There are a lot of words in Spanish that seem like they could be easily translated into English. Take the word ‘hamburger’ and the Spanish word ‘hamburguesa.’ These two words are similar in both languages; word pairings like this are called true cognates, or words which come from the same origin. However, not all words that look similar in English and Spanish translate the way we might think. There are some false cognates or false friends to beware of! Let’s dive into our beginner’s list of Spanish cognates so we can spot the true cognates from the false.
The Most Common Spanish Cognates
While there seem to be tons of Spanish cognates that look like English words, there aren’t any grammar rules that we can apply to find the pairs. The best way to discover all the Spanish cognates is simply to memorize them! Starting with true cognates in English and Spanish is the fastest way to start learning the language. It can also help greatly with learning pronunciation in Spanish because these words are close to ones you already know.
One group of words that are nearly always true cognates in Spanish and English are locations. Places such as an airport or a hotel are public spaces that people from all over the world access often. Since these locations are shared across many cultures, their names are shared across many languages as well.
Place Names in Spanish and English
the airport – el aeropuerto
the hotel – el hotel
the park – el parque
the bank – el banco
the pharmacy – la farmacia
the hospital – el hospital
the restaurant – el restaurante
the bar – el bar
the university – la universidad
Other Rules for Spanish-English Cognates
While there are some loose rules that can be used to find cognates in English and Spanish, remember that there are always exceptions to these rules. Don’t let that worry you, though! The most important part of Spanish learning is to not be afraid to try. Trying to find Spanish cognates on your own may cause you to make a few mistakes, but it will also help you learn. Here are some general rules that you can use to try and find your own Spanish cognates.
1. If an English word ends in -ate, in Spanish, you can sometimes replace it with an -ar ending to guess the verb in Spanish. Ex: complicate -> complicar
2. If the word you want to translate from English to Spanish ends with -tion, it’s likely you can replace it with -ción in Spanish. Ex: introduction -> introducción
3. If the English word ends with -ic, it’s easily translated to Spanish by switching to -ico. Ex: organic -> orgánico
There are a few more patterns you will notice pop up as you continue learning Spanish, so use those to your advantage! If you need any resources to keep learning Spanish, we’re here.