How To Use ‘Cerca’ and Related Words To Show Closeness in Spanish

Most common use is in phrases using ‘cerca de’

Distance sign in southern Argentina.
La ciudades de Europa no están cerca. (European cities are not nearby. This sign is at Ushuaia, Argentina.).

DmitryLityagin / Getty Images

The words and phrase cerca, cercano, and cerca de are commonly used in Spanish to indicate proximity or closeness in location, time, number, or degree. Common translations include "by," "near," "about," "nearby," and "close to."

Using Cerca De

The most common of these is cerca de, which functions as a preposition.

The prepositional phrases formed using cerca de can function as several parts of speech, particularly nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.

  • Cerca de 12 millones de personas serán vacunadas contra la fiebre amarilla. (About 12 million people will be vaccinated against yellow fever. The first six words of the Spanish sentence function as a noun and form the subject.)
  • Hay muchos hoteles cerca de Disney World. (There are many hotels by Disney World. The final four words form an adjectival phrase describing hoteles.)
  • Vamos a necesitar cerca de 200 voluntarios. (We are going to need about 200 volunteers. The final four words function as a noun and form the object of necesitar.)
  • Comemos cerca de ocho veces al día. (We eat about eight times per day. The words following comemos function as an adverb to explain comemos.)
  • Quiero estar cerca de ti siempre. (I want to always be close to you.)
  • Los activistas dicen que Cataluña está cerca de la abolición de la tauromaquia. (The activists say Catalonia is close to bringing an end to bullfighting.)
  • Despliega Colombia 22 batallones cerca del límite con Venezuela. (Colombia is deploying 22 battalions near the border with Venezuela.)
  • Hay una buena probabilidad de que veamos una estabilización de los precios cerca de febrero o marzo. (There's a good chance we'll see a stabilization of prices around February or March.)

Using Cerca as an Adverb

Cerca by itself (without being followed by de) functions as an adverb.

Note that estar, one of the verbs meaning "to be," is typically modified by an adverb rather than an adjective as "to be" usually is in English. So estar cerca is used to say that something is near as in the first two examples.

  • El fin del mundo está cerca. (The end of the world is near.)
  • El triunfo está cerca. (Victory is near.)
  • Hay cuatro tranvías que pasan cerca. (There are four streetcars that pass nearby.)
  • Tan cerca y a la misma vez tan lejos. (So close, and yet so far away.)
  • El asteroide pasará tan cerca que podremos verlo. (The asteroid will pass so close we'll be able to see it.)

Using Cercano as an Adjective

The adjective form is cercano. As an adjective, it must agree with the noun it refers to in number and gender. In contrast, the adverb cerca doesn't change form depending on the words around it.

  • Tenemos una casa cercana al aeropuerto. (We have a house near the airport.)
  • Descubre tus cinco amigos más cercanos en Facebook. (Find your five closest friends on Facebook.)
  • El futuro (aún no cercano) está en la computación molecular. The future (but not the near future) is in molecular computing.
  • Los padres deben inscribir a sus hijos en la escuela más cercana a su domicilio. (Parents should enroll their children in the school nearest to their home.)

Other Words Related to Cerca

A few related words have other meanings:

  • The verb cercar typically means "to surround" or "to enclose": Los estudiantes cercaron las oficinas. (The students surrounded the offices.)
  • The verb acercar usually means to get close to or to approach. Las niñas acercaron la rampa de acceso. (The girls approached the access ramp.)
  • The noun la cerca typically refers to a fence or wall. El concepto de la cerca electrificada fue descrita por primera vez por Mark Twain. (The concept of an electric fence was described for the first time by Mark Twain.)
  • The phrase acerca de usually means "about" in the sense of "concerning": Hablaban acerca de nosotros. (They were talking about us.)

Etymology of Cerca and Related Words

The words related to cerca come from the Latin verb circāre, which meant to go around.

The most closely related word in English is "circa," a Latin-derived term used in formal writing to indicate that that a number or time period is an approximation.

English words more distantly related include "circum-" words such as "circumference" and "circumnavigate," which are circunferencia and circunnavigar in Spanish, respectively.

Key Takeaways

  • Cerca de is used as a preposition to form phrases that can function as nouns, adjectives, or adverbs.
  • Cerca is used with estar and other verbs as an adverb.
  • Cercano is used as an adjective that must agree with the noun it modifies.