Translate "Find" into Spanish

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Discovering or Concluding – and More!

The basic meaning of find is to encounter, and thus, the Spanish verbs hallar and encontrar (ue) are often the solution. Either verb can be used for people or things, so they are generally good first choices. The verb hallar has a bit of an edge where English-speaking students of Spanish are concerned because it is a regular -AR verb, in all tenses and moods. The verb encontrar is only irregular in the present and is easy to say and remember, since it is cognate with encounter. The related nouns for each are hallazgo and encuentro. These two derivative nouns, however are not synonymous. An hallazgo is a finding or a discovery – of evidence, for example, while an encuentro is a meeting, often for the first time, but not necessarily of two people or groups. The noun encuentro is synonymous with reunión – a meeting that is scheduled, whereas an encuentro is often by chance.

Encontré una sortija de oro en la playa (I found a gold ring on the beach). – or Hallé…

Fue un hallazgo muy interesante (It was an interesting find). But less likely encuentro, though possible.

Hallé a Juan borracho en la calle (I found Juan on the streets, drunk). – or Encontré

Fue un encuentro muy incómodo (It was an uncomfortable encounter). But not hallazgo (unless his problem was at that moment revealed). Note that encuentro in this example would be rendered in English as a meeting.

The verb descubrir is cognate with the English verb to discover. Its derivative noun is descubrimiento, meaning a discovery, which are also synonymous words. Although cognate, the verb is irregular in the past participle, meaning that you have to know the form descubierto in order to form the perfect tenses.

Han descubierto unos libros raros en el sótano de su abuelo (They have discovered some strange books in their grandfather’s basement).

As the above examples show, used with people, hallar and encontrar mean that you found a person in a certain place, not that you met them there. Remember: if you meet someone for the first time, the proper verb is conocer – in the preterite. If you find out something about a person, you could use either descubrir or saber, in the preterite – followed by a subordinated clause in which what you discovered is revealed.

Conocí a María anoche (I met María last night).

Descubrí que ella es heredera de una fortuna inmensa (I discovered that she is the heiress of a large fortune). or Supe que…

The verbs hallarse and encontrarse are used to express the idea of finding oneself is a certain condition or situation, and therefore are followed most often by an adjective:

Juan se halló pobre de repente (Juan found himself poor all of a sudden).

Se encontraron en una carretera desierta (They found themselves on a deserted highway).


  • Based on the 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.

  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