Spanish Lessons


Se Trata de Tratar [It's About Trying]

In one of our latest videos, Raquel tells us about a very traditional festival in Spain: The "Fallas." When she explains what these "Fallas" are, she uses an expression that is worth exploring:

Se trata de unas figuras de gran tamaño hechas de cartón y de madera.
It's about some large-sized figures made of cardboard and wood.
Caption 19, Raquel - Fiestas de España

The verb tratar means "to treat," "to try" or "attempt," but also "to deal with" and, like in the previous example, "to be about." Let's review some examples to master this useful verb.

 When tratar means "to treat," is used the same way as in English:

¿Podrías tratarlo un poco mejor a tu hijo, no?
You could treat your son a little better, no?
Caption 29, Muñeca Brava - 1 Piloto - Part 9

In Spanish, however, this verb has many different applications. For example:

Necesitamos tratarnos.
We need to get to know each other.
Caption 18, El Ausente - Acto 3 - Part 2

Bueno, a Felipe he tenido el privilegio de tratarlo.
Well, I have had the privilege to know Felipe.
Caption 34, Felipe Calderón - Publicidad - Part 2

Encerrarlos y maltratarlos es una cosa muy cruel.
To lock them up and abuse them is a very cruel thing.
Caption 28, Kikirikí - Animales - Part 2

Para tratar a alguien de "tú" tienes que tener una cierta cercanía...
To address someone with "tú" you have to have a certain closeness...
Caption 17-18, Fundamentos del Español - 6 - Tú y Usted - Part 1

Me gusta tratar con... con el público, con las personas que vienen.
I like dealing with... with the public, with the people who come.
Caption 21, El Instituto Cervantes - Jefa de biblioteca - Part 1

Just as, in English, you can't use the verb "to treat" to translate the previous examples, in Spanish you can't use the verb tratar to express an idea such as "to treat someone to something." Instead you have to use the verbs invitar or convidar (to invite, to share):

Ni siquiera te convidé un café. 
I didn't even treat you to a cup of coffee.
Caption 45, Muñeca Brava - 7 El poema - Part 2

Additionally, tratar can also mean "to try or attempt":

Pero en Andalucía varias iniciativas tratan de protegerlo.
But in Andalucia several initiatives attempt to protect it.
Caption 18, Club de las ideas - Batería de breves - Part 1

But don't ever try to use the verb tratar in the same way we use "to try" in expressions such as "try the food" or "try on the jeans." For that, Spanish uses another verb:probar. So, you must say prueba el pastel ("try the cake"), and me probé los pantalones ("I tried on the jeans") but never ever: trata el pastel or me traté los pantalones.

Tratar de (to try to) looks like tratarse de (to be about) but has a different meaning and it's not reflexive. Here is another example of tratarse de, using negation:

Ya ves que el juego no se trata de vestir mejor.
You see that this game is not about dressing better.
Caption 24, Hector Montaner - Apariencias- Part 1

These two examples are interesting. The same expression is used in Spanish, but English requires the use of different wording:

Es posible que alguna vez haya pensado usted, al escuchar el nombre del famoso arqueólogo Federico Kauffman Doig, que se trata de un investigador extranjero.
It's possible that some time you have thought, when hearing the name of the famous archeologist Federico Kauffman Doig, that he is a foreign researcher.
Captions 6-7, Federico Kauffman Doig - Arqueólogo

Y más aún si se trata de ti.
And even more so when it's related to you.
Caption 7, Gloria Trevi - Cinco minutos

Do you want to find more examples of the verb tratar in our catalog? You can use the search tool at the top of the screen in the Videos tab of our site to do so. Maybe you can find a use of tratar that we haven't discussed here. ¡Todo se trata de tratar, verdad?! (It's all about trying, right?). If you find some, tweet us @yabla or share them with us at

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