Lecciones de Español

Temas

Verbs with the prefix a

One of the most common prefixes used in Spanish is a. This prefix is very interesting because when coming from the Latin prefix ab- or abs-, a- denotes separation or privation, but when coming from the Latin prefix ad-, a- denotes approximation or presence. Another interesting and useful aspect of this prefix is that it can be added to certain nouns and adjectives to form verbs.

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Let's compare the different uses of the prefix a-. Take the word ausente (absent). This is a perfect example of the use of the prefix a- to indicate separation. We have a full movie titled El Ausente:  
 

Ya llegó el que andaba ausente y éste no consiente nada...

Now he arrived, the one who was absent and this one does not allow anything...

Captions 9-10, El Ausente - Acto 3 - Part 5

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Strikingly enough, the prefix a- can also mean approximation or presence. A good example is the verb asistir  meaning "to attend":
 

Siempre hemos de asistir personalmente a la entidad bancaria.

We should always go personally to the banking entity.

Caption 13, Raquel - Abrir una cuenta bancaria

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Much more practically useful is to know that we can add the prefix a- to other words, like nouns and adjectives, to form verbs. Below is an example from a video published this week. The verb acostumbrar (to get used to) is formed with the prefix a and the noun costumbre (custom, use):
 

Vea, Pepino, hay sitios donde les enseñan a los animales a que se vuelvan a acostumbrar a su hábitat.

Look, Pepino [Cucumber], there are places where they teach animals to become used to their habitat again.

Captions 10-11, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 7

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Now, using the noun tormento (torment) we get the verb atormentar (to torment): 
 

Eso seguro era algo que podía atormentarlos.

That surely was something that could torment them.

Caption 46, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 10

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There are so many! From susto (fright) you get asustar (to scare):
 

¡Ay no, Candelario! No me asustes.

Oh no, Candelario! Don't scare me.

Caption 44, Guillermina y Candelario - La Isla de las Serpientes

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You can also use adjectives. For example, lejos (far) and cerca (close) give us alejar (to put or to go far away), and acercar (to put or to get close):
 

Después me alejaré

Then I will go away

Caption 22, Reyli - Qué nos pasó

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Ella trataba de acercarse a mí.

She tried to get close to me.

Caption 9, Biografía - Pablo Echarri - Part 3

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Here is a list with more examples. Maybe you can find them in our Spanish catalog.

Tonto (fool) - atontar (to fool or become a fool)
Plano (flat) - aplanar (to flatten) 
Grande (big) - agrandar (to make bigger)
Pasión (passion) - apasionar (to become passionate)
Nido (nest) - anidar (to form a nest)
Morado (purple) - amoratar (to get or give bruises)
Francés (French) - afrancesar (to become French-like)
Grieta (crack) - agrietar (to crack)

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