Posted by: janecronin | June 3, 2018


Ironically, as most of the people I teach no longer engage in this activity, and when they did they probably moaned about it a lot of the time, “trabajar” meaning “to work” is one of the best known Spanish verbs.  I´m really not sure why this should be, but there you go.  There is absolutely nothing to say about the grammar of this verb, it is a completely standard “ar” verb with absolutely no tricks up its sleeve.  Also, unlike many of the verbs we have looked at, it only has one meaning.  Maybe that explains why it is so popular.  The only thing one could possibly complain about is the occasional form that becomes a bit of a mouthful, such as “trabajábamos” (we worked/we used to work/we were working).

The noun related to “trabajar” is “trabajo” which can be “work” or “job”.  There are different ways of describing ones “trabajo” – for example “trabajo fijo” (permanent job); “trabajo temporal” (temporary work); “trabajo de tiempo parcial” (part-time work or job) “trabajo de tiempo completo” (full-time work or job).   In my case, I am none of these, being a “trabajadora autónoma” (a self-employed worker – in the feminine form of course).

Another noun from “trabajar” is “trabajador” meaning “worker”.  The day of the worker is on 1st May, which became a public holiday in Spain under the socialist government after the death of Franco, who wasn´t too interested in workers´ rights, or anyone else´s for that matter.  The word “trabajador” can also be used as an adjective meaning “hard-working”.  “Es una persona muy trabajadora” (He or she is a very hard-working person).   Another adjective in the same family is “trabajoso” which means something that causes or creates a lot of work.  “Hacer encajes es muy trabajoso” (Lace making is very laborious).

The word “trabajar” appears in a very familiar phrase which is the traditional, overworked pick-up line rather on the lines of “What is a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?”  In the Spanish the question is “¿Trabajas o estudias?” (Do you work or study?)  This has given rise to another phenomenon of this never ending period of financial crisis which as you may know runs into huge numbers of unemployed youth.  This is the figure of the “nini” (“neither-nor”) and comes from “ni trabaja ni estudia” (a person who neither works nor studies).

One more word of warning about the verb “trabajar” –  it does not mean “work” in the sense of “function”.  In other words, “trabajar” is the thing that we actively engage in, but “function” refers to when a machine is performing correctly.  So, when you take your food mixer back to the shop because it doesn´t work, you have to say “no funciona” and not “no trabaja” which would sound awfully odd to the Spanish, as though you were expecting your food-mixer to do all the housework as well.

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