Today we’ll explore the nuances of the relatively common verb manifestar, another Spanish word which gets more use than its English equivalent. Although manifestar is a true cognate for the verb “to manifest”, better translations include “to express”, “to exhibit” or “to appear.” Its reflexive form, manifestarse, can also mean “to appear”, “to declare” or even “to protest.” Let’s take each definition in turn and look at some examples:

To express:

  • En ningún momento manifestó ella su alegría de verlo. = At no time did she express her pleasure of seeing him.
  • Todos tendrán la oportunidad de manifestar su opinión durante la reunión de hoy. = Everyone will have the opportunity to express his/her opinion at today’s meeting.
  • Ella manifesta que tiene mucho dolor en su cadera. = She says that she has a lot of pain in her hip.

Although it is possible, in English, to use “to manifest” in exactly the same way, it sounds less natural to us than it does in Spanish. Incidentally, the noun “manifestación” can mean “expression” as in Te agradezco tus manifestaciones de amor” (I appreciate your expressions of love).

To exhibit:

  • El manifestó unos dolores en las piernas. = He exhibited some pain in his feet.
  • El planeta ha manifestado muchos cambios a causa del calentamiento global. = The planet has exhibited many changes due to global warming.

Again, the English “to manifest” works in these examples, even if it sounds a little stilted to us.

To appear:

  • Los gases hidrógenos se manifestan en todas partes del universo. = Hydrogen gas appears in every part of the universe.
  • Los angeles se manifestaron delante de los pastores y les anunciaron la buena nueva. = The angels appeared before the shepherds and announced the good news to them.

The noun “manifestación” also relates to this concept and most closely translates as “appearance” or “presentation.” A “manifestación espiritual”, for example, could be a ghost or an angelic apparition. Doctors talk about the “manifestación de síntomas” and theologians about the “manifestación de Dios.”

To declare:

  • Se manifestó que la ley fue promulgada para proteger a los indigentes. = It was stated that the law was made to protect the poor.
  • El se manifestó en contra del partido político dominante. = He declared himself opposed to the dominant political party.

In English, it would sound weird to say “He manifested himself against…” We could say, instead, “He manifested his opposition to…” You’ll notice that Spanish takes more liberties in this regard.

To protest:

Here’s where Spanish deviates completely from English (well, almost completely… it turns out that the noun form “manifestation” also can mean “a protest” in English, but when have you ever heard it used that way?). The verb manifestar is frequently used by Spanish media to mean “to protest” or “to demonstrate”:

  • Los estudiantes se manifestaron en contra del aumento de las tasas de matrícula. = The students demonstrated against raising the cost of tuition.
  • Las feministas se manifestaron contra el presidente. = The feminists protested against the president.

As you’d expect, a protest or demonstration is called “una manifestación.”

Once again, we see how a simple cognate word can be used in a myriad of different ways, some of which sound wholly unnatural in our language even if they are, technically, admissible. It’s worth remembering that English adopted a lot of words from Latin, the root language of Spanish, but tends to reserve many of these words for formal contexts. In Spanish, however, a word like manifestar is common in both informal and formal contexts and has a much wider application than we would give it. You might not realize all this, however, simply from reading the dictionary…



1 comment on Manifestar

  1. Great lesson and breakdown of manifestar and manifestarse.

    JT se manifestó en contra del plan para pasar un double fuel tanker while going uphill on a blind curve one time in 2014. Es donde él draws la linea.

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