Verbs Derived From 'Poner'

Prefixes Give Common Verb Variety of Meanings

Cuba presidential palace
El presidente de Cuba expondrá su plan. (The president of Cuba will explain his plan.). Photo by Guillaume Bavier; licensed via Creative Commons.

Few verbs in Spanish are more irregularly conjugated than poner. So it's a good thing that the language is rich with prefixes that let you take that common verb and put it to all sorts of good.

By itself, poner typically has the meaning of "to place" or "to put." So there may be little surprise that over the centuries it has been combined with numerous prefixes: con + poner = componer and the idea of putting something with something; re + poner = reponer and the idea of putting again; in + poner = imponer and the idea of putting in, and so on.

(Note that an n before a p is pronounced the same as an m, and thus the change in spelling.)

In fact, poner is at the head of a whole family of verbs with an incredibly wide variety of meanings. And most of them have corresponding words in English — but with a twist. That's because the French equivalent of poner is poser, which also can mean "to place" or "to put," and much of the Latin vocabulary of English came to the language by way of French. So the three verbs listed above in English become "compose," "repose" and "impose." (There are some derived words, however, such as "component," where the relationship to Spanish form, in that case componente, is more obvious.) It is important to remember, however, that meanings of words change over time, so while English may have a word (known as a cognate) directly corresponding to the Spanish one, they don't necessarily mean the same thing. For example, the Spanish transponer can mean to switch two objects around, as "transpose" does, but it more commonly means simply "to change" or "to move."

As mentioned above, poner, like most common verbs, is conjugated irregularly. "I put" in the present tense is pongo and puse in the past (preterite). Its past participle is puesto, which is used with many of the prefixes to form words also. The verb is irregular in nearly every tense, but it's common enough that its conjugation needs to be learned.

Fortunately, all the verbs in the -poner family follow the same pattern.

Looking to expand your Spanish vocabulary? Go to the next page to see a listing of the most important verbs derived from poner.

The following chart shows the most common Spanish verbs that are derived from poner along with sample sentences and, in some cases, a list of related words.

anteponer — to place in front of, prefer — Han antepuesto el interés de la paz a los intereses de partido. They have put the interest of peace ahead of party interests.

componer — to compose, construct, prepare — Este sitio de web se compone de muchas páginas.

This Web site is made up of many pages. — Related words include componente (component), componedor/a (composer, repair person), componible (repairable) and compuesto (composite, compound, composed).

contraponer — to compare, set against each other, contrast — El profesor contrapuso la sexualidad a la sensualidad. The professor contrasted sexuality with sensuality. — One related word is contrapuesto (divergent).

disponer — to arrange, dispose, get ready, possess — Dispongo de muchas herramientas. I have many tools at my disposal. — Related words include disponible (available) and dispuesto (ready, prepared). — Note that "to dispose of" something in the sense of discarding it is often translated as desechar. "Disposable" meaning "able to be thrown away" is desechable or de usar y tirar.

exponer — to show, expound, explain, expose, exhibit, put at risk — El presidente expondrá su plan. The president will explain his plan.

— A related word is exponente (exponent).

imponer — to impose, exact, assert, bestow, impress, instruct — Sus padres la impusieron muchas tareas a ella. Her parents imposed many tasks on her. — Related words include imponente (impressive), imponible (taxable) and impuesto (tax).

interponer — interpose, lodge or file (legal term), intervene — Interpusieron recurso de reconsideración contra la sentencia.

They filed an appeal against the sentence. — A related term is interpuesto (legal action).

oponer — to oppose, resist, be hostile to, refuse — Me opongo a salir. I refuse to leave. Related words include oposición (opposition) and opositor (opponent).

posponer — to postpone, delay, put in the background — Es difícil superar el hábito de posponer. It is difficult to overcome procrastination.

preponer — to put ahead, prefer — No se prepuserion ser víctimas. They did not prefer to be victims.

proponer — to propose, suggest, intend — Proponemos que no asista a clase. We're proposing you don't go to class. — Related words include proponente (proponent, proposer) and propuesta (financial proposal).

reponer — to replace, reinstate, restore, regain, replenish — Las Naciones Unidas repone los cultivos destruidos. The United Nations is replacing the destroyed crops. — A related word is repuesto (retired, hidden).

sobreponer — superimpose, put on top of, overcome, rise above — Se sobrepuso a un mal comienzo. He overcame a bad beginning.

superponer — to superimpose, put on top, put before — Es necesario superponer a la estructura existente un diseño flexible. It is necessary to superimpose a flexible design on the existing structure.

suponer — to suppose, assume — Supongo que ella está enferma. I suppose she is sick. — A related word is supuesto (so-called, supposition). The phrase por supuesto is often used as an exclamation for "of course." — Note that suponer que typically is followed by a verb in the indicative mood, not the subjunctive mood as might be expected.

transponer — to move, transport, transplant, switch places, change — Transpuso los límites de lo permisible. He extended the boundaries of what is permissible.

yuxtaponer — to juxtapose — Yuxtapuso un elemento religioso a su visita política. He juxtaposed a religious element with his political visit. — A related word is yuxtaposición (juxtaposition).