Posted by: janecronin | July 1, 2018


“Costar”, rather unsurprisingly, means “to cost”.  You may have learnt at some time the question ¿Cuánto cuesta?” (How much does it cost?) although in most purchasing situations “¿Cuánto es?”(How much is it?) is quite sufficient and “¿Cuánto vale?” (How much is it worth?) is another similar option.  As you can see from the example “¿Cuánto cuesta?”, “costar” is a root-changing verb which means that the “o” letter in the root or stem part of the verb changes to “ue” in four out of the six present tense forms.  Apart from that, “costar” is an entirely standard verb.

Obviously, the usual context of “costar” is to do with money, as “cost” is in English.  However, Spanish has an addition meaning to this word which does not exist in English, or at least is fair less common.  It is the idea of something “costing” in terms of effort or difficulty.  When I starting teaching English in Spain I got used to people saying to me “me cuesta mucho” which literally means “it costs me a lot” but of course was nothing to do with the price of the classes.  It is the equivalent of saying “I find it very difficult”.  Another similar phrase is “me cuesta entenderte” (I find it difficult to understand you).  In fact, you can add any second verb in the infinitive to “cuesta” provided it’s something you find difficult to do.  There is a song by the 80s Spanish pop group Mecano entitled “Me cuesta tanto olvidarte” (I find it so difficult to forget you).  At least that is the most repeated line in the song.

There are several derivative nouns from “costar”, one of which is “la cuesta”, the slope or incline.  Another thing that happened in my first year in Spain was that I joined a walking group, and as we were walking uphill, one drole individual always used to say “cuesta la cuesta” (the slope costs, in other words, “it’s difficult walking up the slope”).  Before the years of financial crisis in Spain they always used to refer the post-Christmas period as “la cuesta de enero” (the January uphill slope), with reference to the difficultly of getting to the end of the month after all the spending at Christmas.  I’ve noticed in recent years they use the expression less often, probably because every month is an uphill struggle these days.

There are several derivatives of “costar” which mean “cost” as a noun.  “El coste” is the cost or price of something, so that “El coste de la vida” means the cost of living.  The noun “cost” in the literal sense can also be expressed by the word “costo”. In addition, “costa” has the less literal meaning of “expense” and is used in phrases such as “a costa de” (at the expense of) and “a toda costa” (at any expense, that is, regardless of the expense).


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