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Empezar and Probar

What’s the difference between Probar and Tratar? And how do you say “start” in Spanish? Let’s explore these essential Spanish verbs. We’ll get lots of spoken practice in all of the common forms of Empezar and Probar.

Full Podcast Episode



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 two new verbs in Spanish, and we’ll start with the verb Empezar, which means “to start”. This is spelled e-m-p-e-z-a-r. Empezar. So for example:

I want to start with this one (m).

Quiero empezar con este.

This word can be used in pretty much any way that the English words “start” or “begin” can be used. Here are a couple more examples:

Tell us your name before starting.

Dinos tu nombre antes de empezar.

The test started this morning.

La prueba empezó esta mañana.

Now let’s talk about how this verb is conjugated. In general it’s conjugated like Hablar, but it also has a stem change when the second syllable is stressed; instead of “pez”, it becomes “piez”. So here are some examples:

I start my days with coffee.

Empiezo mis días con café.

Does she start first or do they(f) start first?

¿Empieza ella primero o empiezan ellas primero?

To talk about starting to do something, you’ll use Empezar, and then a, and then the infinitive of the other verb. For example:

She starts to work at five.

Ella empieza a trabajar a las cinco.

She starts to hear the sound.

Empieza a escuchar el sonido.

Let’s practice Empezar.

I’m starting to understand.

Estoy empezando a entender.

You have to start now.

Tienes que empezar ahora.

They always start new projects.

Siempre empiezan nuevos proyectos.

The majority of people start with number one.

La mayoría de las personas empieza con el número uno.

If I start, you start as well.

Si yo empiezo, tú empiezas también.

We started with hundreds of people.

Empezamos con cientos de personas.

We can start with one hundred and thirty-eight dollars.

Podemos empezar con ciento treinta y ocho dólares.

She started yesterday and they started last week.

Ella empezó ayer y ellos empezaron la semana pasada.

We’re about to do some more quizzing with this verb, but first I’ll point out something about the way it’s spelled. For some of the conjugations, the Z turns into a C. For example, the form for “I started”, empecé, is spelled with a C instead of a Z. This is simply a spelling convention, and it doesn’t affect the pronunciation at all; if you’re curious about the reason for this, it’s just that in Spanish, the letter Z only occurs before the vowels A, O, and U, but it turns into a C whenever it’s before I or E. So this means that all of the subjunctive forms are also spelled with a C: empiece, empecemos, and so on.

Let’s get some more practice with Empezar.

Let’s start soon!

¡Empecemos pronto!

Don’t start until I tell you the color!

¡No empieces hasta que te diga el color!

I want you to start with the base.

Quiero que empieces con la base.

When we start, we’ll do it well.

Cuando empecemos, lo haremos bien.

She has started; however, she hasn’t done much.

Ha empezado, sin embargo, no ha hecho mucho.

Start as soon as you can!

¡Empieza tan pronto como puedas!

(Formal) Don’t start until he starts!

¡No empiece hasta que él empiece!

I didn’t start yesterday, so he wants me to start today.

No empecé ayer, así que él quiere que empiece hoy.

All right, next let’s learn the verb Probar, which means “to try”, but in a very specific sense. So we’ve already learned that you can use the verb Tratar along with de to mean “try”. For example:

We tried to do it yesterday.

Tratamos de hacerlo ayer.

But in English, we use the verb “try” in two different ways. We use it for trying something as in attempting something, which is how we just used it. But what about this sentence:

I want to try this food; I had never tried it before.

Here we’re not attempting something. We’re just giving it a try, as in sampling it. In Spanish, this gets its own verb, Probar, which typically means “try”, but it can also mean “test” or “taste”. So here’s the Spanish version of that sentence:

Quiero probar esta comida, nunca la había probado antes.

Let’s go ahead and get some practice with the unconjugated forms of this verb: probar, probado, and probando. I’ll also throw in a few uses of Tratar so that you can practice choosing between the two.

I’m trying to help you.

Estoy tratando de ayudarte.

She is trying that food for the first time.

Está probando esa comida por primera vez.

I’ve tried to get out of this state.

He tratado de salir de este estado.

I don’t feel like trying anything new.

No tengo ganas de probar nada nuevo.

You have to try to do it.

Tienes que tratar de hacerlo.

She hasn’t tried this, so she wants to know what it is before trying it.

No ha probado esto, entonces quiere saber qué es antes de probarlo.

All right, next let’s start conjugating Probar. This verb gets a stem change whenever the first syllable is stressed: prob turns into prueb, spelled with a u-e. So for example:

My friend(f) tries the food that I made.

Mi amiga prueba la comida que hice.

