Posted by: janecronin | January 14, 2018


The basic meanings of “coger” are “to pick up” and “to catch”.  We may “coger un boli” (pick up a pen) or “coger la pelota” (catch the ball) or indeed “coger un resfriado” (catch a cold).  It can also mean “to catch” in the sense of “to understand” as in “no cojo el sentido del artículo” (I can’t get the meaning of the article”)

When we conjugate “coger” in the present tense we notice a spelling change in the first person singular, which is “cojo” (I pick up, I catch) in which the letter “g” is replaced by the letter “j”.  Some Spanish courses will have you believe that this spelling change constitutes an irregularity, but in fact this is not the case.  Language is fundamentally a spoken phenomenon, with written forms created later in history to reflect the sounds made by spoken language.  In the case of Spanish, this written representation reflects the spoken form phonetically, something that the English language lacks.   This relationship between spoken and written forms should help us understand that many of the apparent irregularities in spelling are in fact simply adjustments to spelling which reflect completely regular spoken forms.

This is the case with the spelling of “cojo”.  The verb “coger” is pronounced with the throaty “ch” sound (as in Scottish “loch”) which is represented by the letter “g” when it is followed by the letters “e” or “i”.  Throughout the conjugations of “coger” (apart from the present subjunctive) this spelling combination (ge, gi) exists except in the first person singular of the present tense, where the “e” or “i” vowel sound is replaced by the “o” sound.  Here the spelling has to change to “cojo” to accurately reflect the regularity of the pronunciation, since “j” is always pronounced with the throat “ch” sound in all positions.

I hope that makes sense, andsSince I’ve mentioned the subjunctive of this verb, I’d better tell you how it is spelt as well – “coja, cojas, coja, cojamos, cojáis, cojan”.  However, I will not venture any further in explaining what these forms mean at the moment, you may be relieved to know.

One compound form of “coger” is “recoger” which means “to pick up” in the sense of “to collect”, as in “recoger firmas” (to collect signatures) or “recoger a amigos del aeropuerto” (to pick up friends from the airport”).  Another related verb is “acoger” which means “to welcome”.  As “una recogida” can mean a collection of something “una acogida” means a welcome.  “Acoger” also means “to foster” and the adjective “acogedor” means “welcoming” or “cozy”.

One final word of warning to anyone who might be planning to visit South America: in Argentina the verb “coger” means something rather less polite.  They express the various meanings given above with “atrapar” and “tomar”.

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