Perder is commonly used in the context of ‘losing something’ in Spanish.
And, just as the English verb ‘to lose’ applies in a number of different situations: losing money, losing a sporting match, and losing weight, you can also use perder in Spanish to describe losing something physically or metaphorically.
But, in Spanish, the verb perder also applies to wasting time, missing something, and even letting meat or vegetables go bad.
In the post, you’ll learn 5 of the most important uses of perder including losing something, getting lost, missing things, wasting time, and how to use each of these forms of perder in a Spanish sentence.
Irregular stem-changing conjugations of perder
Just like the Spanish verb querer, the verb perder is also an E:IE stem-changing verb.
This means that the first ‘e’ will become an ‘ie’ in most of the present conjugations of this verb.
Here are the present conjugations of perder:
|Él / Ella||Pierde|
While verbs such as querer can change quite a lot in other conjugations such as the past tenses, perder is regular in most of the other main tenses that you will likely use this verb.
Use 1. To lose something
As mentioned earlier, you can translate the idea of ‘losing something’ fairly simply to the Spanish verb perder.
In Spanish, you can say you physically ‘lost something’, your sporting team ‘lost a match’, you want to ‘lose weight’, or even that you don’t want to ‘lose your mind’ or control of something.
Here are some examples:
English: I’ve lost my train ticket.
Español: He perdido mi billete de tren.
English: I want to lose 4 kilos by summer.
Español: Quiero perder 4 kilos para el verano.
English: Our football team lost twice this month.
Español: Nuestro equipo de fútbol ha perdido dos veces este mes.
English: If you aren’t careful, you will lose control of these children.
Español: Si no tienes cuidado, pierdes el control de estos niños.
Use 2. To miss something
In Spanish, you can also use perder to mean ‘to miss something’.
But, this is not in the case of missing a family member or a good friend, but instead, this use of perder is for ‘missing the train’, ‘missing your goals’, or FOMO (fear of missing out).
English: If we don’t hurry, we will miss the train.
Español: Si no nos damos prisa, perdemos el tren.
English: We are not going to miss our goals this year.
Español: No vamos a perder nuestros objetivos este año.
English: You just missed the bus.
Español: Acabas de perder el autobús.
English: I don’t want to miss out on all of the fun.
Español: No quiero perderme toda la diversión.
In this last example, we need the reflexive form perderse to translate the idea of ‘missing out’ because ‘missing out’ doesn’t need an object in the sentence. This means that you can drop “on all of the fun” and still have a grammatically correct sentence in both English and Spanish:
English: I don’t want to miss out.
Español: No quiero perderme.
As is the case with a lot of Spanish verbs, when you change from the normal form of the verb to the reflexive form, the verb changes from a transitive to an intransitive verb. You can see a good example of this change with recordar and acordarse.
Use 3. To get lost
If you want to say you ‘got lost’ or you ‘were lost’ in Spanish, then you can also use perder, but you’ll need to use the reflexive form of the verb perderse conjugated in the past.
English: What took you so long? Did you get lost?
Español: ¿Por qué has tardado mucho? ¿Te has perdido?
English: Yesterday he got lost in the forest.
Español: Ayer se perdió en el bosque.
English: I hate to say it but I think we’ve gotten lost.
Español: Odio decirlo, pero creo que nos hemos perdido.
If you want to specifically say “I’m lost” in the present moment, then you can use the adjective perdido, derived from the past participle of perder:
English: Are you lost? Do you need some help?
Español: ¿Estás perdido? ¿Necesitas ayuda?
Note that ‘estoy perdido‘ and ‘me he perdido‘ are both very common. And, if you ask a native speaker which they would prefer, they would probably say that they use both interchangeably.
Use 4. To waste (time)
In Spanish, if you want to describe an afternoon that you ‘wasted’ on Netflix or Youtube, or maybe if you consider this a good use of your time and instead you want to say that you ‘wasted’ your time in a long line at the grocery store, then you should also use perder.
Here are some examples:
English: I’m not going to waste a moment with you.
Español: No voy a perder un momento contigo.
English: Today I don’t have any time to waste.
Español: Hoy no tengo tiempo que perder.
English: Don’t make her waste her time.
Español: No le hagas perder el tiempo.
Note that with this last example, it is common to combine hacer and perder in the context of ‘making’ someone ‘waste’ their time.
Use 5 (Phrase). To spoil / go bad / go off – Echar(se) a perder
This last use of perder is actually a Spanish phrase that combines the Spanish verb echar with perder.
While it is possible to use the Spanish word pudrir which means ‘to rot’ or ‘to putrefy’, it is much more common to use the phrase ‘echarse a perder‘ which means ‘to go off’, ‘to go bad’, or ‘to spoil’.
Here are some examples:
English: The meat has gone off in the sun.
Español: La carne se ha echado a perder en el sol.
English: I’ve got two salmon fillets about to go off.
Español: Tengo dos filetes de salmón a punto de echarse a perder.
English: I’m going to spoil these vegetables for an experiment.
Español: Voy a echar a perder estas verduras para un experimento.
In this last example, I wanted to give you a sentence with the non-reflexive form of this phrase to highlight the contrast between when ‘something goes off’ on its own (echarse a perder) and ‘someone made it go off’ (echar a perder). In general, when the subject and the object of the verb are the same, you’ll need a reflexive verb. When the subject and the object are different, you’ll need a normal verb or a verb like gustar.
Perder is a very common and useful Spanish verb. And, as you can see, it applies in a lot of common contexts.
When you are practising using this verb, I suggest you pick a few of the more unusual forms of perder such as ‘missing the train’, ‘wasting time’, or ‘spoiling the food’ because Spanish students generally understand the first use perder in the context of ‘to lose’ really well.
How else can you use the Spanish verb perder?