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The Spanish verb Acabar means something like “to have just done” something. Let’s practice using this strange verb in a variety of contexts, including all its common conjugations.

Full Podcast Episode


Acabamos de hacer esto.

Intro: Join us on a rigorous, step-by-step journey to fluency. I’m Timothy and this is LearnCraft Spanish.

Today we’re going to learn a pretty strange verb, Acabar. This verb literally means something like “to finish” or “to wrap up”. For example:

We’re going to wrap up our class this week.

Vamos a acabar nuestra clase esta semana.

But Acabar is not actually the most common way to translate “finish” or “wrap up”; we’ll learn the most common verb for that next week. Instead, the most common use of the verb Acabar is something really idiomatic that happens all the time in Spanish. Check out this sentence:

My friend(f) just arrived.

Mi amiga acaba de llegar.

So this requires some explanation. The Spanish is literally “my friend finishes of arriving”. But in English, we say that she “just” arrived. This is the most common meaning of Acabar: To say that someone just did something, or that something just happened. Here’s another example:

We just did this.

Acabamos de hacer esto.

So the weirdest thing about this is that in English, we’re using the past tense, plus the adverb “just”. The Spanish instead uses the present tense plus an infinitive. And the word “just” isn’t translated as an adverb; instead it tells us to use the verb Acabar.

Note that in English, we use the adverb “just” in quite a few ways, and it’s important to be able to distinguish between them. A lot of the time, “just” simply means “only”. So for example:

There are just fifteen or sixteen.

Solo hay quince o dieciséis.

Other times, it means that something is very nearby, either in time or in space. In these cases, it can translate to justo if it comes before another adverb or a preposition. For example:

He did it just beforehand.

Lo hizo justo antes.

But when we say that something “just” happened, we’re using the word “just” before a verb. And this is normally translated using the verb Acabar in Spanish. For example:

They just left.

Acaban de irse.

Let’s get some practice with just the present-tense forms of this verb to mean that something just happened. Acabar is conjugated exactly like Hablar, so you should be able to predict the Spanish.

You just arrived; why do you want to leave?

Acabas de llegar, ¿por qué quieres irte?

They have just left; can you wait for them?

Acaban de irse, ¿puedes esperarlos?

We just talked to her and she just left.

Acabamos de hablar con ella y ella acaba de irse.

In this next one, “country house” is casa de campo.

I’ve just seen the bedroom in her country house, it’s gorgeous.

Acabo de ver la habitación en su casa de campo, es hermosa.

Next, let’s learn a totally different use of this verb, specifically the pronominal version, Acabarse. When Acabar is used reflexively, what it means is that something has run out. So for example:

The water ran out.

Se acabó el agua.

In English, we often put the action on the people in situations like this; for example, we might say “we ran out of water”. This really doesn’t translate into Spanish. So for example, let’s say you wanted to say:

Yesterday they ran out of food.

The Spanish might simply be:

Ayer se acabó la comida.

But actually, the Spanish is also likely to include an indirect object, as well as se. Here’s what that might look like:

Ayer se les acabó la comida.

This is literally “yesterday itself for them finished the food”. Ayer se les acabó la comida. But this is a very common way to translate “yesterday they ran out of food”. Notice that the indirect object, les, occurs after the reflexive object, se, and right before the verb. Here’s another example:

I ran out of water.

Se me acabó el agua.

Let’s get some practice with Acabarse, both with and without indirect objects. You’ll simply use a reflexive object when something runs out, but when it’s phrased as someone running out of something, that person will get an indirect object.

It’s strange, but food already ran out.

Es extraño, pero ya se acabó la comida.

I ran out of coffee; do you have more?

Se me acabó el café, ¿tienes más?

The peace runs out when they arrive, they are not calm people.

Se acaba la paz cuando ellos llegan, no son personas tranquilas.

You run out of things very fast here.

Se te acaban las cosas muy rápido aquí.

We’ll go to that place when all the food runs out.

Iremos a ese lugar cuando se acabe toda la comida.

We ran out of ideas; we have to think of something else.

Se nos acabaron las ideas, tenemos que pensar en algo más.

For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/162. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

They’re trying to leave, but we have just arrived.

Ellos tratan de irse, pero nosotros acabamos de llegar.

Nothing can run out during the party.

Nada se puede acabar durante la fiesta.

I treat her well, but she treats me badly.

La trato bien, pero ella me trata mal.

She has run out of water.

Se le ha acabado el agua.

The story is about a dog and it seems funny to them.

La historia se trata de un perro y les parece graciosa. 

The water might run out.

El agua se puede acabar.

We just talked to her, but she was trying to leave.

Acabamos de hablar con ella, pero ella trataba de irse.

They just gave us more.

Nos acaban de dar más.

You have to try to pass by that building, I was just there.

Tienes que tratar de pasar por ese edificio, yo acabo de estar ahí.

Poor dog, we tried to bring him home.

Pobre perro, tratamos de llevarlo a casa.

He will run out of his food soon.

Se le acabará su comida pronto.

All the ideas ran out and he tried to think of more.

Se acabaron todas las ideas y trató de pensar en más.

The coffee didn’t run out yet. I’ll look for more when it runs out.

Todavía no se acabó el café. Voy a buscar más cuando se acabe.

You just arrived and he just left.

Acabas de llegar y él acaba de irse.

Those goods ran out and now we’re trying to look for more.

Se acabaron esos bienes y ahora tratamos de buscar más.

They’ve just seen the bathroom because they're trying to put in new things.

Acaban de ver el baño porque están tratando de poner cosas nuevas.

You just had a perfect day and you didn't realize.

Acabas de tener un día perfecto y no te diste cuenta.

Try to do it! If not, this will run out.

¡Trata de hacerlo! Si no, esto se acabará.

I just left because I want him to try to be alone.

Acabo de irme porque quiero que él trate de estar solo.

We’ll go for more coffee when the one we have at home runs out.

Iremos por más café cuando se acabe el que tenemos en casa.

The music is now over (lit “has run out”).

Ya se ha acabado la música.

 Why don’t you try to take it to your house?

¿Por qué no tratas de llevarlo a tu casa?

She has just returned from that pretty place.

Acaba de volver de ese lugar bonito.

I’ll try to go soon.

Yo trataré de ir pronto.

What we needed ran out and she has tried to look for more.

Se acabó lo que necesitábamos y ella ha tratado de buscar más.

I want him to try to look for the cutest dog of all.

Quiero que trate de buscar al perro más lindo de todos.

I was at the office, but I was trying to see the sky.

Estaba en la oficina, pero trataba de ver el cielo.

I tried to go to that place because they told me it was very beautiful.

Traté de ir a ese lugar porque me dijeron que era muy bello.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/162.

In tomorrow’s episode, we’ll work on the numbers 21 through 29.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Ximena Lama-Rondón. Our music was performed by the Seattle Marimba Quartet, and I’m Timothy, encouraging you to do the hard work of learning Spanish. Acquiring a second language is one of the most fulfilling things you can do, so start your fluency journey today at LCSPodcast.com.

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