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What Does “Capaz” Mean in Spanish?

Have you heard the word capaz in Spanish? Although this word is often translated with the English term "capable," it has several different nuances and additional translations that are worth exploring. In this lesson, we will highlight five different ways in which this useful Spanish adjective can be employed.


1. To Talk About Capacity

We can use the word capaz in Spanish when referring to "capacity," or the number or amount of something that can fit in a determined space. Let's see an example of this usage:


El salón de baile es capaz para 1,500 personas.

The capacity of this ballroom is 1,500 people.


2. To Indicate Ability

The word capaz can additionally be used to indicate someone or something's "ability" to do something:


Roberto es capaz de conducir un auto.

Roberto is capable of driving a car.


Note that in this example, we are merely saying that Roberto is "able" to drive a car (rather than implying that he is an excellent driver!). Let's see another, similar example:


Quiero comprar un barco que sea capaz de... de hacer travesías largas.

I want to buy a boat that is capable of... of making long voyages.

Captions 72-73, 75 minutos Gangas para ricos - Part 20

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3. To Emphasize Talent or Ability

Contrary to the previous usage, the Spanish word capaz can also be used to emphasize someone's talent or ability. In this case, the person described actually excels at some task or is generally considered "qualified" or "efficient":


Ah, bueno, Juan Cruz es un muchacho muy capaz, un excelente muchacho.

Oh, well, Juan Cruz is a very capable guy, an excellent guy.

Caption 56, Muñeca Brava 45 El secreto - Part 5

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4. To Describe Inherent Capacity

Another meaning of the word capaz has to do with whether or not one "has it in them" or "would dare" to do something. Let's take a look at a couple of clips that illustrate this meaning:


¿Ah? ¡A ver! A ver si es capaz de decírmelo en mi cara.

Huh? Let's see! Let's see if you're capable of saying it to my face.

Captions 42-44, Tu Voz Estéreo Embalsamado - Part 12

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¡A que no eres capaz!

I bet you can't do it!

Caption 53, Guillermina y Candelario El Mar enamorado

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In the following clip, our friend Silvia shares with us an expression that fits into this use of capaz:


"No tener pelos en la lengua" quiere decir que esta persona es capaz de decir cualquier cosa de forma clara y directa, sin importarle lo que piensen los demás.

"Not to have hairs on one's tongue" means that this person is capable of saying anything clearly and directly, without what others think mattering to them.

Captions 13-16, Aprendiendo con Silvia Frases hechas - Part 4

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5. To Express Probability or Possibility

In many Latin American countries, the expression Es capaz que can be used to say that "It's possible that" or something "might" happen, as in the sentence  Es capaz que nieve (It might snow). Similarly, the Spanish word capaz can also function as an adverb with que or on its own to express the idea of "perhaps" or "maybe," as in the following examples:


Y capaz que lo conozco.

And maybe I know him.

Caption 53, Yago 14 La peruana - Part 3

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capaz están cerca de un lugar para escalar

maybe you are near a place to climb

Caption 12, Buenos Aires Escalando en Buenos Aires

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In fact, you might even hear someone answer a question like "¿Vas a la fiesta?" with the simple word: "Capaz" (Maybe/I might).


That's all for today. Having learned several ways to use capaz in Spanish, we invite you to write ten sentences with this very useful word— and don't forget to write us with your suggestions and comments.



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