Learning vocabulary in Spanish is often a breeze. After all, English and Spanish share thousands of words in common, thanks to the influence of Latin on both languages. That said, words with similar meanings rarely have identical meanings, and one of the challenging parts of mastering the language is understanding all the nuances behind cognates (words that are similar in both English and Spanish). Today we’ll take a look at one common word which, by all appearances, is interchangeable with its English counterpart: instalar.

In English, the word install has a technical connotation. We install equipment, appliances, toilets, apps, etc. Rarely, however, do we use the word in reference to people, except when referring to politicians (did our linguistic forebears equate them with toilets?… but I digress). This is where Spanish adds a whole new flavor of meaning to the word. The verb instalar can be used just like its English counterpart, but the reverse is not always true. Let’s first look at examples which, to our English-speaking brains, make perfect sense:

  • El técnico acaba de instalar la nueva refrigeradora. = The technician just finished installing the new refrigerator.
  • El teléfono no deja de instalar actualizaciones. = The telephone keeps installing updates.
  • Se instaló un nuevo presidente en Korea. = A new president was installed in Korea.

Now these:

  • Vamos para que te instales en tu habitación. = Let’s go so you can get installed in your room.
  • Acaba de llegar y se está instalando en su recámara. = S/he just got here and is getting installed in his/her room.
  • Esta noche tomo el avión y te llamo cuando esté instalado. = Tonight I’m taking the plane and will call you when I’m installed.
  • Ellos se instalaron en las afueras de la ciudad. = They installed themselves in the city’s suburbs.

From the translations, you can easily infer what these sentences mean, but we would never used “install” in this manner in English. The best translation here is “to get settled in”, be it in a hotel room or a new house. This usage of instalar is perhaps more common than its technical connotations.

There’s also an abstract side of instalar:

  • Los manifestantes protestan para que se instale un nuevo movimiento social. = The demonstrators are protesting to have a new social movement installed.
  • Ya no puedo seguir instalado en el pasado. = I can’t remain installed in the past.

Whereas we only use this word in English occasionally, it gets quite a workout in Spanish. Hopefully this little explanation has helped instalarla como parte de tu vocabulario.

¡Hasta la próxima!


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