Making the most out of the verb ‘aprovechar’

A versatile Spanish verb that you might just be underusing

Aprovechar is one of those wonderous useful Spanish verbs with a multitude of meanings, that make it singularly difficult to translate it neatly into one English equivalent.

Most probably, you’ve come across this verb at some stage of your studies, but you may not be making full of use of it (or, even, aprovechándolo al maximo). And you really should.

It’s an excellent term which, once you master, you’ll even come to miss when speaking English. Anyway, perhaps we’re getting ahead of ourselves here. First, we’ll look at how to use it, and leave the love of aprovechar-ing to come to you later.

Taking advantage

The most common circumstances in which this little guy pops up is when it means “to make the most out of something” or “to take advantage of something” — in either a good way, or in a devious one.

Starting with the happier circumstances, let’s say you’ve finally arrived after a hideously long journey to an exotic new destination. Though you’re dead tired from the travel, you’re also excited to get out and explore the place early the next day.

When your travel buddy enquiries as to why on earth you’re setting your alarm for 8am the next morning, you (self-righteously) explain:

volume_muteQuiero levantarme temprano mañana para poder aprovechar el día

Translation: “I want to get up early tomorrow to make the most out of the day”.

You find yourself using aprovechar in your conversation again later on in the trip. After a few days hanging out by the pool, you find yourself striking up a little romance with someone in the same hotel complex.

Turns out that you get on really well together, and you’re both rather sad that you’ll have to break things off at the end of the trip.

Sad though it is, you think, you can at least enjoy the last few days together. You express this idea to the (temporary) love of your life by saying:

Debemos aprovechar los últimos días que nos quedanvolume_mute

In other words, “we have to make the most of these last days we have left [together]”.

Now for an example of how the same verb can be used to express a more unpleasant intent. Say, on this same trip, you realise how taxi drivers are consistently ripping you off; taking the least direct routes possible so that they can charge you more. And all because you’re a tourist.

That can sure be annoying, so nobody would begrudge you a little grumble along the lines of:

Aprovechan que no conozco la ciudad para estafarmevolume_mute

That is, “They [the taxi drivers] take advantage of the fact that I don’t know the route to rip me off”.

A verb with 101 uses

In all the above examples, we can quite easily substitute in the English expression “to take advantage of” to cover the meaning of aprovechar. But that’s not always the case.

While this term always implies some idea of getting the most out of something, in Spanish, it is often used in situations which would be phrased entirely differently in English.

‘101 uses’ is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but there are plenty of ’em for sure. To avoid boring you to tears, we’ve selected a small number of examples (three to be exact) to illustrate a few other circumstances in which aprovechar could be heard.

Example 1

A chef friend of yours is showing you how to prepare a whole chicken which will be used as the basis of a delicious local speciality dish.

As he carefully cuts off a few select parts of the meat that are not needed for this particular meal, he explains that none of the chicken will be wasted. He has grand plans to make a broth and a couple of other food items with the offcuts later.

At the beginning of this explanation he says:

volume_muteNo tiro nada, trato de aprovecharlo todo

To you and I, that would be something like: “I don’t throw anything away. I try to use all of it [the chicken, that is]”.

Example 2

You go skiing with some local friends in the mountains in Chile. On the first day, you need to pick up your rented equipment from the ski shop and expect to find a big queue waiting for you there.

Leisurely making your way down for a hotel breakfast, you bump into a friend who has just come back from renting her skis. Encouraging you to head off now, while there’s no-one waiting, she says to you:

Ve ahora y aprovecha que no hay nadievolume_mute

Replay this situation with English speakers and we’d probably advise our friend that they “you should head over now while no-one’s there [in the queue]”. But a more literal translation of the Spanish phrase above would be: “Go now and take advantage of the fact that no-one’s there”.

Example 3

You receive a work email from an advertising agency you’ve been working with. They are mainly writing to send you some promised documentation, but towards the end of the message, they also invite you to an upcoming celebratory dinner the firm is holding for its clients.

After finishing the first, work-related, part of the email, they change topic onto the invite in the following way:

volume_muteAprovecho la oportunidad para invitarle a una cena…

This would may be something like the English “I would like to also take this opportunity to invite you to a dinner…”.

This same kind of phrasing could be used in more informal situations too. For instance, imagine you’re planning a big bash to celebrate a milestone birthday.

You’ve decided to go all out with this one – to the extent that you’ve even had invites printed and are just on the way to mail them all out to all your friends.

On the way, you run into your neighbour, who is one of the invitees, and you can’t wait to tell her all about it. So, you say;

Te vamos a enviar la invitación, pero ya que estás aquí aprovecho para contarte que vamos a tener una fiesta…volume_mute

Which would roughly translate as: “We’re going to send you an invite anyway, but seeing as you’re here I might as well tell you that we’re having a party…”.

Aprovechar: a summary

The long and short of all this is that the verb aprovechar is the ideal way in Spanish to talk about using anything to its best or milking almost any situation for all it’s worth. And it is heard a whole lot more than the English phrases “to take advantage of” ever would be.

Questions, comments or queries about how to ‘aprovechar’ this verb? Share ’em below!