Verbs and Prepositions

The relationship between verbs and prepositions is a special one. In some cases, the preposition exists in the definition of the verb itself; in other cases, the meaning of the verb depends upon the preposition that follows it. Inthis unit, you will expand your vocabulary by exploring the intricate relationship between verbs and prepositions.

Verbs Whose Meanings Include a Preposition

There are many Spanish verbs whose definitions in English include a preposition. It is important to know these verbs in order to resist the temptation to add a preposition when none is needed or when adding one is grammatically incorrect. A list of the more common verbs is provided below for you. In all cases the understood, or contained, word is italicized in the definition.

Busco mis zapatos. Miras las pinturas.
I'm looking for my shoes. You look at the paintings.
El plato huyó con la cuchara. Los trapos empapan el aceite.
The dish ran away with the spoon. The rags soak up the oil.

The following are commonly used Spanish verbs whose definitions in English include a preposition. Note that the definitions given here are not complete for every verb; some have additional definitions that do not include a preposition in English.

agradecerto be grateful (thankful) for
anhelarto yearn (long) to
apagarto turn off
aprobar (o-> ue)to approve of
arrancarto root up; to pull out; to turn on (car)
atravesar (e -> ie)to go (run) through; to go across
averiguarto find out
bajarto go down; to descend
borrarto cross out; to erase
botarto throw away; to toss out
buscarto look for
caer(se)to fall down
calentar (e -> ie)to heat (warm) up
colgar (o -> ue)to hang up
conocerto be acquainted with; to know (a person or place)
cortarto cut off; to cut out
criarto bring up; to rear
derribarto knock down; to tear down; to overthrow
destacarto stand out
elegirto elect (choose) to
empaparto absorb; to soak (sponge) up
encender (e -> ie)to tunr on (lights)
enseñarto point out; to teach
entregarto hand over; to deliver
envolver (o -> ue)to wrap up
escucharto listen to
esperarto wait for; to hope for
huirto run away; flee from
ignorarto be ignorant (unaware) of
indicarto point out
llevarto carry (take) away
lograrto succeed in; to manage to
merecerto deserve to
mirarto look at
organizarto set up; to organize
pagarto pay for
pedir (e -> i)to ask for
pisarto step on; to trample
platicarto talk over, discuss
poderto be able to
ponerto turn on (an appliance)
preferirto prefer to
pretenderto seek (aspire) to; to claim to
quitarto take off
recogerto pick up
rogar (o -> ue)to beg for; to pray for
saberto know how to (do something)
sacarto take out
salirto go out
señalarto point out; to show
separarto set apart; to separate
soler (o -> ue)(soler + infinitive) to be accustomed to; to be in the habit of
soplarto blow out
subirto go up; to come up; to get on (a train, bus, etc.)
tacharto cross out; to erase; to correct
tender (e -> ie)to hang out (laundry); to spread out
yacerto lie down

Verbs That Follow Prepositions

When averb directly follows a preposition, there is only one rule to remember:

The verb following a preposition remains in the infinitive.

There is no exception to this rule. Usually the English translation of the infinitive will be in the gerund, or -ing form; however, at times the verb may translate as the infinitive as well.

Antes de comer, me lavo las manos. Después de comer, lavo los platos.
Before eating, I wash my hands. After eating, I wash the dishes.
En vez de estudiar, voy a dormir. Para recibir una A, necesitas trabajar duro.
Instead of studying, I'm going to sleep. In order to receive an A, you need to work hard.

Verbs that Require a Preposition

Many Spanish verbs require the use of a preposition before the subsequent word, whether it is a noun or another verb (in its infinitive form). There is some method to this, and this is discussed in each of the following six sections. However, for the most part, these verbs, along with their respective prepositions, must be learned just as one learns other vocabulary terms.
Listed below are several verbs that require prepositions when preceding another word. These verbs are arranged alphabetically and grouped according to the preposition each one takes. Following each verb is the most common part or parts of speech the verb will precede, then its English equivalent, and finally the result of the clause created, such as cuidar a (a.), to take care of (someone). Using this information, you could write: Yo cuido a Juan (I take care of Juan). Or the entry, acabar de (v.), to have just (done something), gives you enough information to write: María acaba de escribir una carta (María has just written a letter).
Important: In the entries below, when a verb takes a, note that this a is an actual preposition. Be ccareful not to confuse the preposition a with the personal a, which is placed after all verbs when the stated direct object is a person. The abbreviations in the lists in this unit are as follows: (v.) verb
(n.) noun


Verbs that are followed by a often are referred to as "springboard verbs" beacuse they mark the beginning of an action. As you look through the following list of verbs, you will find that many of them move toward an action or lead a person ahead, either literally or figuratively.
Remember that the preposition a means "to", and that when you go to something, you are moving ahead, going forward.

