Using the Spanish Verb 'Tratar'

Common Meanings Include 'To Treat' and 'To Try'

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It may not seem logical that the same Spanish verb might mean "to try" and "to treat," but such is the case with tratar.

Tratar is a fairly common verb that also has other meanings that don't seem particularly related. In general, though, the word has to do with dealing with a person, activity or thing.

Often, the meaning of tratar depends on the preposition that follows, although even that isn't always a sure guide. Perhaps more so than with most verbs, you need to rely on the context of the sentence to determine the meaning.

Common Meanings of Tratar

Here are some of the most common meanings of tratar, either by itself or as a phrase, along with a sample sentence and translation:

tratar, to provide a medical treatment: La enfermedad de Lyme se trata con antibióticos. Lyme's disease is treated with antibiotics.

tratar, to treat someone or something (a specified way): Nos trataban como a animales y en ocasiones peor. They treated us like animals and sometimes worse. El hospicio trata al paciente como a una persona en su totalidad. A hospice treats the patient as a person in his or her totality.

tratar de, to speak to or address (someone) as: Me trataban de loca. They would call me crazy.

tratar de + infinitivo, to try to: Aquí no tratamos de ganar mentes y corazones porque es irrelevante. Here we are not trying to win hearts and minds because it is irrelevant. Trate de nadar por lo menos una hora y quince minutos. Try to swim at least an hour and 15 minutes.

tratar de, tratarse de, to speak about, to have as a subject: "Fahrenheit 451" trata de una sociedad totalitaria donde los libros están prohibidos. "Fahrenheit 451" is about a totalitarian society where books are banned. Se trata del coche de mi padre, doy una opinión de primera mano. On the subject of my father's car, I give a firsthand opinion. ¿De qué trata? What's it about?

tratar con, to trade with, to do business or negotiate with: Este cambio afectará la manera en que usted trata con su compañía de larga distancia. This change will affect the way you do business with your long-distance company.

tratarse con, to have dealings with or be on speaking terms with: No me trato con gente mayor que yo. I don't have relationships with people older than I am.