How To Use the Spanish Verb ‘Perder’

Verb conveys idea of loss, literally or figuratively

lost and using map for article on Spanish verb perder
¿Estás perdida? (Are you lost?). Juanedc.com/Creative Commons.

The fairly common Spanish verb perder most often means "to lose," but it has related meanings that go beyond mere loss. It can, for example, refer to the "loss" of something one never had, or to refer to emotional states as well as objects.

Perder comes the Latin verb perdĕre, which had a similar meaning. The only common related English word is "perdition," a state of moral ruin.

Here are some of the common meanings of perder with examples of their usage:

Perder for Loss of Things

The most common meaning of perder is to lose something. As in English, the item lost is the direct object of the verb.

  • Perdió las llaves de su coche. (He lost his car keys.)
  • Perdí el perro de mi amiga que ella me dio para que lo cuide. (I lost my friend's dog that she gave to me to take care of.)
  • ¡No pierda los calcetines! (Don't lose your socks!)
  • My amigo perdió el coraje y se puso a llorar. (My friend lost his courage and began to cry.)

Perder Meaning To Get Lost

The reflexive form, perderse, is used to indicate that something is lost without specifically saying who lost it. The reflexive is also used to indicate that a person is lost. And as shown in the final example below, the reflexive form frequently is used figuratively.

  • Me perdí cuando salí del hotel para ir al teatro. (I got lost when I left the hotel to go to the theater.)
  • Se perdieron los datos. (The data got lost.  You could also translate less literally: The data disappeared.)
  • Espero que no se pierda el hábito de escribir cartas a mano. (I hope the habit of writing letters by hand doesn't get lost.)
  • El equipo perdió la concentración en los primeros 20 minutos del juego. (The team lost its concentration in the first 20 minutes of the game.)
  • Se me perdió el celular otra vez. (My cell phone got lost again.)
  • Me perdí en el hechizo de tus lindos ojos. (I got lost in the charm of your beautiful eyes. This could also be translated reflexively: I lost myself in the charm of your beautiful eyes.)

Perder Meaning To Lose Competition

Perder is commonly used in sports and other kinds of competition to indicate that a game, election, or similar event was lost.

  • Los Jazz perdieron ante los Hornets. (The Jazz lost to the Hornets.)
  • El equipo perdió la final contra el equipo de la Ciudad de Downey. (The team lost the final to the Downey City team.)
  • El candidato joven perdió la elección primaria. (The young candidate lost the primary election.)

Perder Meaning To Miss

Perder can be the synonym of "to miss" when "miss" indicates a loss of some sort, such as obtaining transportation or meeting a goal.

  • Perdí el bus de las 3.30. (I missed the 3:30 bus.)
  • Pedro perdió la posibilidad de ser campeón del mundo. (Pedro missed the chance of becoming world champion.)
  • Perdimos el avión de vuelta y nos quedamos casi sin dinero. (We missed the return plane flight and were left with hardly any money.)
  • Perdí la oportunidad de ser rico. (I missed the opportunity to be rich.)

Perder To Refer To Loss or Misuse of Resources

When resources of various kinds are lost, perder can carry a stronger meaning than "to lose," such as "to waste" or "to squander."

  • Pierdo tiempo pensando en ti. (I am wasting time thinking about you.)
  • El coche perdía agua del radiador. (The car was leaking water from the radiator.)
  • El país perdió $540 millones en inversión extranjera directa. (The country squandered $540 million in direct foreign investment.)

Perder To Refer to Ruin

Figuratively, as with the English "lost," perder can be used to indicate that something is ruined or deteriorated, especially in a moral sense.

  • Lo echó todo a perder, incluso su vida. (She let it all go to ruin, including her life.)
  • Cuando la vida de la familia se desintegra, la nación está perdida. (When family life disintegrates, the nation is ruined.)
  • La sociedad piensa que esta generación está perdida. (Society thinks that this generation is lost.)

Conjugation of Perder

Like many other common verbs, perder is conjugated irregularly, following the pattern of entender. It is a stem-changing verb: the -e- of the stem becomes -ie- when stressed. The change affects only the present tenses (imperative and subjunctive) and the imperative mood.

Present indicative (I lose, you lose, etc.): yo pierdo, tú pierdes, usted/el/ella pierde, nosotros/nosotras perdemos, vosotros/vosotras perdéis, ustedes/ellos/ellas pierden.

Present subjunctive (that I lose, that you lose, etc.): que yo pierda, que tú pierdas, que usted/el/ella pierda, que nosotros/nosotras perdamos, que vosotros/vosotras perdéis, que ustedes/ellos/ellas pierdan.

Affirmative imperative (You lose! Let's lose! etc.): ¡Pierde tú! ¡Pierda usted! ¡Perdamos nosotros/nosotras! ¡Perded vosotros/vosotros! ¡Pierdan ustedes!

Negative imperative (Don't you lose! Let's not lose! etc.): ¡No pierdas tú! ¡No pierda usted! ¡Nos perdamos nosotros/nosotras! ¡No perdáis vosotros/vosotros! ¡No pierdan ustedes!

Key Takeaways

  • The most common meaning of perder is "to lose," and it can be applied to objects, people, and situations.
  • The reflexive form perderse is used to indicate that something or someone is lost without indicating directly who is responsible for the loss.
  • Perder can also mean "to lose" in the sense of losing an election, game, or other competition.