acertar (v.)to manage, to succeed in (doing something)
acostumbrarse (n., v.)to become used to (someone, something, doing something)
adaptarse a (n., v.)to adapt oneself to (something, a situation, doing something)
adelantarse a (n., v.)to step forward to (someone, something, doing something)
animar a (v.)to encourage to (to do something)
animarse a (v.)to decide, make up one's mind to (do something)
aprender a (n.)to learn to (do something)
apresurarse a (n., v.)to hasten to, hurry to (somewhere, do something)
arriesgarse a (v.)to risk (doing something)
asistir a (n.)to attend (something, a function)
asomarse a (n.)to appear at, look out from (something)
aspirar a (n., v.)to aspire to (be something, someone, do something)
atreverse a (v.)to dare to (do something)
aventurarse a (v.)to adventure to (do something)
ayudar a (v.)to help to (do something), to aid in (doing something)
burlar a (n.)to deceive, play a trick on (someone)
comenzar a (v.)to begin to (do something)
comprometerse a (v.)to make a commitment to (do something)
condenar a (v.)to condemn to (do something)
consagrarse a (n.)to devote oneself to (someone, something)
contribuir a (n., v.)to contribute to (something, doing something)
convidar a (n., v.)to invite to (a function, do something)
correr a (n., v.)to run to (somewhere, do something)
cuidar a (n.)to care for, take care of (a person)
dar a (n.)to face (something)
dar cuerda a (n.)to wind (a watch)
decidirse a (v.)to decide to (do something)
dirigirse a (n., v.)to go to (a place); to address (someone); to direct oneself to (do something)
disponerse a (v.)to prepare to, be disposed to (do something)
empezar a (v.)to begin to (do something)
enseñar a (v.)to teach to (do something)
forzar a (v.)to force to (do something)
impulsar a (v.)to impel to (do something)
incitar a (v.)to incite to (do something)
inducir a (v.)to induce to (do something)
inspirar a (v.)to inspire to (do something)
instar a (v.)to urge to (do something)
invitar a (n., v.)to invite to (a function, something, do something)
ir a (n., v.)to go to (a place); to be going to (do something)
limitarse a (v.)to limit oneself to (do something)
llegar a (n., v.)to arrive at (a place); to be going to (do something)
meterse a (v.)to take up (doing something)
montar a (n.)to ride (something - a horse)
negarse a (v.)to refuse to (do something)
obligar a (v.)to oblige to (do something)
ofrecerse a (v.)to offer to, promise to, volunteer to (do something)
oler a (n.)to smeel like (something)
oponerse a (n., v.)to oppose, be in opposition to (something, doing something)
pararse a (v.)to stop (to do something)
parecerse a (v.)to resemble (someone, something) physically
pasar a (n., v.)to pass to, preceed to (something, doing something)
persuadir a (v.)to persuade to (do something)
ponerse a (v.)to begin to, set out to (do something)
prestarse a (v.)to lend oneself to (doing something)
probar a (n.)to try to, attempt to (do something)
quedarse a (v.)to stay to, remain to (do something)
rebajarse a (n., v.)to stoop to (someone, a situation, doing something)
reducirse a (n., v.)to reduce (a situation or oneself) to (something, do something)
rehusar a (v.)to refuse to (do something)
renunciar a (n.)to renounce, give up, quit (something, a job)
resignar a (n., v.)to resign oneself to (something, doing something)
resistirse a (n., v.)to resist (something, doing something)
resolverse a (v.)to make up one's mind to, to resolve to (do something)
retirarse a (n., v.)to retire to (a place, do something)
romper a (v.)to start suddenly to (do something)
saber a (n.)to taste like (something)
sentarse a (n., v.)to sit down to (something, do something)
someterse a (n., v.)to submit oneself to (something, doing something)
sonar a (n.)to sound like (something)
subir a (n.)to go up to, climb, get on (something)
venir a (n., v.)to come to (a place, do something)
volver a (n., v.)to return to (a place); to (do something) again


Verbs that require the preposition con sometimes clearly have the meaning "with," as in asociarse con, which means "to associate with." At other times we must unscramble the real meaning of the verb to understand more clearly why it takes con.
For example, the verb casarse con, which means "to marry," has as its root the noun la casa (house). The verb casarse con actually means "to set up a house for oneself with (someone)." Another commonly used verb, encontrarse con (to run into, meet up with), means literally, "to find oneself with."

