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Funcionar vs Trabajar

Why does Spanish have two verbs that mean “work”? Today we’ll explore the verb Funcionar and why it’s different from Trabajar. We’ll also get lots of spoken practice using Funcionar in real sentence contexts.

Full Podcast Episode


Creo que está funcionando.

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 three new verbs that are all pretty easy to use and are all conjugated exactly like Hablar.

Let’s begin with Funcionar, spelled f-u-n-c-i-o-n-a-r. Funcionar. This means “to function”. For example:

My phone doesn’t function well.

Mi teléfono no funciona bien.

In modern English, we rarely use the verb “function” this way; instead, we say “work”, as in “my phone doesn’t work”. But when we say “work” in this context, we’re not referring to labor, we’re referring to whether or not it’s functioning properly. So here’s another example:

I had to walk by foot because my car doesn’t work today.

Tuve que andar a pie porque mi auto no funciona hoy.

So in Spanish, this version of “work” can’t be translated as Trabajar; it has to be translated as Funcionar. Try it yourself in this next example:

I tried to call you, but my phone wasn’t working.

Traté de llamarte, pero mi teléfono no funcionaba.

Let’s get some practice with Funcionar. I’ll throw in a couple of examples of Trabajar to help practice choosing between the two verbs.

Do you think this will work?

¿Crees que esto funcionará?

He works as a lawyer.

Trabaja de abogado.

I think the train doesn’t work.

Creo que el tren no funciona.

I was working on the weekends.

Trabajaba los fines de semana.

I don’t think your idea will work.

No creo que tu idea funcione.

I use those phones if they work.

Uso esos teléfonos si funcionan.

This isn’t working, we need another plan.

Esto no está funcionando, necesitamos otro plan.

This has to work, it was seven million dollars.

Esto tiene que funcionar, fueron siete millones de dólares.

The plan didn’t work, so my coworker helped me.

El plan no funcionó, así que mi compañero de trabajo me ayudó.

Our next verb is Ganar, which means “to win” or “to earn”. Here’s a simple example:

Yesterday I was in a race and I won!

¡Ayer estuve en una carrera y gané!

In Spanish, Ganar can be used to talk about winning a competition or earning money. Here are a couple of examples:

How does she earn money?

¿Cómo gana dinero?

I know he likes doing it, but I don’t think he’ll earn anything.

Sé que le gusta hacerlo, pero no creo que gane nada.

Let’s practice Ganar.

How much money do you earn?

¿Cuánto dinero ganas?

I didn’t win anything.

No gané nada.

If they win, there will be traffic.

Si ganan, habrá tráfico.

We earn the same as he earns.

Ganamos lo mismo que él gana.

You have to win or the sergeant will be sad.

Tienes que ganar o el sargento estará triste.

The captain is making millions of pesos.

El capitán está ganando millones de pesos.

He wants me to win the game, but you already won.

Él quiere que yo gane el juego, pero tú ya ganaste.

He won one thousand nine hundred and sixty-three times.

Ganó mil novecientas sesenta y tres veces.

I don’t earn much money, but he wants me to earn less.

No gano mucho dinero, pero él quiere que gane menos.

We won the game! We hadn’t won in a long time. 

¡Ganamos el juego! No habíamos ganado en mucho tiempo.

Now let’s say you’ve earned money and it’s time to do something with it. The verb for “pay” is Pagar. So for example:

He left without paying.

Se fue sin pagar.

Why did she pay you so much?

¿Por qué te pagó tanto?

Sometimes you’ll refer to who you’re paying, and what you’re paying for. If you do both, you’ll use an indirect object and also por. For example:

I’ll pay him for his work.

Le pagaré por su trabajo.

But it gets interesting when you’re paying for something but don’t mention who you’re paying it to. For example let’s say you want to say:

We have to pay for the food.

In these cases, you don’t typically use por; instead, you just say:

Tenemos que pagar la comida.

This literally sounds like “we have to pay the food”, but it’s clear from context what is meant. Let’s try both of these sentence structures. This first one has a recipient, so you’ll use an indirect object and also por.

We paid them for their time.

Les pagamos por su tiempo.

Now try this next one:

He left without paying for the car.

Se fue sin pagar el carro.

