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The Many Facets of the Verb Encontrar

While the most common translation for the Spanish verb encontrar is "to find," this verb is quite versatile and can be used to express a plethora of ideas. Let's take a look at some notable examples. 


As previously stated, encontrar most typically means "to find" in the sense of "locate" or "discover," as in the following examples:

...desde Argentina hasta México, podemos encontrar cumbia.

...from Argentina to Mexico, we can find cumbia.

Caption 24, Sonido Babel - La cumbia

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Pero abuelo,

But Grandpa,

yo encontré muchas cosas para hacer el regalo de Guillermina. 

I found a lot of things to make Guillermina's gift.

Caption 14, Guillermina y Candelario - La Peluqueria del Mar

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However, the verb encontrar has several additional uses. It is frequently seen in its reflexive form, encontrarse, which, similarly to the verb estar, can mean "to be" or "find oneself":


Porque Barcelona se encuentra entre el mar y la montaña.

Because Barcelona is located between the sea and the mountains.

Caption 14, Blanca - Sobre la ciudad de Barcelona

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Sí, el Señor Aldo Sirenio no se encuentra en este momento en la empresa.

Yes, Mister Aldo Sirenio is not at the company at the moment.

Caption 35, Yago - 5 La ciudad

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La gente verdaderamente se encuentra muy preocupada.

People are truly very worried.

Caption 19, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1

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Note that, like the verb estar (to be), encontrarse can refer to physical location, a temporary state of being, or the fact of being physically present. For this reason, any of the previous examples could be replaced by the verb estar with no change in translation as follows: 


-Porque Barcelona está entre el mar y la montaña

-Sí, el Señor Aldo Sirenio no está en este momento en la empresa.

-La gente verdaderamente está muy preocupada


Now, let's look at an example where encontrarse might be more literally translated as "to find onself":


De nuevo me encuentro sin un solo centavo

Again I find myself without a single cent

Caption 40, Control Machete - El Apostador

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Another use of encontrarse is comparable to the verb sentirse (to feel) in Spanish:

Bueno Adrián, ¿qué tal estás?

Well Adrian, how are you?

¿Cómo te encuentras

How do you feel?

Captions 5-6, El Aula Azul - La Doctora Consejos: Subjuntivo y condicional

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Quiero pedir una cita para hoy

I want to make an appointment for today

porque no me encuentro bien.

because I don't feel well.

Captions 9-10, Ariana - Cita médica

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That said, should a Spanish speaker ask you, "¿Cómo te encuentras?" ("How are you?" or "How do you feel?"), possible answers might include, "Estoy bien" (I'm well), "Más o menos" (OK), or "Me siento mal" (I feel bad). Just don't say "Estoy aquí" (I'm here) since this question most definitely does not refer to your whereabouts! If the question is "¿Dónde te encuentras?" (Where are you?), on the other hand, "Estoy en casa" (I'm at home), or wherever you might be, would be a perfectly acceptable response.

Additionally, the reflexive verb encontrarse con can mean either "to meet" in a planned fashion or "to run into" by chance:


Eh, mi hermanito menor se encontró con la noviecita.

Hey, my little brother met up with his little girlfriend.

Caption 24, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 1

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Imagínate abuelo,

Imagine, Grandpa,

que cuando regresábamos de la escuela

that when we were coming back from school,

nos encontramos con mi amiga, la rana. 

we ran into my friend, the frog.

Captions 16-18, Guillermina y Candelario - Una Amiga muy Presumida

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In fact, el encuentro is also a noun which can mean either a planned or chance meeting or encounter.


Now, let's look at some alternative meanings of the regular (non-reflexive) form of encontrar, which can also be used in a similar manner as the verb parecer (to seem): 


Bueno, doctor, y a mi enfermito ¿cómo lo encuentra?

Well, Doctor, and my little patient, how is he?

Captions 23-24, El Ausente - Acto 1

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Si al mundo lo encuentras enfermizo, delirante y brutal

If you find the world sickly, delirious and brutal

Caption 2, SiZu Yantra - Bienvenido

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Although the first example could literally be translated as "How do you find him?" a viable Spanish alternative could be ¿Cómo le parece? (How does he seem to you?), as the doctor is essentially being questioned about his opinion regarding the state of the patient. As the second example also uses the concept of "finding" to describe one's opinion, si el mundo le parece enfermizo (if the world seems sickly to you) expresses a similar idea. 


Finally, like in English, encontrar can be used to indicate a determination of fact, or "finding":


El jurado lo encontró culpable por robo en primer grado.  

The jury found him guilty of first-degree theft. 


These are just some of the many uses of the verb encontrar. We hope that you have found them useful y que no te encuentres muy agobiado/a (you don't feel too overwhelmed). And don't forget to send us your comments and suggestions!


Grammar Verbs

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