Posted by: janecronin | January 27, 2019


“Asistir” is one of those words which we call a “false friend”.  This is a much wider issue that you might realise, as false friends are words that appear to mean something in a foreign language but in fact mean something significantly different.  There are literally hundreds of these and I have a list of them somewhere!   In the case of “asistir” we may well be forgiven for assuming that it means “to assist” but in fact it means “to attend”.

False friends work in both directions.  Some years ago now I used to run a social club on Orihuela Costa called Crossroads, which some readers might remember.  Every week we had a visit from a young man who ran a local English speaking cinema.  His English was understandable most of the time but full of errors, and he always used to tell us about how many people had “assisted” the cinema the week before.  I did correct his English from time to time, but we all got rather fond of his mistakes.  Sometimes noticing people’s misuse of English words can be a good way of learning their language.

There is nothing to say about the grammar of “asistir” as it is a completely regular “-ir” verb in all its forms and tenses.   Derivatives or “asistir” are “asistencia” meaning “attendance”.  Actually this word brings us straightaway to a point where “attendance” and “assistance” can coincide as an example of the use of “asistencia” is to refer to the “attendance” of an ambulance to an emergency.    This same convergence of meaning occurs with the word “asistente” which is often combined with the word “social”.  The translation of “asistente social” in English is “social worker”.  The concept behind the word is therefore a person who “attends” to social problems, although we can easily make the link to the idea of “assisting” in social situations: thus the complexity of “false friends”.

There are a couple of other verbs that are related to “asistir” with slight changes to the beginning. One is “desistir” and the other “resistir”.  “Desistir” means “to desist” and “to desist” means to give up or stop doing something.  “Resistir” means, surprise surprise, “to resist” but has a much wider use in Spanish that we have for “resist” in English.   The most obvious use of “resist” in English is in the phrase “to resist the temptation”.  In Spanish we can also say “resistir la tentación” but we also use “resistir” to refer to strength and endurance.  The noun “resistencia” is used a great deal in this context.  In sport, we refer to the “resistencia” of a player, meaning their “stamina” and in a DIY context “resistencia” can refer to the strength and durability of materials.  My computer wants to type “resistencia” with a capital “r” and I assume this is because of the “la Resistencia Francesa”.  Their activities perhaps encapsulate the whole meaning of the word – opposing, enduring and holding out against the odds.

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