entender vs comprender

Entender and Comprender are two Spanish verbs alike that are often (mis)used as synonyms; but that do not necessarily mean the same. In this article we will look at their meanings and how best to use each verb in different situations.

Entender vs. Comprender

The simplest way to differentiate these two is by translating them in the following ways:

  1. Entender: To understand
  2. Comprender: To comprehend

And, as it happens in English, Comprender (comprehend) is used in more formal settings and within written contexts, whilst Entender (understand) is more common in everyday talks; particularly in some Latin American countries such as Mexico.

For example, if someone addresses you in Spanish and you have no idea what they’re talking about, it would sound more natural to say “Lo siento, no entiendo lo que me dice” (I’m sorry, I don´t understand what you are saying).

When to use Entender and Comprender

When to use entender and comprender

On the surface, it may look like Entender and Comprender express very similar actions. Nonetheless, let’s look at the definitions of Royal Academy of the Spanish Language (Real Academia de la Lengua Española):

Entender:

Tener una idea clara de las cosas -> to have a clear idea about things.

Saber con perfección algo -> to perfectly know something.

Conocer el ánimo o la intención de alguien -> to know someone’s mood or intention.

Discurrir, inferir, deducir -> to reason, infer or deduct.

Tener intención o mostrar voluntad de hacer algo. -> to have the intention or show the will to do something.

Creer, pensar, juzgar -> to believe, think or judge.

Comprender:

Abrazar, ceñir o rodear por todas partes algo -> to hug, gird or surround something all the way round.

Contener o incluir en sí algo -> to contain or include in itself something.

Entender, alcanzar o penetrar algo -> to understand, reach or penetrate something.

Encontrar justificados o naturales los actos o sentimientos de otro -> to justify or find natural someone else’s actions or emotions.

Thus, Entender refers to the act of grasping a concept or an idea, knowing someone’s feelings, getting the process of how a thing works or being able to follow the steps to achieve something.

Entender allows you to see the point.

In contrast, Comprender goes a step further and means to embrace a concept or process, to contain the knowledge, and to fully see the situation from the other person’s point of view.

You could say that understanding is more a thing of the mind, whereas comprehending also includes your heart.

comprender vs entender

Phrases with Entender and Comprender

Here you can see some examples of the uses of both verbs in everyday speech:

  • No entiendo de esas cosas. -> I don’t understand about those things.
  • Mi madre tenía entendido que mañana llegaba tu tío de viaje, pero ha llamado su mujer a decirnos que ha pospuesto su visita. -> My mother had understood that your uncle was arriving tomorrow from his trip, but his wife has called to let us know that he has postponed his visit.
  • Su marido entiende mucho de vinos, él se crió en un viñedo. -> Her husband knows a lot about wines, he grew up in a vineyard.
  • Los muchachos se entenderán bien con la nueva profesora de tenis, es muy maja. -> They boys will get along very well with the new tennis teacher, she is very nice.
  • La pobre Lola no entendió ni una palabra cuando viajó a Londres, ¡no habla ni gota de inglés! -> Poor Lola, she didn’t understand a thing when she traveled to London, she doesn’t speak a word of English!
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  • Si las instrucciones del horno microondas tuvieran imágenes de los pasos a seguir, la abuela las comprendería mejor. -> If the microwave oven’s instructions had step-by-step images, grandma could comprehend them better.
  • El médico comprenderá tus temores, la cirugía es una cosa delicada, pero no debes tener miedo porque estás en las mejores manos. -> The doctor will comprehend your fears, surgery is a delicate thing, but you should not be afraid because you are in the best hands.
  • Por favor Marta, comprende que me he enamorado de otra mujer. -> Please Marta, understand that I have fallen in love with another woman.
  • ¿Habéis comprendido algo de la clase de matemáticas? -> Have you understood anything about Math class?
  • Los adolescentes creen que nadie les comprende. -> Teenagers believe that nobody understands them.

Entender and Comprender Verb Conjugation

As you can see from the tables below, their conjugation is quite similar because both verbs end in –er.

‘ENTENDER’ NON-PERSONAL FORMS
PARTICIPLE GERUND INFINITIVE
Entendido Entendiendo Entender
SIMPLE INDICATIVE ‘ENTENDER’
PRONOUN PRESENT IMPERFECT PRETERITE FUTURE CONDITIONAL
Yo Entiendo Entendía Entendí Entenderé Entendería
Tú/Vos Entiendes/entendés Entendías Entendiste Entenderás Entenderías
Usted Entiende Entendía Entendió Entenderá Entendería
Él/Ella Entiende Entendía Entendió Entenderá Entendería
Nosotros Entendemos Entendíamos Entendimos Entenderemos Entenderíamos
Vosotros/Vosotras Entendéis Entendíais Entendisteis Entenderéis Entenderíais
Ustedes Entienden Entendían Entendieron Entenderán Entenderían
Ellos/Ellas Entienden Entendían Entendieron Entenderán Entenderían

Practice conjugating entender here!

entender vs comprender

‘COMPRENDER’ NON-PERSONAL FORMS
PARTICIPLE GERUND INFINITIVE
Comprendido Comprendiendo Comprender
SIMPLE INDICATIVE ‘COMPRENDER’
PRONOUN PRESENT IMPERFECT PRETERITE FUTURE CONDITIONAL
Yo Comprendo Comprendía Comprendí Comprenderé Comprendería
Tú/Vos Comprendes/Comprendés Comprendías Comprendiste Comprenderás Comprenderías
Usted Comprende Comprendía Comprendió Comprenderá Comprendería
Él/Ella Comprende Comprendía Comprendió Comprenderá Comprendería
Nosotros Comprendemos Comprendíamos Comprendimos Comprenderemos Comprenderíamos
Vosotros/Vosotras Comprendéis Comprendíais Comprendisteis Comprendereís Comprenderíais
Ustedes Comprenden Comprendían Comprendieron Comprenderán Comprenderían
Ellos/Ellas Comprenden Comprendían Comprendieron Comprenderán Comprenderían

Practice conjugating comprender here!

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