Posted by: janecronin | April 22, 2018


If you have lived in Spain for any length of time you will surely be familiar with the verb “pagar” (to pay).  When you wish to pay for a drink or meal there are a number of possible phrases but one you can add to the list is: “Quiero pagar” (I want to pay).   Just to digress even before I get started, the most commonly known phrase amongst foreigners is “La cuenta, por favor” (The bill please) but another very useful one when only a few items are involved is “¿me cobra?” (Will you charge me? i.e. take my money) or “cóbrame por favor” (Charge me please).  These two variations are the quickest and most direct ways of paying at the bar, without having to wait around for half an hour.  Try it: you should be pleasantly surprised.

As for the verb itself, it is a standard, regular verb.  Like other verbs which have the letter “g” at the end of the root, you sometimes have to vary the spelling slightly to keep it in line with the pronunciation.  The letter “g” has a soft throat sound (like the Scottish “loch”) when it appears before an “e” or an “i”, but it needs to keep its hard “g” sound  in all the different forms of “pagar”.  This means that, for example, the past tense “I paid” is spelt “pagué”.  The “u” here is silent and has been added to keep the “g” sounding hard.  Apart from that and a couple of other places where the same thing happens, “pagar” is a remarkably ordinary verb.

When money is being exchanged in Spain in other contexts, you may come across some other forms of “pagar”.  One is when a bill is stamped or marked as “paid”, in which case the word is “pagado”.  Another system that still works here, but less so in the age of plastic, is the use of a “pagaré”.  This is a type of cheque which has a future date on it, before which it will not be honoured.  “Pagaré” in this case has a literal meaning “I will pay”.  The noun from “pagar” is “pago” (payment) and you may also notice on bills a section where it says “forma de pago” (payment method).

Earlier on this year I came across an interesting word: “sinpa” or “simpa”.  It is an abbreviation of “sin pagar” (without paying) and refers to the situation when people eat and drink at a bar and then walk off without paying.  We’ve all done this once or twice by mistake, but hopefully not deliberately.  The case which I read about in the press was an entire first communion party of about 60 people who had a whole banquet with drinks galore and then all got up and walked out together.  The restaurant owner was naturally distraught, and I think he will be asking for money up front in future.


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