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.
- Author’s more than 20 years experience teaching and translating Spanish.
This post is part of the series: 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.
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Above”
- Using “Actual” and “Actually” in Spanish
- A Problem Preposition: The Ways “About” is Expressed in Spanish
- The Many Spanish Faces of the English Verb “to Agree”
- Spanish Usage Questions: Ways to say “Again”
- Expressing the Many Meanings of After
- Spanish Usage Questions: How to Say “Ahead”
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Anyone” and “Anybody”
- Using “Anyway…” in Spanish
- Let’s Learn About How to Talk About Appointments & Dating
- What Do You Use for “Around” in Spanish
- The Spanish Verbs Meaning “to Ask” are Many!
- Beware of False Cognates! How to Express “Attend,” “Assist,” and “Help”
- Are You “Cool” or “Cold”? Explore the Nuances in Spanish
- The Difference Between “Why” and “Because” in Spanish
- The Temporal and Spacial Meanings of “Before”: How to Get it Right in Spanish
- Don’t Be Left in the Dust! Learn to Express the Meanings of “Behind” in Spanish
- Get the Low Down on the Preposition “Below” and Say it Right in Spanish!
- Understand Saying “Help” in Spanish
- Translating “Beside” & “Besides” into Spanish: Interesting Solutions!
- Not all Meanings of “But” Are Equal!
- Expressing the Various Meanings of the Preposition “By” in Spanish
- What Can the English Word “Can” Mean and How to Get it Right in Spanish
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Corner”
- The Word “Country” in Spanish
- The Various Meanings of “Outweigh” in English and How to Express Them in Spanish
- Expressing the Idea of “Ownership” in Spanish
- How to Express “Time & Distance” in Spanish
- Treat, Try, Attempt, Deal with… In Spanish, You Probably Need “Tratar”
- Spanish Usage Questions: “Having Fun”
- Even a Word Like “Even” Has Many Counterparts in Spanish
- Don’t Go Wrong When You Look for Ways to Express “to fail”
- Do You Mean “Fair” Weather, a “Fair” Game or a “Fair” Complexion? Learn How to Say Them in Spanish!
- Love, Desire and Wanting – Spanish Style!
- Discover the Right Spanish Verbs for Taking, Holding, Grabbing… and More
- You Have Nothing to Fear Except Not Knowing How to Say “Fear” in Spanish!
- Spanish Equivalents of the Common English Word “Find”
- Discover the Various Meanings of “Middle” and How to Say Them in Spanish
- Not All Spanish Words Meaning “Worker” Are Created Equal