Posted by: janecronin | March 4, 2018


“Ganar” is a regular verb, like the vast majority of verbs in the Spanish language.  We tend to get terribly hung up on irregularities, and admittedly there are a few amongst the most common verbs, but the regular majority just conjugate away quietly in the background without drawing attention to themselves or upsetting anybody.

From the point of view of English speakers, the difficulty of “ganar” lies in its translation as it can mean “to win” “to beat” “to earn” and “to gain”.  Even here difficulty is probably the wrong word.  If you look on the positive side, you only need one verb to say all those things in Spanish, and when you come across them in a text or speech, both context and a bit of common sense should tell you which one it is.

Here are examples of each use, in a different order from the above:  “He ganado mucho peso durante estas vacaciones”;  “Nadal ganó a Federer en el torneo”; “Mi equipo ha ganado el partido”; “Las mujeres ganamos menos que los hombres en muchos casos”.  Hopefully you’ve been able to interpret these messages without any problem, so there is more proof that “ganar” is an easy verb to use!

As is so often the case, “ganar” has certain idiomatic uses.  For example, when you are in the process of getting a problem of any kind sorted out, you might say “voy ganando” or “vamos ganando” which is similar to when we would say “I think I’m winning”.  Also “ganar tiempo” is “to save time” as in: “Vamos a desayunar todos juntos y así ganamos tiempo para salir más temprano”.  There is also the reflexive form “ganarse”.  “Ganarse la vida” is to earn a living and “ganarse la confianza de la gente” is “to gain”, in the sense of “to deserve”, people’s trust.

A winner in any contest is a “ganador” (male) or “ganadora” (female).  These can also be used as adjectives – “la pintura ganadora” (the winning painting); “el libro ganador” (the winning book).  Another related word is “ganancia” which can mean profit, earnings or winnings depending on the context.

There are some other words which sound as though they are related to “ganar”, and I think in some distant way they are, but the relationship is certainly not obvious.  The word for “cattle” is “ganado” and a cattle farmer is a “ganadero”.  Another similarity is with the wonderful expression “tener ganas” which means “to fancy” or feel the desire for something.  To do something reluctantly is to do it with “desgana” and “desganarse” is to lose one’s appetite.  There has to be a connection somewhere between all these expressions and “ganar”, but in reality we learn to use them independently without ever thinking about how they all came to mean what they do.

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