So obviously our noun, prueba, which means “trial” or “test”, is related to this verb. Here’s another example that uses two forms with the stem change:

Do you try the food before I try it?

¿Pruebas la comida antes de que yo la pruebe?

Let’s get some more practice with Probar, and we’re going to use quite a few different forms. And once again, I’ll throw in some uses of Tratar so that you can practice translating “try” as Tratar when what we’re talking about is an attempt, not a sample.

She tries going with them.

Trata de ir con ellos.

Let’s try this color!

¡Probemos este color!

Try this and tell me if you like it!

¡Prueba esto y dime si te gusta!

She tries the food before ordering it.

Prueba la comida antes de pedirla.

Try it! You don’t know if you like it.

¡Pruébalo! No sabes si te gusta.

She wants me to try her food.

Ella quiere que yo pruebe su comida.

You’re trying to be here on time, why don’t you try with the train?

Tratas de estar aquí a tiempo, ¿por qué no pruebas con el tren?

They don’t want us to try it until she tries it.

No quieren que lo probemos hasta que ella lo pruebe.

Our network has eight hundred and sixty-one people, let’s try to help.

Nuestra red tiene ochocientas sesenta y una personas, tratemos de ayudar.

(Formal) Try this food! It’s one hundred percent good for your health.

¡Pruebe esta comida! Es cien por ciento buena para su salud.

For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/216. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

Don’t start in that position! It’s not good for someone of your size.

¡No empieces en esa posición! No es bueno para alguien de tu tamaño.

He wants me to try this color after our conversation.

Quiere que pruebe este color después de nuestra conversación.

Start the conversation with your partner in English!

¡Empieza la conversación con tu pareja en inglés!

Based on that, we don’t have any doubts.

En base a eso, no tenemos ninguna duda.

They always start talking about politics.

Siempre empiezan a hablar de política.

(Formal) Start with example number five hundred and fifteen!

¡Empiece con el ejemplo número quinientos quince!

Let’s try the food that that couple made!

¡Probemos la comida que hizo esa pareja!

He doesn’t want me to fear it, but I haven’t tasted it yet.

No quiere que lo tema, pero no lo he probado aún.

(Formal) Try this color! I think it’ll be a hundred times better for you.

¡Pruebe este color! Creo que será cien veces mejor para usted.

Tell me when you start so he tries it.

Dime cuando empieces para que él lo pruebe.

The movie is starting. I’ve seen it like four hundred and seventy-nine times.

La película está empezando, la he visto como cuatrocientas setenta y nueve veces.

If you start talking about politics, it’ll be a problem.

Si empiezas a hablar de política, será un problema.

Let’s start; we have to make food for three hundred and twenty-four people.

Empecemos, tenemos que hacer comida para trescientas veinticuatro personas.

He doesn’t want me to fear, even though we are missing nine hundred and eighty-seven dollars.

No quiere que tema, aunque nos faltan novecientos ochenta y siete dólares.

Why don’t you try that food?

¿Por qué no pruebas esa comida?

He ended up in position six hundred and fifty-six.

Terminó en la posición seiscientos cincuenta y seis.

He wants me to start walking, but I don’t feel like it.

Quiere que empiece a andar, pero no tengo ganas.

Try with this sound! I think you’ll like it.

¡Prueba con este sonido! Creo que te gustará.

They started making noise.

Empezaron a hacer ruido.

I started the project last week alone(f), but we started together(f) yesterday.

Empecé el proyecto la semana pasada sola, pero empezamos juntas ayer.

When he starts working, he starts with the base.

Cuando empieza a trabajar, empieza con la base.

You have to try this, so try it!

Tienes que probar esto, ¡entonces pruébalo!

If she tries the food and doesn’t like it, we have to start anew.

Si prueba la comida y no le gusta, tenemos que empezar de nuevo.

That’s not a good sound, it’s noise.

Eso no es un buen sonido, es ruido.

I have a doubt with example number seven hundred and forty-two.

Tengo una duda con el ejemplo número setecientos cuarenta y dos.

She wants me to start; however, I don’t know English.

Ella quiere que yo empiece, sin embargo, no sé inglés.

We start with our network.

Empezamos con nuestra red.

Let’s try with this size to see if it’s good.

Probemos con este tamaño para ver si es bueno.

He started with example number two hundred and ninety-three.

Empezó con el ejemplo número doscientos noventa y tres.

We haven’t started yet and she wants us to start.

No hemos empezado aún y ella quiere que empecemos.

Based on the hundreds of questions we asked, we can try it.

En base a las cientos de preguntas que hicimos, podemos probarlo.

She has been trying out being in that state.

Ha estado probando estar en ese estado.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/216.

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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