aburrirse con (n.)to be or get bored with (someone, something)
acabar con (n.)to finish with/off, get rid of (someone, something)
amenazar con (n., v.)to threaten with (someone, doing something)
asociarse con (n.)to associate with, team up with (someone)
asustarse con (n.)to be afraid of, be frightened by (someone, something)
bastar con (n., v.)(3rd-person) to be sufficient, have enough of (someone, doing something)
casarse con (n.)to marry (someone)
comerciar con (n.)to trade in/with (a person, a business)
conformarse con (n., v.)to conform to, resign oneself, make do (someone, doing something)
contar con (n.)to count on (someone, something)
contentarse con (n.)to content oneself with (something)
dar con (n.)to come upon (someone, something)
disfrutar con (n.)to enjoy (someone, something)
divertirse con (n.)to enjoy, have fun/a good time with (someone, something)
encontrarse con (n.)to meet up with, run into (someone)
enfadarse con (n.)to get angry at/with (someone, something)
enojarse con (n.)to get angry at/with (someone, something)
equivocarse con (n.)to make a mistake about, be mistaken about (someone, something)
espantarse con (n.)to become afraid of (someone, something)
juntarse con (n.)to associate with, join (forces) with (someone)
limpiar con (n.)to clean (somethng) with (something)
llenar con (n.)to fill (something) with (something)
meterse con (n.)to bother, pick a fight with (someone, something)
preocuparse con (n.)to worry about (someone, something)
recrearse con (n.)to amuse oneself with (something)
romper con (n.)to break up with, break off relations with (someone)
salir con (n.)to go out with, date (someone)
soñar con (n.)to dream of/about (someone, something, doing something)
tratar(se) con (n.)to associate with, have dealings with (someone, something)
tropezarse con (n.)to bump into (someone, something), stumble over (something)


Verbs that are followed by de often are verbs of cessation or withdrawal. This is clearly seen in terminar de + verb, which means "to finish (doing something)." You will see many examples of this feeling of something ending as you examine the list of verbs.
The preposition de also follows many verbs of emotion. Aburrirse de (to be bored b/with), cansarse de (to be tired of), sorprenderse de (to be surprised at) are a few examples of verbs of emotion that take de.

aburrirse de (n., v.)to be bored by/with (someone, something, doing something)
abusar de (n.)to take advantage of, impose upon, abuse (someone, something)
acabar de (v.)to have just (done something)
acordarse de (n., v.)to remember (someone, something, to do something)
alegrarse de (n., v.)to be glad of/about (something), to be happy to (do something)
alejarse de (n.)to go/get away from (someone, something, somewhere)
aprovecharse de (n., v.)to take advantage of (someone, something, doing something)
arrepentirse de (n., v.)to repent, be sorry for (something, doing something)
asombrarse de (n.)to be astonished at (something)
avergonzarse de (n.)to be ashamed of (someone, something)
brindar la salud de (n.)to toast (someone)
burlarse de (n.)to make fun of (someone, something)
cansarse de (n., v.)to be/get tired of (someone, something, doing something)
carecer de (n.)to lack (something)
cesar de (v.)to cease (doing something)
conseguir (algo) de (n.)to obtain/get (something) from (someone, something)
cuidar de (n.)to care for, take care of (something)
deber de (v.)to suppose [conjecture], "must be" (someone, something)
dejar de (v.)to stop (doing something)
depender de (n., v.)to depend on (someone, something, doing something)
encargarse de (n., v.)to take charge of (someone, something, doing something)
estar encargado de (n., v.)to be in charge of (someone, something, doing something)
gozar de (n.)to enjoy (something)
haber de (v.)to suppose [conjecture] to (be or do something)
hablar de (n., v.)to talk of/about, speak of (someone, something, doing something)
jactarse de (n., v.)to brag about, boast of (something, doing something)
librarse de (n.)to get rid of (someone, something)
llenar(se) de (n.)to fill (up) with (something)
maldecir de (n.)to speak ill of (something)
maravillarse de (n.)to marvel at (someone, something)
marcharse de (n.)to leave, walk away from (a place)
morir de (n.)to die [literally] of/from (an illness, a situation)
morirse de (n.)to be dying [figuratively] for/of (something)
ocuparse de (n.)to concern oneself with, pay attention to, deal with (someone, something, doing something)
olvidarse de (n., v.)to forget (someone, something, to do something)
parar de (v.)to cease, stop (doing something)
pensar de (n.)to think of, have an option about (someone, something)
preciarse de (n., v.)to brag about, boast of, pride oneself on (something, doing something)
prescindir de (n., v.)to do without, neglect (someone, something, doing something)
probar de (n.)to sample, take a taste of (something)
quejarse de (n., v.)to complain of/about (someone, something, doing something)
salir de (n.)to leave, go away from (a place)
separarse de (n.)to leave, part company with (someone, something, a place)
servir de (n.)to act as, serve as, be useful for (someone, something)
sorprenderse de (n.)to be surprised at, be amazed at (something)
terminar de (v.)to finish (doing something)
tratar de (v.)to try to (do something)
tratarse de (n., v.)to be a question of (something, doing something)


