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Spanish Language/entender vs. comprender


I know that entender and comprender both mean to understand, but are they interchangeable or should the be used for specific purposes/reasons?

Hi Julie,

For the most part, "entender" and "comprender" are synonyms and are pretty much interchangeable in most settings. Hence, in most cases "No entiendo = No comprendo.

If you get into subtleties, though, "entender" is a bit more literal, as in understanding the language that people use to speak to you.  "Comprender" can mean that, too, but it can also be used with people, ideas and concepts.  For example, "comprender una persona," expresses the idea that you "get" a person, or understand where that person is coming from or their actions.

Ex: "My mother is really angry with my Dad for leaving her and I understand her feelings ("La comprendo")  vs.  My mother tries to speak her native language of German to me sometimes, but I don't understand (No entiendo).

Here is another list-serve where some people discussed the same question, in case it helps:

Saludos y suerte,


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Brandee Strickland


I can answer questions about the Spanish language itself, as I studied Spanish academically and also spent a significant amount of time living in Chile (as a teacher of English). I can also help with issues of translation, and with interpreting slang or other cultural anecdotes. As an experienced teacher, of both EFL and Spanish, I can answer questions as well about teaching, classroom practice, and the use of technology.


I am a native speaker of English but have studied Spanish since a young age, as well as living in Chile for 5 years. I learned Spanish as a student myself, and have also taught introductory and intermediate level Spanish courses both privately and at the University level. At the graduate level, I have studied linguistics and sociolinguistics, as well as focusing on language teaching and the use of technology in the classroom.

University of Calgary, Canada; Universidad de Concepcion, Chile

Strickland, B., & O'Brien, M. G. (2013). A Review of the Literature on Technology in Second and Foreign Language Learning. Calgary: University of Calgary. Strickland, B. (Summer 2012). Communities of practice in the language classroom: Theory and reality. ETAS Journal. Strickland, B. (2009). De Gardner a Bajtin: La comunicacion mediada por ordenador y su impacto en la clase de lenguas. University of Calgary (Canada), ProQuest, UMI Dissertations Publishing. MR54572. Strickland, B. (2009). El mito de Narciso en la poesía española de los Siglos de Oro. Espéculos: Revista de estudios literarios, 40.

I have an undergraduate degree in Spanish and Psychology from Bowdoin College in the U.S. I completed an M.A. in Spanish and Second Language Acquisition and a PhD dissertation in the same field, both at the University of Calgary in Canada and currently working as an Assistant Professor at the Universidad de Concepción in Concepción, Chile.

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