Posted by: janecronin | April 7, 2019


Sometimes verbs in Spanish remind us directly of English verbs and this is the case of “construír” which means “to construct”.   Interestingly though, we also have a more commonly used verb in English for the same thing which is “to build”.  This word comes from a Germanic root and the co-existence of these two verbs in English – construct and build – is a great illustration of the richness of the English language.  We have words that come from both northern European via the Germanic tribes and a parallel set of words that comes from Latin via French or directly from the Latin taught by the church in medieval times.  This duality is very useful for us as it helps us to identify the meanings of a lot of Spanish words.

“Construír” is a regular verb although it does undergo one or two of what I call “spelling adjustments” in some of its forms.  These basically consist of the letter “i” being substituted by the letter “y” in certain positions.  In the present tense the conjugation goes like this:  “construyo, construyes, construye, construímos, construís, construyen”.  There are a number of other verbs that do the same sort of thing, for example “huír” (to free) and “oír” (to hear).

The word for a builder is a “constructor” or the female version “constructora” and we also have the noun “construcción” (construction).  This leads us to the adjective “constructivo” which is translated as “constructive”.  At the root of this verb we can also find the noun “estructura” (structure) which is also related to the concept of building but is also used in other contexts.  In language we talk about the “construction” of a sentence and the concept of “construction” or “construct” has also spread into psychology, sociology and many other fields.  In the course of writing these articles I come across all sorts of strange things I didn´t know, and I’ve just learnt about “constructivismo” (constructivism) which, if like me you didn´t know, is a Russian artistic movement.

The opposite of “construír” is “destruír” (to destroy) and from here we can get a similar series of related words “destrucción” (destruction), “destructivo” (destructive) “destructor” (destroyer).  This set of words really does open up a whole world of vocabulary.  We also have “indestructible” whose meaning is obvious in English as well as Spanish.

Although the connection is less obvious in terms of its meaning, there is another verb which clearly has the same root, namely “instruír” (to instruct).  The conjugated forms work in the same way, and there are a lot of similar related words such as “instrucción” (instruction) and “instructivo” (instructive).   “Las instrucciones” as well as being those things you have to follow to put together a piece of flat-pack furniture, also means “education” or “training” and is also used in a legal context when a judge decides that a case should be investigated with a view to prosecution.  So, “construír”, “destruír” and “instruír” have a lot of interesting and often technical uses.


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