In this post, you’ll learn the difference between encontrar vs encontrarse and how to use them in several different contexts.
This will help you to talk about finding things physically, finding yourself in a certain situation, aligning attitudes, or even finding out something that surprises you.
Also, this post will help you understand one of the most important grammar topics in the language: Spanish reflexive verbs.
On top of that, the verb encontrar is one of the first ten Spanish words I recommend every Spanish student start with.
So, with this in mind, let’s look at how one of the most useful and frequently occurring verbs in the language can be used.
And, to start, I’ll give a quick overview of Spanish reflexive verbs.
An overview of reflexive verbs
A key to understanding Spanish reflexive verbs is to notice how they are similar to English reflexive verbs.
In English, whenever you use the words ‘myself’, ‘yourself’, ‘herself’ etc. you are using a reflexive verb.
As a quick comparison, imagine in one situation you say:
But in another situation you say:
I helped myself…
What is the difference in meaning here?
The first doesn’t say anything particular other than the fact that you helped in some way.
The second, however, implies a slightly different meaning. Maybe you weren’t welcome or didn’t ask for permission for whatever it was that you helped yourself to?
With Spanish reflexive verbs, the same thing happens.
Whenever a Spanish verb changes from it’s non-reflexive to reflexive form, the object of the sentence changes to become the same as the subject of the sentence and there is a slight change in meaning.
Often the change in meaning is subtle, but it can be more drastic like with acordar and acordarse.
To form reflexive verbs in Spanish, you need a set of words called reflexive object pronouns. These are:
- Me – Myself.
- Te – Yourself.
- Se – Himself / Herself / Oneself.
- Nos – Ourselves.
- Os – Yourselves.
- Se – Themselves.
In the next section, you will see how to form the reflexive version of encontrar.
The present conjugations of encontrar and encontrarse
When it comes to verb conjugations, the verb encontrar is known as a stem-changing o:ue verb. This means that the o becomes a ue in the majority of present conjugations.
Here are the present conjugations of encontrar:
|Él / Ella||Encuentra|
Here are the present conjugations of encontrarse with the reflexive object pronouns:
|Él / Ella||Se encuentra|
When it comes to studying Spanish, learning verb conjugations can be challenging but a necessary evil.
I do have a quick hack for cutting the learning curve on verb conjugations to save you time when you are starting on your Spanish journey, you can read about it here.
Uses of encontrar
When you talk about finding a place, an item or an idea you can use the non-reflexive verb encontrar.
1. To find something physical
This first use of encontrar is for finding physical objects such as a place or an item.
English: Where can I find the best place to eat tapas in this neighbourhood?
Español: ¿Dónde puedo encontrar el mejor lugar para comer tapas en este barrio?
English: Yesterday I found a fascinating book in the library.
Español: Ayer encontré un libro fascinante en la biblioteca.
2. To find something metaphorically
You can also use encontrar when searching for ideas, words or forms of expression.
English: I don’t find the words to express how I feel.
Español: No encuentro las palabras para expresar cómo me siento.
English: After thinking for hours, I found a great solution.
Español: Después de pensar durante horas, encontré una gran solución.
3. For judgement or assessment of something
The last use of the non-reflexive form of encontrar is for expressing judgements.
English: I find that idea unfair.
Español: Encuentro esta idea injusta.
English: I don’t find it as interesting as you say.
Español: No lo encuentro tan interesante como dices.
Uses of encontrarse
With the reflexive form encontrarse, the object and the subject of the sentence are now the same. Here are some of the uses of encontrarse:
1. To find yourself in a situation or circumstance
The first use of encontrarse is for describing a situation that you find yourself in.
English: I can’t go to work today, I’m sick. (I find myself in the situation of being sick)
Español: No puedo ir al trabajo hoy, me encuentro enfermo.
English: I was in the middle of nowhere with a broken car. (I found myself in the situation of being…)
Español: Me encontré en el medio de la nada con un coche roto.
2. When objects or people physically meet in a location
If you want to talk about two or more people being in the same place or you want to describe objects such as roads, mountains or rivers that meet in a common location, you can use encontrarse.
English: If we meet up tomorrow, where should we meet?
Español: Si quedamos mañana, ¿dónde nos encontramos?
English: These rivers meet in the valley.
Español: Estos ríos se encuentran en el valle.
3. For aligning attitudes
Similar to encontrar, you can also use encontrarse for describing where metaphorical ideas align or meet.
English: The attitudes of these two players don’t fit in with the team.
Español: Las actitudes de estos dos jugadores no se encuentran en el equipo.
English: My girlfriend and I separated because our ways of seeing life didn’t align.
Español: Mi novia y yo nos separamos porque nuestras formas de ver la vida no se encuentran.
4. When discovering something that surprises you
The last option of encontrarse is used in combination with the preposition con. Use this construction when you find out something or discover something that mostly comes as a surprise.
English: I went to buy meat last night at seven and I found out (surprised to found out) that the shop was closed.
Español: Fui a comprar la carne anoche a las siete y me encontré con la tienda estaba cerrada.
English: We arrived at our holiday house and were shocked to find water all through the house from a broken pipe.
Español: Llegamos a nuestra casa de vacaciones y nos encontramos con el agua por toda la casa de una tubería rota.
At the end of all posts, now I challenge you to take this theory and put it into action.
Instead of internalising what you have read, go out and apply it where you can. If you don’t have a Spanish friend to practice with you can find one using the techniques here.
Try, for example, using encontrarse to describe a situation you found yourself in or with the preposition con to test yourself and grow your knowledge of this important verb.
How else can you use encontrar and encontrarse?