Alcanzar: Conjugation & Translation

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

The Spanish verb ''alcanzar'' ('to reach' and 'to catch up') is very common in daily conversation. This lesson covers its conjugation in the present tense so you can easily learn to use it when needed.

Meanings of Alcanzar

Esteban is having dinner and he is always reaching for the salt, sugar, or pepper because he sits by the spices. His younger brother Santiago is little, but has no trouble catching up with his older brother when running. Esteban likes to run because he wants to reach his dream of being winner in his town marathon competition this year.

The verbs 'to reach' and 'to catch up' in Spanish translate as alcanzar (ahl-kahn-SAHR). Besides these two basic meanings, alcanzar is also used to express that something is not enough to cover for a need, or to say that they 'manage/are able to' see, smell, or hear something.

Finally, there is the expression no alcanzar a comprender, which means 'cannot understand' when a situation is ridiculous and, thus, it is not understandable. To put all these meanings to practice, let's first learn the conjugation of alcanzar in the present tense.

Conjugation of Alcanzar

The present tense of alcanzar is used to talk about habitual actions we do and facts mostly. Note that the pronunciation column in the chart has the sound 's' for the last syllable zar. In some parts of Spain (such as Madrid, Barcelona) people pronounce the 'z' as the English 'th' sound rather than like the 's'. The 's' sound is predominant in Latin America and in some parts of Spain (like Andalucía, Sevilla).

Verb alcanzar (ahl-kahn-SAHR) - to reach / to catch up

Alcanzar Conjugation Pronunciation Translation
yo alcanzo ahl-KAHN-soh I reach / catch up
alcanzas ahl-KAHN-sahs you (singular/informal) reach / catch up
alcanza ahl-KAHN-sah he/she/you (singular/formal) reach(es) / catch(es) up
alcanzamos ahl-kahn-SAH-mohs we reach / catch up
alcanzáis ahl-kahn-SAH-ees you (plural/informal) reach / catch up
alcanzan ahl-KAHN-sahn they/you (plural/formal) reach / catch up

Now that you know how to conjugate the verb alcanzar in its present tense, let's put it to work through some examples.

'To Reach' Examples

Here, we have examples of when alcanzar means 'to reach':

  • Esteban alcanza la sal y se la pasa a su madre. (Esteban reaches the salt and passes it on to his mother.)
  • Yo alcanzo los libros en lo alto del librero si me subo a una silla. (I reach the books in the highest part of the bookcase if I get on a chair.)
  • Los padres de Esteban y Santiago siempre alcanzan sus metas profesionales. (Esteban and Santiago's parents always reach their professional goals.)
  • Mi hermano y yo alcanzamos nuestro sueño de correr en un maratón. (My brother and I reach our dream to run in a marathon.)

With these examples, we know that alcanzar can be used for reaching for objects, but also for goals or dreams.

Example With Other Meanings

Here are a few examples to show the meanings 'to catch up', 'is not enough', and 'get to smell':

  • Mom tells Santiago: Tú siempre alcanzas a tu hermano al correr. (You always catch up with your brother when running.)
  • Dad says: El dinero no alcanza para comprar un coche nuevo. (Money is not enough to buy a new car.)
  • Santiago says: Mi nota en matemáticas alcanza para pasar al siguiente nivel. (My grade in math is enough to go onto the next level.)

Translation: Half liter of lemonade covers two people.

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