When a Spanish verb takes the preposition en, that en often wil translate in English as "in" or "on". For example, confiar en means "to confide in, trust"; while insistir en means "to insist on".
One of the more frequently used verbs in this category is pensar en, which usually means "to think about"; however, some English speakers use the expression "to think on". Even though some verbs in this category are idiomatic in their translation, many, under inspection, will reveal a use of in or on. The only recourse is to familiarize yourself with them and use them until you feel comfortable.

abdicar en (n.)to abdicate (the throne, etc.) to (someone)
complacerse en (n., v.)to take pleasure in (something, doing something)
confiar en (n., v.)to trust, confide in (someone, a situation, doing something)
consentir en (v.)to consent to (do something)
consistir en (n., v.)to consist of (something, doing something)
convenir en (n., v.)to agree to (something, doing something)
convertirse en (n.)to become, change into (someone, something)
empeñarse en (n., v.)to insist on, persist in, get involved in (something, doing something)
equivocarse en (n.)to make a mistake in (something)
esforzarse en (n., v.)to try hard in (something), to endeavor to (do something)
influir en (n.)to influence, have effect on (someone, something)
insistir en (n., v.)to insist on (something, doing something)
interesarse en (.)to be interested in (someone, something)
meterse en (n., v.)to become involved in (something, doing something)
mojarse en (n.)to get mixed up in (something)
molestarse en (v.)to take the trouble to (do something)
montar en (n.)to ride (something - a bicycle)
obstinarse en (n., v.)to persist in (something, doing something)
ocuparse en (n., v.)to be busy with (something, doing something)
parar(se) en (n.)to stop at, stay at (a place)
pensar en (n., v.)to think about (someone, something, doing something)
persistir en (n., v.)to persist in (something, doing something)
quedar en (n., v.)to agree to (something, do something)
reflexionar en (n.)to reflect on, think bout (something)
tardar (tiempo) en (n., v.)to delay in (something, doing something), to take (time) to (do something)
trabajar en (n.)to work on/at (something)
verse en (n.)to find oneself in/at (a situation, a place)


The smallest group of verbs that take a preposition consists of the verbs that take para. The preposition para often implies moving ahead or toward something. Recall that a good image for para is an arrow because it moves stright ahead. As you will see, the following verbs indicate that an action is occurring for the purpose of something else to happen: one thing moves ahead, precipitating something else.

estar listo/a para (v.)to be ready for (do something)
estar para (v.)to be about to (do something)
quedarse para (v.)to stay to (do something)
prepararse para (n., v.)to prepare oneself (for something, to do something)
sentarse para (v.)to sit down to (do something)
servir para (n., v.)to be of use for, serve as (something, doing something)
trabajar para (n., v.)to work for (someone, a company); to strive to (do something)


Verbs that take por often deal with emotions (see llorar por) or convey a feeling of equality, in the sense of on behalf of (see abogar por). Emotions and equality are the two main categories covered when studying por.
You can see the difference that para (purpose and destination) and por (emotions ans equality) make with regard to verbs in the verb pairs estar para (to be about to do somethng) and estar por (to be in a favor of), as well as trabajar para (to work for someone) and trabajar por (to work in a place of or on behalf of someone).

abogar por (n.)to plead on behalf of (someone, something)
acabar por (v.)to end by, wind up (doing something)
apurarse por (n., v.)to worry oneself about, fret over (someone, something, doing something)
cambiar por (n.)to exchange (something); to change (something) into (something)
clasificar por (n.)to classify in/by (something)
dar gracias por (n., v.)to thank for, give thanks for (something, doing something)
esforzarse por (n., v.)to strive for (something, something, doing something)
estar por (v.)to be inclined to (do something), be in favor to (doing something)
hacer por (v.)to try to (do something)
impacientarse por (n., v.)to grow impatient for, be impatient to (someone, something, doing something)
llorar por (n., v.)to cry for/about (someone, something, doing something)
luchar por (n., v.)to struggle for (someone, something, doing something)
mandar por (n.)to send via (something -mail)
mirar por (n.)to care about, worry about (someone)
morirse por (n., v.)to be dying for (something, doing something)
ofenderse por (n., v.)to be offended by (something, doing something)
optar por (n., v.)to choose, opt for (something, doing something)
preocuparse por (n., v.)to worry about (someone, something, doing something)
rabiar por (n., v.)to be crazy about (someone, something, doing something)
terminar por (v.)to end by (doing something)
trabajar por (n.)to work for (someone - as a substitute)
votar por (n.)to vote for (someone, something)