaker presents.

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    Other Meanings and Similar Verbs

    The verb tomar is also used to express the action of holding hands:

    Los novios andaban tomados de las manos (The couple was walking along hand-in-hand).

    The used to express the action of grasping or taking hold with the hand is asir, while the verb that expresses holding onto or holding fast or steady, as in not letting go is sujetar (a false cognate as it does not mean to subject -- as in someone to something).

    Asió la empuñadura de la espada y atacó a su adversario (He grasped the sword's hilt and attacked his adversary).

    La madre le sujetó la mano para cruzar la calle (The mother held on to the child's hand in order to cross the street).

    The opposite of sujetar (and any of the grabbing verbs generally) is soltar (ue).

    ¡Suéltame! (Let go of me!)

    The verb agarrar is usually interchangeable with asir and is actually more commonly used. In addition to grasping or taking hold, agarrar is also used in the sense of grabbing in order to take possession of something. It does not necessarily mean to steal, but depending on the context, it could include the idea of theft.

    Cuando mi amigo perdió el conocimiento, agarré el volante y empecé a manejar (When my friend lost consciousness, I grabbed the steering wheel and began to drive).

    El tipo se le acercó, agarró la bolsa y se fue corriendo (The guy came up to her, grabbed her purse and took off running).

    The verb coger, used in most places as a verb for expressing taking the bus or taking something (as from a basket, a table, or someone's hand) should be avoided in Argentina where it is the "F" word. Instead, they use recoger, which elsewhere means to gather (as flowers).

    Speakers of British English often use collect when they refer to coming by to pick someone up. The best verb for this in Spanish is buscar, which ordinarily means to seek or look for (without a preposition):

    ¿A qué hora quieres que yo pase a buscarte? (When do you want me to come by and get you/pick you up/collect you?)

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