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Discover the Right Spanish Verbs for Taking, Holding, Grabbing... and More

By Eric W. Vogt

Get a grip on verbs having to do with actions performed by our hands! Both English and Spanish have a multitude of verbs with as many nuances about taking hold of something, or having something in your hand. Here's where you can grasp a lot of them!

Here, Take this...

Let's start with the verbs that can be used when you hand something to someone and tell them to take it. The Ud. forms will be used for commands, but you could use any appropriate command.

The verb tener is the most versatile of the verbs for expressing almost all the concepts covered in this brief article. Since it is irregular and so common, students are advised to be sure to know all its forms. For saying, take this, one would say, Tenga [esto], which literally means Have [this]. The action is viewed from the point of view of the speaker, or giver. One can also say Tome [esto] that simply looks at the action from the receiver's point of view -- that he or she is grasping the thing the speaker presents.

Other Meanings and Similar Verbs

The verb tomar is also used to express the action of holding hands:

Los novios andaban tomados de las manos (The couple was walking along hand-in-hand).

The used to express the action of grasping or taking hold with the hand is asir, while the verb that expresses holding onto or holding fast or steady, as in not letting go is sujetar (a false cognate as it does not mean to subject -- as in someone to something).

Asió la empuñadura de la espada y atacó a su adversario (He grasped the sword's hilt and attacked his adversary).

La madre le sujetó la mano para cruzar la calle (The mother held on to the child's hand in order to cross the street).

The opposite of sujetar (and any of the grabbing verbs generally) is soltar (ue).

¡Suéltame! (Let go of me!)

The verb agarrar is usually interchangeable with asir and is actually more commonly used. In addition to grasping or taking hold, agarrar is also used in the sense of grabbing in order to take possession of something. It does not necessarily mean to steal, but depending on the context, it could include the idea of theft.

Cuando mi amigo perdió el conocimiento, agarré el volante y empecé a manejar (When my friend lost consciousness, I grabbed the steering wheel and began to drive).

El tipo se le acercó, agarró la bolsa y se fue corriendo (The guy came up to her, grabbed her purse and took off running).

The verb coger, used in most places as a verb for expressing taking the bus or taking something (as from a basket, a table, or someone's hand) should be avoided in Argentina where it is the "F" word. Instead, they use recoger, which elsewhere means to gather (as flowers).

Speakers of British English often use collect when they refer to coming by to pick someone up. The best verb for this in Spanish is buscar, which ordinarily means to seek or look for (without a preposition):

¿A qué hora quieres que yo pase a buscarte? (When do you want me to come by and get you/pick you up/collect you?)