Spanish entender and comprender

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Beachxhair, Sep 12, 2013.

  1. Beachxhair

    Beachxhair Senior Member

    Manchester UK
    In French, comprendre has the meaning of to understand, to grasp something, and entendre (which often means to hear) can also mean understand in some contexts.

    In Spanish, according to Larousse, both comprender and entender can mean what we would call understanding in English, although I see entender used much more often.

    I was wondering what the origins of these two verbs are, and how their meanings developed and changed in Spanish, to reach their current usages.
  2. CapnPrep Senior Member

    You can find some discussion about the origin and sense development of entender (< Lat. intendĕre) here:
    intendo / attendo
    entender vs. comprender (post #3 by koxol)

    And a little bit about comprender (< Lat. comprehendĕre) here:
    pregunta de morfología - 'incomprensible' (posts #31 and #32)

    See also:
    Comprender y entender (post #4 by Leopold)
  3. killerbee256 Senior Member

    American English
    It's not just Spanish, the Portuguese usage is almost the same. Thought in Portuguese comprender is considered more formal.
  4. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    That is mainly because English uses understand in quite distinct contexts as in
    I don't understand general relativity.
    I understand you'll be going to Paris tomorrow.

    It is not too likely a different language would use the same verb to translate both sentences. I am not aware of any that does.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  5. Peterdg

    Peterdg Senior Member

    Dutch - Belgium
    Dutch does too: "begrijpen". It can be used in both meanings you mentioned for the English "understand".

    Nevertheless, Dutch makes a difference between intellectually understand ("begrijpen") and physically understand ("verstaan"); I think it's the same in German, no?: "begreifen" and "verstehen".
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2013
  6. Michael Visser New Member

    The words entenderand comprender both mean "to understand". They're largely considered to be synonyms and, in most cases, they are pretty interchangeable. Most of the time, there are identical, but both have some specific uses where they are not interchangeable
  7. berndf Moderator

    German (Germany)
    Interesting. This is definitely not the case in French.
  8. merquiades

    merquiades Senior Member

    USA Northeast
    Entender and Comprender are not always interchangeable. Looking at the RAE's definitions you can see that Entender is used in many more contexts. Entender is preferred, in particular, when followed by prepositions or when the understanding is not so "deep", when something is heard in passing comment and understanding doesn't require much thinking. Often in English we can find less formal equivalents like "I follow what you're saying", "You catch my drift", "I get it", "I hear you", "I know a little bit about that". That's why you hear entender constantly in oral conversations. Comprender has much of the meaning of "comprehend" in it, but it's not as restricted. It requires reflection and a deeper understanding. Obviously there are certain overlapping cases where both mean more or less the same thing. He entendido/comprendido la lección del profesor.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2013

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