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Accordar vs Accordarse
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Recordar vs Acordarse – How to Use These Memorable Spanish Verbs
Recordar or acordarse — which of these two Spanish verbs should you use as the best translation of ‘to remember’?
The short answer is—both!
In reality, the difference between recordar and acordarse is very subtle. The main mistake that the Spanish students make with these two verbs is actually not related to definition.
The main mistake has to do with how these two verbs are put together in a Spanish sentence.
In this post, you’ll learn the difference between recordar, acordar and acordarse. You’ll also learn how to avoid a few of the most common mistakes that Spanish students make with these verbs.
First up, let’s look at the difference between acordar and acordarse.
Acordar vs Acordarse
Reflexive verbs in Spanish cause a lot of grief. And that’s fair enough. Sometimes the reflexive and non-reflexive definitions of a verb can change quite dramatically (and other times not).
In this instance the change between acordar and acordarse is quite significant.
But, you can relax because the non-reflexive form of acordar is rarely used.
Acordar means ‘to agree’ in English. But, more commonly, you’ll find the noun acuerdo—which means ‘agreement’—for use in the context of ‘agreeing’. For example:
English: I don’t agree.
Español: No estoy de acuerdo.
In contrast, the more commonly used reflexive form, acordarse, means ‘to remember’. Here is a quick example (I’ll provide more examples later):
English: Do you remember?
Español: ¿Te acuerdas?
As you can see the difference between ‘agreeing’ and ‘remembering’ is significant. But, as I mentioned, you’ll rarely have to use the non-reflexive form, so for now just focus on the reflexive case.
Recordar vs Acordarse – The difference in meaning
For the difference between recordar and acordarse, you have a subtle nuance to deal with.
A simple way to think about these two verbs is to consider recordar as the equivalent of the English verb ‘to recall’ and acordarse as the equivalent of the English verb ‘to remember’.
Now, if you think about it, you’ll notice the difference between ‘recall’ and ‘remember’ in English is also subtle.
If I asked you to explain to someone learning English the difference between ‘recall’ and ‘remember’—how would you do it?
I’ll say this…your answer would apply to the Spanish verbs as well.
Practically, you can almost always substitute recordar and acordarse in the context of remembering something.
If you are going to make a mistake with these two verbs, you’ll likely do it with structure (discussed in the next section) or one other use of recordar.
In a slightly different context recordar can also mean ‘to remind’. If something reminds you of something else—a flavour, a smell, a picture or a person—you can use recordar. Here are a few examples:
English: You remind me of my sister.
Español: Me recuerdas a mi hermana.
English: This smell reminds me of my mother’s cooking.
Español: Este olor me recuerda a la cocina de mi madre.
Notice that you need to use the preposition ‘a’ when referring to the thing you are being reminded of.
You’ll also see here that recordar can be used to ask someone to ‘remind you’, ‘help you to remember’ or ‘help others remember’. For example:
English: Remind me to buy milk.
Español: Recuérdame comprar leche.
English: I have to remind everybody what happened.
Español: Tengo que recordar a todos lo que pasó.
As a reminder, in this last context of ‘reminding’ or ‘helping to remember’ you can’t use acordarse.
Recordar vs Acordarse – Sentence structure
The most important thing to take away from this post is this next part.
Sentences with recordar and sentences with acordarse are formed differently.
If you want to say “I remember…something”, then for recordar the sentence structure is:
Recordar algo.
And for acordarse the structure is:
Acordarse DE algo.
Here the difference is that recordar is a transitive verb and acordarse is intransitive. This means that recordar has to have a direct object and acordarse doesn’t.
But, if you want to add a direct object to a sentence with acordarse you have to use the preposition de.
Earlier, I gave the following example:
English: Do you remember?
Español: ¿Te acuerdas?
If you are prompting someone about something that happened in the past, you can ask with this simple question when the object is known from context.
But, in contrast, you can’t use recordar without a direct object. This question is incorrect:
English: Do you remember?
Español: ¿Recuerdas?
So, as an example, imagine that you are talking about a conversation you had with a friend (Jose) last week. Say you want to know if the person you are speaking with (right now) remembers what he said. You can ask in the following three ways:
English: Do you remember what Jose said last week?
Español: ¿Recuerdas lo que Jose dijo la semana pasada?
English: Do you remember what Jose said last week?
Español: ¿Te acuerdas de lo que Jose dijo la semana pasada?
English: Jose said something interesting last week. Do you remember?
Español: Jose dijo algo interesante la semana pasada. ¿Te acuerdas?
Before moving on, I’ll warn you of another common mistake Spanish students make—combining recordar and acordarse.
Imagine someone asks you if you remember something and you want to answer quickly, don’t say:
English: Yes, I remember.
Español: Sí, me recuerdo.
I definitely know I have made this mistake before.
For some reason, there is a tendency to combine conjugations to give the reflexive form of recordar. This doesn’t mean ‘to remember’, in South America it means ‘to wake up’ and in Spain it isn’t really used.
The present conjugations of recordar and acordarse
I did just imply that the reason the error occurs with the combination of recordar and acordarse is unknown.
But, if I was to guess, I would say it is because they are both stem changing o:ueverbs. This means that the o in both verbs becomes a ue in the present conjugations.
Here are the present conjugations of recordar:
Yo Recuerdo
Tú Recuerdas
Él / Ella Recuerda
Nosotros Recordamos
Vosotros Recordáis
Ellos Recuerdan
Here are the present conjugations of acordarse (I have put the de in as a reminder):
Yo Me acuerdo de
Tú Te acuerdas de
Él / Ella Se acuerda de
Nosotros Nos acordamos de
Vosotros Os acordáis de
Ellos Se acuerdan de
More examples with recodar and acordarse
To round out the post, I’ll give four more examples for each verb.
I haven’t done anything particularly special with these examples. As I mentioned earlier, recordar and acordarse are almost always interchangeable in the context of remembering. That also holds true with these:
1. Recordar – to recall
English: I barely recall what happened last night.
Español: Apenas recuerdo lo que pasó anoche.
English: I recall that conversation, it was very strange.
Español: Recuerdo esa conversación, era muy extraño.
English: Do you recall where Ana went on her trip?
Español: ¿Recuerdas dónde Ana fue en su viaje?
English: I can’t recall the name of that song.
Español: No puedo recordar el nombre de esa canción.
2. Acordarse – to remember
English: Do you remember her?
Español: ¿Te acuerdas de ella?
English: She always remembers her friend’s birthdays.
Español: Ella siempre se acuerda de los cumpleaños de sus amigos.
English: I don’t remember his name (what he is called).
Español: No me acuerdo de cómo se llama.
English: Did you remember to turn off the lights?
Español: ¿Te acordaste de apagar las luces?
After reading this post, I suggest you practise three things until they become second nature for you:
Always remember to use a direct object with recordar. E.g. Recuerdo algo.
Only add a reflexive pronoun to acordar and not recordar. E.g. Me acuerdo, not me recuerdo.
When using acordarse with a direct object always remember to add the preposition de. E.g. Me acuerdo de…
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