Many Uses for the Preposition ‘Con’ in Spanish

Its meanings are more versatile than English ‘with’

Me espanto con las hormigas. (I am frightened of ants.).

Sancho McCann / Flickr

The Spanish word con, pronounced much like the English word "cone," not like "con," is one of the most commonly used prepositions. In most uses, it is the equivalent of the English word "with." 

The word con is more versatile than the English "with," however, and it may be used in places where "with" might not be used in English. For example, con can be paired with certain verbs, can be used to form phrases that function like adverbs, indicate conditions, and form contractions.

Con Used With Certain Verbs

Con can be used with various verbs where a different preposition or none at all would be used in English. Such usages are unpredictable and need to be learned along with the verbs.

Spanish Sentence English Translation Verb Combination
Es necesario acabar con el escándalo. It is necessary to put an end to the scandal. acabar con/put an end to
Para comer, basta con cinco dólares. In order to eat, five dollars is enough. basta con/is enough
El coche chocó con el tren. The car crashed into the train. chocó con/crashed into
Puedo contar con mis amigos. I can count on my friends. contar con/count on
Tengo que enfrentarme con el problema. I have to face up to the problem. enfrentarme con/face up to
Me espanto con las hormigas. I am frightened of ants. Me espanto con/to be frightened of
Muchas veces sueño con la guerra. I often dream about the war. sueño con/dream about
Quiero encontrarme con mi madre. I want to run into my mother. encontrarme con/to run into

When used with the verbs above, con could be understood to mean "with," but it would be awkward to translate it literally that way.

Con Used to Form Phrases That Function Like Adverbs

In English, "with" can be used to form adverbial phrases, but but such phrases using con are far more common in Spanish. In some cases, such adverbial phrases are used in preference to or instead of synonymous adverbs. This list below is far from complete.

Spanish Sentence English Translation Adverbial Phrase/Literal Meaning
Habla con intensidad. He speaks intensely. con intensidad/with intensity
Me preguntó con cortesía. He asked me courteously. con cortesía/with courtesy
Vive con felicidad. She lives happily. con felicidad/with happiness
Anda con prisa. She walks fast. con prisa/with speed
No reacciona con miedo. She doesn't react fearfully. con miedo/with fear
Nos abrazamos con cariño. We hugged affectionately. con cariño/with caring
Comenzó las tareas con buena cara. He began his homework optimistically. con buena cara/with a good face
Bailan con confianza. They dance confidently. con confianza/with confidence
Hablaron con calma. They spoke calmly. con calma/with calm
Habla español con fluidez. She speaks Spanish fluently. con fluidez/with fluency
Se viste con humildad. He dresses humbly. con humildad/with humility
Da su opinión con libertad. She freely gives her opinion. con libertad/with freedom
Te quiero con locura. I love you madly. con locura/with craziness
Estamos esperando con ilusión. We are waiting hopefully. con ilusión/with hope
Juega fútbol con ganas. He plays soccer enthusiastically. con ganas/with gusto
El perro duerme con frecuencia. The dog sleeps often. con frecuencia/with frequency

Con Used to Indicate a Condition

Sometimes when followed by an infinitive or a noun, con can have a variety of translations to indicate a condition being met or not. Translations for con in this case can include "if," "despite," and "by."

Spanish Sentence English Translation Meaning of Condition
Con decirle que no tengo dinero, todo estará bien. By telling him that I don't have money, everything will be fine. con decirle/by telling him
Con todo, no está enferma. Despite everything, she's not sick. con todo/despite everything
Con correr puedes verla. If you run you can see her. con correr/if you run

Con Used as a Contraction

When con is followed by the pronoun or ti to say "with me" or "with you," the phrase is changed to conmigo or contigo, respectively.

Spanish Sentence English Translation Contraction
Ven conmigo. Come with me. conmigo/with me
Vendré contigo. I will come with you. contigo/with you

Key Takeaways

  • Although con is the usual equivalent of the English preposition "with," it is often used in situations were "with" is not.
  • Con is frequently paired with numerous verbs in unpredictable ways.
  • Con is also frequently used with prepositional objects to form phrases that function as adverbs in situations where English would more likely simply use an adverb.
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Your Citation
Erichsen, Gerald. "Many Uses for the Preposition ‘Con’ in Spanish." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Erichsen, Gerald. (2023, April 5). Many Uses for the Preposition ‘Con’ in Spanish. Retrieved from Erichsen, Gerald. "Many Uses for the Preposition ‘Con’ in Spanish." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 29, 2023).