Propósito / A propósito

The term propósito is a fairly close cognate to the English word “purpose.” There are a number of different ways, however, in which Spanish speakers use it. This being New Year’s, you may hear folks talking about their “propósitos de año nuevo,” which we would call New Year’s Resolutions. The term “propósito” also crops up in a few idiomatic expressions which are a must to learn:

“a propósito” (alternatively, but less commonly, “de propósito”) = “on purpose” or “by the way”

No lo hice a propósito = “I didn’t do it on purpose”

A propósito, ¿Has pensado en comprar un coche nuevo?” = “By the way, have you thought about buying a new car?”

“a propósito de” = “speaking of”

A propósito de amistades, ¿Has sabido algo de José? = “Speaking of friendships, have you heard anything about José?”

“sin propósito” = “meaningless, without purpose”

El esta llevando una vida sin propósito = “He is leading a meaningless life.”

“tener como propósito” = “to have as its purpose”

Este informe tiene como propósito el exponer las diferencias entre los sexos = “The purpose of this report is to expound upon the differences between the sexes.”

As you can see, native speakers have more purposes for propósito (no pun intended) than we, as English speakers, have for “purpose.” These uses, however, are not difficult to grasp and can make your conversation more fluid. Next time you want to say “by the way” or “speaking of such and such,” give a propósito a try. You’ll find it becomes an essential part of your vocabulary.

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