11 Challenging Words Starting With 'A'

List Begins With Preposition 'A'

white gorilla in Barcelona zoo
Vamos al zoo de Barcelona para ver los animales. (We're going to the Barcelona zoo to see the animals.). Photo by Bret Arnett; licensed via Creative Commons.

Here are 11 words beginning with A that can pose some difficulty for Spanish students. Learn these, and you'll be well on your way to improving your use of the language.

a: As a common preposition, a has at least six uses. It usually means "to" but can also be translated by other prepositions or used as a type of connecting word. Sometimes, as with the personal a, it need not be translated at all.

  • No fuimos a la playa. We didn't go to the beach.
  • Llegamos a Guatemala a las 17 horas. We arrive in Guatemala at 5 p.m.
  • Conocí a la superestrella en Buenos Aires. I met the superstar in Buenos Aires.

adonde and adónde: Adonde and adónde usually mean "where," but only in cases where "to where" or some variation of that could be substituted in translation. In other words adónde functions much as a dónde would and indicates motion to a place or in a direction.

  • Es una pequeña playa pública adonde mis padres nos llevaban en verano. It's a small public beach (to) where my parents took us in summer.
  • ¿Qué pasa si adónde viajamos es otro planeta? What happens if where we're traveling (to) is another planet?

al: Al is one of Spanish's few contractions, combining a and el, a word for "the." When al means "to the," its use is straightforward. However, al followed by an infinitive is a common way of explaining that something happened after the action represented by the infinitive.

  • Paulina y yo vamos al zoo para ver los animales. Paulina and I are going to the zoo to see the animals.
  • Me alegré al encontrar algunos de mis amigos en el centro. I became happy when I found some of my friends downtown.

aparentemente: Depending on the context, aparentemente can suggest more strongly than does the English "apparently" that things may not be what they seem.

  • Está aparentemente feliz, pero está a punto de pedirle el divorcio. She's supposedly happy, but she's on the verge of asking him for the divorce.

apología: An apología is a defense of a position, as in a legal case or an argument. It is not used to express regret.

  • No hay apología del terrorismo. There is no defense for terrorism.

asistir: Although asistir can mean "to assist," it much more often means "to attend" a gathering or event.

  • Gracias a todos que asistieron mi concierto anoche. Thanks to everyone who attended my concert last night.
  • El gobierno le asistió con una pensión hasta el final de sus días. The government assisted him with a pension until the end of his days.

atender: Atender can mean "to attend" in the sense of attending to someone but not in the sense of attending an event.

  • El doctor atendió al futbolista en el hospital durante su grave enfermedad. The doctor attended to the soccer player during his serious illness.

aun and aún: Although aun and aún are both adverbs, the first is usually used to indicate "even" as in the examples below, while the latter usually indicates an action continues and can be translated as "still" or "yet."

  • Aun este año no tengo nada. Even this year I don't have anything.
  • Ni aun yo puedo entenderlos. Not even I can understand them.
  • He configurado mi dispositivo, pero aún no puedo usar la internet. I have configured my device, but I still can't use the Internet. Or, I have configured my device, but I can't use the Internet yet.

aunque: Aunque is the most common way of saying "although"; often it is better translated "even though" or "even if." If the verb that follows refers to something that already happened or is happening, it must be in the indicative mood, while a verb referring to the future or a hypothetical event must be in the subjunctive.

  • Todo está bien aunque me tragaron los mosquitos cuando me fui de camping. Everything is fine even though the mosquitoes ate me up when I went camping. (Tragaron is in the indicative because it refers to a past event.)
  • Crean una pila que no hace daño aunque los niños la traguen. They are developing a battery that causes no harm even if children swallow it. (Traguen is in the subjunctive mood because the event is yet to happen or is theoretical.)


Sources: Sample sentences have been adapted from the following sources: TripAdvisor.es, Diario Norte, Marcianitos Verdes, Facebook conversations, El Zol 107.9, Zendesk, Goal.com, La Nación (Argentina), Twitter conversations, Cuba Encuentro, LaInformación.com and Diario Correo (Peru).

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Erichsen, Gerald. "11 Challenging Words Starting With 'A'." ThoughtCo, Mar. 2, 2017, thoughtco.com/challenging-a-words-3079020. Erichsen, Gerald. (2017, March 2). 11 Challenging Words Starting With 'A'. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/challenging-a-words-3079020 Erichsen, Gerald. "11 Challenging Words Starting With 'A'." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/challenging-a-words-3079020 (accessed January 19, 2018).