Posted by: janecronin | October 7, 2018


“Probar” means “to try” “to test” and “to taste” and is linked to our English word “prove”, from which we also get probation, probate and even the word “probable”.  However, before I get carried away with English, back to Spanish and what “probar” is all about.

First of all, as ever, let’s look at the various formations of  “probar”.  The only thing worth mentioning here is that it is a classic “root-changing” verb, which means that its present tense goes “pruebo, pruebas, prueba, probamos, probáis, prueban”.  If you read these articles every week you will have got the hang of these changes by now, and if not, there is always Google and that book you’ve been using as a door stop which limits itself to a mere 501 Spanish verbs.  In all other forms, “probar” is regular and predictable.

As I have already said, we can use this verb in a number of contexts.  If we want to test something out, like an engine or a machine we use “probar” and likewise when we taste something, a grape in the market to see if it’s sweet, or when sampling someone’s cooking.   When we are trying on clothes in a shop it is actually more correct to use the reflexive form “probarse”, that is “to try on … oneself” and those of you who have done this in Spain will know that you have to look for the “probadores” (changing rooms).  Another place you will see the word “probador” is on perfume or make-up testers.

There are quite a few other words that come from the same root as “probar”, the most common of which is “prueba” meaning “test” or “proof”.   In the face of an accusation, one might say “No hay pruebas” (there is no proof).  In a legal context this could also means “there isn´t any evidence”.  “Prueba” can also be a test, perhaps a physical test of endurance or a school subject test, designed to “prove” ones capabilities.   Another related word is “probeta” which means “test tube” and just as we have the colloquial phrase “test-tube baby” so in Spanish there is “niño/niña de probeta”.

If we add the prefix “a” to “probar” we have “aprobar” which means to “approve” and also “to pass” in the context of an exam.  School children know this verb all too well as they either “aprobar” or “suspender” (fail) their exams and therefore their entire school year.   One of the joys of parenthood is to hear the cry “he aprobado” (I’ve passed) from a child rushing out of the school gates waving the appropriately stamped and signed piece of paper.  We can also add a further prefix to create “desaprobar”.  This carries the same meaning as the English verb “to disapprove”.   “Reprobar” means the same, but is perhaps even stronger in tone.  We can link this to the word “reprobate” in English, a person who is thoroughly unacceptable.


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