Challenge 9: Winning and Losing in Spanish


it’s been a busy last few days with me rushing home after work each day to catch the football matches in the evening. After going over a lot of useful vocab for football last time, I wanted to address a very particular few verbs that have caught me out a lot in the past. The sporting theme continues as we look at winning and losing.

The verbs for winning and losing are:
ganar – to win
perder – to lose

So in our football context we could say,

Hace apenas 15 días ganó la Copa de Europa, con el Chelsea – Barely 2 weeks ago he won the European cup with Chelsea.
El Barcelona le ganó 4-1 al Atlético – Barcelona beat Atlético 4-1. The le here is inserted for emphasis, but I am told that it is not strictly correct. Feel free to experiment and sound a bit more local.

and when talking about losing we would say:
El Barcelona perdió en Málaga su primer partido – Barcelona lost their first match in Malaga
Real Madrid y Barcelona perdieron sus partidos ante Espanyol y Villarreal respectivamente – Real Madrid & Barcelona both lost their matches against Espanyol and Villarreal respectively.

A win is una victoria
and a loss is una derrota
Both have nothing to do with the verb forms.

Ganar and perder also have a few other meanings which you would not use win or lose for in English.
Ganar also means to earn.
Gana €1.000 todos los meses – He earns €1,000 each month
Ganarse la vida – To make a living

Perder is used for wasting, missing or misplacing things as well. So, losing your keys, missing the bus etc.
He perdido mis llaves – I’ve lost my keys
Perdieron el tren – They missed the train.
Estoy perdiendo el tiempo – I’m wasting my time

You will often hear Spanish people making the reverse mistakes when speaking English, saying things such as “I lost the bus”. I find these errors that we all make in other languages fascinating, and they help point towards interesting grammar points to look at.


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