How to use the verb “perder” in Spanish

Perder is a useful verb in Spanish but the problem is it is one of those verbs that has different meanings according to the context. In this blog post we will look at the most common ways this verb can be used in everyday conversation.

Present tense

Perder is an e > ie stem-changing verb in the present tense so it also has this change in the “stem” of beginning part of the verb in all forms except the nosotros (we) and vosotros (you – plural):

Yo pierdoI lose
pierdesYou lose
Él/ella pierdeHe/she loses
Nosotros perdemoswe lose
Vosotros perdéisyou lose (plural)
Ellos/as pierdenthey lose

1) To lose something

One way that this verb translates is “to lose”. This can be referring to an object, a sports team, losing weight or control of something.

e.g. He perdido mi llave.I have lost my key.

e.g. Mi equipo perdió el partido.My team lost the match.

e.g. Quiero perder peso para el verano.I want to lose weight for the summer.

e.g. Cuidado que no pierdes control del coche.Careful you don’t lose control of the car.

2) To miss something

The second most common use is “to miss” as in a train, bus, aeroplane or missing an episode of a programme or miss out on something for example. It is not used in the sense of missing someone.

e.g. Me levanté tarde y perdí el autobús.I got up late and I missed the bus.

e.g. Tuve que trabajar así que perdí la fiesta.I had to work so I missed the party.

e.g. No quiero perder el primer episodio.I don’t want to miss the first episode.

3) Perderse – To get lost / To be lost

When used as a reflexive verb it translates as “to be lost” or “to get lost”. This could mean physically lost or get lost in the conversation / lose the thread.

e.g. Ayer nos perdimos en la ciudad.Yesterday we got lost in the city.

e.g. Juan se perdió en la oficina en su primer día. Juan got lost in the office on his first day.

However if you want to say you “are lost” in the present moment, you would use “perdido”.

e.g. Perdone, puede ayudarme, creo que estoy perdido.Excuse me, can you help me, I think I’m

E.g. ¿Dónde estáis? ¿Estáis perdidos? – Where are you? Are you lost?

4) To waste time

Have you ever heard the phrase “es una pérdida de tiempo”? Basically this means “it is a loss of time” but in the sense of a “waste of time”. This is another use of the verb “perder”.

e.g. Quiero empezar ahora, no quiero perder más tiempo.
I want to start now, I don’t want to waste any more time.

e.g. No voy a perder una hora más con él.
I am not going to waste another hour with him.

5) Phrases using “perder”

Echar a perderTo corrupt / ruin / bankrupt / spoil

No perder combaTo not miss a trick

No perder los estribosTo not lose your temper

No saber perderTo be a bad loser

No tener nada que perderTo not have anything to lose

Perder de vistaTo lose sight of something

Perder los nervios To lose your cool

Perder la calma – To lose your patience

Te Toca a Ti – Your turn

Why not have a go at making up your own sentences using “perder” in different contexts as above?