Let’s get some more practice with Pagar.

They never pay.

Nunca pagan.

My cousin pays me for the house.

Mi primo me paga por la casa.

Use your money and pay for the food!

¡Usa tu dinero y paga la comida!

He will pay, because I don’t want to pay.

Él pagará, porque yo no quiero pagar.

He has already paid sixty-five million dollars.

Ya ha pagado sesenta y cinco millones de dólares.

She wants me to pay, but I won’t pay.

Quiere que yo pague, pero no pagaré.

We got three phones because she paid for them.

Conseguimos tres teléfonos porque ella los pagó.

I always pay because you never pay.

Yo siempre pago porque tú nunca pagas.

He told me to pay and that way I’ll get what I want.

Me dijo que pague y así conseguiré lo que quiero.

(Formal) Pay so that she can use the phone.

Pague para que ella pueda usar el teléfono.

For more practice with any of this, feel free to dig deeper at LCSPodcast.com/227. Or if you’re ready, let’s go on to today’s final quiz.

I will pay in order to win.

Pagaré para ganar.

You have paid more money than what you earn.

Has pagado más dinero de lo que ganas.

I pay a lot of money to take taxis and not the bus.

Pago mucho dinero para tomar taxis y no el autobús.

I earn thousands of dollars per month.

Gano miles de dólares por mes.

She uses her car to go to the airport.

Usa su carro para ir al aeropuerto.

She used the money that she earned to pay.

Usó el dinero que ganó para pagar.

This business is working because he pays a lot of money.

Este negocio está funcionando porque él paga mucho dinero.

I never get what I want using this.

Nunca consigo lo que quiero usando esto.

I want him to pay this time, because she always pays.

Quiero que él pague esta vez, porque ella siempre paga.

The plan we used didn’t work.

El plan que usamos no funcionó.

I got the car I wanted, but I can’t use it.

Conseguí el carro que quería, pero no puedo usarlo.

The owner paid two hundred and forty-eight million pesos.

El dueño pagó doscientos cuarenta y ocho millones de pesos.

They use your money because you pay on time.

Usan tu dinero porque pagas a tiempo.

I won the game and I hadn’t won before.

Gané el juego y no había ganado antes.

The detective’s plan won’t work, he’s never going to win.

El plan del detective no funcionará, él nunca va a ganar.

The phones don’t work, get new ones!

Los teléfonos no funcionan, ¡consigue nuevos!

He wants me to win the game, but he didn’t get seats.

Quiere que yo gane el juego, pero no consiguió asientos.

He always gets it! I have never gotten anything.

¡Él siempre lo consigue! Yo nunca he conseguido nada.

We want this to work, because we didn’t get anything before.

Queremos que esto funcione, porque no conseguimos nada antes.

He earns three hundred and seventy-two thousand dollars per year.

Gana trescientos setenta y dos mil dólares por año.

He is winning, but not for long.

Está ganando, pero no por mucho tiempo.

She’s been using this for a while.

Ha estado usando esto por un tiempo.

If we win, he will pay me four thousand three hundred and forty pesos.

Si ganamos, él me pagará cuatro mil trescientos cuarenta pesos.

We won five billion pesos playing games of luck.

Ganamos cinco mil millones de pesos jugando juegos de suerte.

You won eight million dollars on your vacation in Las Vegas.

Ganaste ocho millones de dólares en tus vacaciones en Las Vegas.

If you want to get anything in life, you have to be honest.

Si quieres conseguir algo en la vida, tienes que ser honesto.

(Formal) Pay for that flight using ninety-six thousand pesos.

Pague por ese vuelo usando noventa y seis mil pesos.

You use more weapons than a soldier.

Usas más armas que un soldado.

They pay every month and that’s why they also want me to pay.

Pagan todos los meses y por eso también quieren que yo pague.

His role in the company doesn’t work.

Su papel en la compañía no funciona.

The car is going to work.

El carro va a funcionar.

I want him to win, because they never win.

Quiero que él gane, porque ellos nunca ganan.

You got three houses.

Conseguiste tres casas.

For more practice with all of this, go to LCSPodcast.com/227.

This show is brought to you by LearnCraftSpanish.com. The Spanish voice in this episode was our coach Michael Agudelo. 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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