Posted by: janecronin | May 27, 2018


Most people learn the meaning of the word “escribir” pretty quickly as it is what you hear as a piece of paper and pen are shoved in front of you when you’re trying to tell somebody your name.  You might not think that is reasonable, but Frederic Marmaduke Blenkinsop is not immediately understandable to your average Spanish bureaucrat.    You will know therefore that “escribir” means “to write” and is linked to our words like “scribe” and “script” which share the same Latin root.

“Escribir” is a regular verb in almost all of its forms, the exception being the past participle “escrito” (written).  If it were regular it would be escribido, and if you ever make that mistake you will sound just like a two or three-year-old Spanish child, as the error is equivalent to “buyed” or “putted” in English.  As well as forming part of a verb tense (e.g. “he escrito un mensaje” – I have written a message) “escrito” also works as an adjective, as in “ingles escrito” (written English).

The Spanish often use the verb “escribir” where we would use the verb “to spell”.  In other words, to say “How do you spell your name?” the Spanish would say “¿Cómo se escribe tu nombre?”  (How is your name written? or How does one write your name?) Of course the whole obsession with “spelling” pertains to the English language, as we do not have a phonetically written script.  All those spelling tests we had to suffer as children and all those rules like “i before e except after c”, the “magic e” and the silent “gh” are peculiar to English.  The Spanish language is phonetically written which means that they rarely have to spell out anything to each other.  Yet more reason why they push a piece of paper in front of you and say “escribe” almost as soon as you’ve opened your mouth.

A derivative of “escribir” is the verb “describir” meaning, unsurprisingly “to describe”.  All we are doing is adding the letter “d” as a prefix, and all the verb forms work in the same way as its root “escribir”.  Therefore, the past participle “described” (as in “I have described” etc) is “descrito”.

Other words that come from “escribir” are “escritor” (writer – masculine) and “escritora” (writer – feminine).  Unlike in English where the tendency is to eliminate gender references in job titles, the Spanish trend is to specify gender (usually by changing “o” to “a” or in some cases by adding the letter “a”) to vindicate the presence of female workers in whatever field of activity.

Another derivative word familiar to many is “escritura” which means “deeds”: the word no doubt harking back to the years when deeds were written out by hand.  “Escritorio” means a “writing desk” although I don´t think many of us use one of those any more.   Ink wells and blotting paper are well in the past, now we have laptops, mouse pads and speakers instead.


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