Let's Learn About How to Talk About Appointments & Dating

By Eric W. Vogt

If you've opened this article, you probably already know that "cita" means a date and that it can also mean an "appointment." But there's more to learn more about how to be clear in Spanish regarding these very different notions.

Is it a Date or an Appointment?

A cita in Spanish can be a romantic date or something as mundane as an appointment with a dentist or your professor. Context is everything. If the people talking know enough about each others' lives, the differences will be clear so long as either no new events are happening of which some may be unaware (a new boyfriend or girlfriend) or so long as no deceit is involved.

So, the following question, overheard by someone outside the social circle of the person asking it of a third person may be ambiguous:

Tienes una cita esta tarde, ¿no? (You have a date/appointment this afternoon, don't you?)

Of course, there are almost always non-verbal clues, like smiles, frowns, and so forth that might reveal whether it is a romantic date or just an appointment. Still, one could have a date with a boyfriend or girlfriend and be about to break up, so a frown on both people's faces could be taken as a question about whether it was an appointment with a doctor or a tax accountant!

The verb citar can mean to cite (as in to quote) or to make an appointment:

El periodista citó algunos antecedents criminals del alcalde (The reporter cited some of the mayor's past criminal deeds).

El professor me citó para las tres (The professor made me an appointment for three/told me to come see him at three).

Another word, compromiso, carries no chance of being interpreted as a romantic date. It is used for referring to professional appointments.

The word compromiso also can mean an obligation or commitment to perform certain duties, such as un compromiso para con nuestros clients (a commitment toward our customers). It is related to the verb comprometerse -- which means to commit oneself to something or even to be compromised (morally, in a bad sense). Context is everything!

Another professional word for appointment is hora:

¿Puede Ud. darme hora mañana? (Can you give me an appointment for tomorrow/Do you have any openings tomorrow?)

Finally, the verb nombrar, to name, is used for making an official appointment -- naming someone to some post in government. The noun is nombramiento; for example:

El nombramiento para Ministro de Asuntos Exteriores se hizo esta mañana (The appointment for Chief of Foreign Affairs was made this morning).