Hallar vs Encontrar: What’s the Difference?
If you’ve been studying Spanish for some time already, you’ve surely encountered the hallar vs encontrar dilemma. They both seem to mean “to find,” but can they really be used interchangeably?
Linguists say that absolute synonyms don’t exist, and there will always be differences in how you use these words in terms of register or emotional value.
Their use may also vary depending on the region.
This is the case of hallar vs. encontrar.
If you want to boost your Spanish and upgrade your vocabulary skills, keep reading. You’ll learn all the subtle differences between hallar vs encontrar, their conjugation, and the most common expression.
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Hallar vs Encontrar – The Basics
First, why are these words synonymous? How did it happen? Let’s have a quick look at their origin.
Hallar comes from the antique word “fallar” which originated from the Latin word “afflare.” It meant “to breathe in” while focused on something—to sniff, as animals do. Hence, hallar ended up meaning “to find.”
Encontrar comes from the Latin “in contra.” Originally it referred to an encounter, and much later, in the 17th century, it started to mean “to find.” That’s why encontrar has some shades of meaning that still express this “run into” and confrontational meaning.
Nowadays, these two words are synonymous when they refer to finding something, although hallar is definitely more formal, and you may spend some years not hearing someone use it in this meaning.
Let’s now see hallar vs encontrar in detail to help you impress your Spanish friends.
7 Meanings of the Spanish Verb ‘Hallar’
Let’s go first with hallar. I will show you how and when to use this word. You’ll also learn some basic conjugation forms.
1. To Find
Hallar means to come upon someone or something that is sought.
Los arqueólogos hallaron finalmente la tumba del rey.
The archeologists finally found the king’s tomb.
Hallé mis llaves después de una hora de búsqueda.
I found my keys after an hour of searching.
Hallar also means to come upon someone or something without looking for it.
Cuando caminaba por las calles de Playa del Carmén hallé una taquería barata y sabrosa.
While walking through the streets of Playa del Carmen, I found a cheap and tasty taquería.
2. To Discover
Hallar also means to discover something.
Espero que pronto hallen la cura contra el cáncer.
I hope they find a cure for cancer soon.
3. To Receive a Reaction
Hallar can also mean “to meet with” a certain reaction, usually support or opposition.
Mi idea halló resistencia entre mis compañeros del grupo.
My idea met with resistance from my fellow group members.
Esperaba hallar aprobación pero no fue así.
I expected to meet with approval, but I did not.
Meaning of Pronominal Spanish Verb: Hallarse
Hallarse, as a pronominal verb, can have some more meanings.
4. To Be In A Place, To Find Oneself
When talking about people, hallarse means “to be in a place.”
Y de repente nos hallamos en el lugar más bonito del mundo.
And suddenly, we found ourselves in the most beautiful place in the world.
Ahora nos hallamos en Cancún, después procederemos con nuestro viaje a Mérida.
We are now in Cancun, and then we will proceed with our trip to Merida.
5. To Be Situated
When talking about objects or buildings, hallarse means to be situated.
El teatro se halla en la plaza principal.
The theater is located in the main square.
6. To Be Part of
Hallarse means to find yourself to be part of a certain group.
De origen modesto, ahora se halla entre las personas más ricas del país.
Of modest origin, he is now among the richest people in the country.
7. To Be In A State
Hallarse also means experiencing a state or emotion.
Hoy me hallo llena de energía.
Today I am full of energy.
Después de la caminata, se hallaban cansados y sin ganas de seguir.
After the walk, they were tired and did not feel like going on.
1 Common Hallar Expression
Although hallar is considered a less common verb than encontrar there is one expression that you may hear quite often.
This expression means to be uncomfortable in a place or situation, to be annoyed.
No me hallo. No sé qué pasa. Voy a caminar un rato y a ver si después empiezo a trabajar.
I feel weird. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m going to walk for a while and then I’ll see if I can start working.
Conjugation of Hallar
Let’s see how the verb hallar conjugates in present, past, and future tenses. It’s a regular -AR verb that’s easy to learn.
Present Tense Conjugation Chart: Hallar
Hallar is regular in the present tense.
|yo hallo||I find|
|tú hallas||you find|
|él, ella, usted halla||he, she, it finds (formal you find)|
|nosotros hallamos||we find|
|ustedes hallan||you find|
|ellos, ellas hallan||they find|
Nos hallamos en un lugar precioso.
We find ourselves in a beautiful place.
La catedral se halla en la plaza principal.
The Cathedral is located in the main square.
Preterite Tense Conjugation Chart: Hallar
The verb hallar is also regular in all forms of the Spanish preterite tense.
|yo hallé||I found|
|tú hallaste||you found|
|él, ella, usted halló||he, she, it found (formal you found)|
|nosotros hallamos||we found|
|ustedes hallaron||you found|
|ellos, ellas hallaron||they found|
Por fin hallé mis llaves.
Finally, I found my keys.
Hallamos un lugar increíble.
We found an incredible place.
Future Tense Conjugation Chart: Hallar
You’ll be happy to hear that hallar is also regular in all forms of the Spanish future simple tense.
|yo hallaré||I will find|
|tú hallarás||you will find|
|él, ella, hallará||he, she, it will find (formal you will find)|
|nosotros hallaremos||we will find|
|ustedes hallarán||you will find|
|ellos, ellas hallarán||they will find|
¿Hallarán la cura para esta enfermedad?
Will they find a cure for this disease?
If you want to learn more about hallar, look at the entry in Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy).
8 Meanings of the Spanish Verb ‘Encontrar’
Let’s see now the other verb encontrar. We’ll cover how and when to use this word, and learn some basic conjugation forms.
1. To Find, to Discover
Same as hallar, encontrar means to find something or someone. No matter whether you’ve been looking for it or not.
Mira lo que encontré, ¡una concha!
Look what I found, a shell!
No encuentro mis llaves.
I can’t find my keys.
2. To Consider
Encontrar also means to consider something, to have a particular opinion.
¿Te gusta pescar? No, lo encuentro muy aburrido.
Do you like fishing? No, I find it very dull.
Encuentro admirable su comportamiento.
I find his behavior admirable.
3. To Receive a Reaction
Encontrar can also mean “to meet with” a certain reaction, usually support or opposition.
Mi propuesta no encontró oposición.
My offer did not meet with opposition.
Meaning of Pronominal Spanish Verb: Encontrarse
Encontrarse, as a pronominal verb, offers additional meanings.
4. To Be in a Place
Again, like hallarse, encontrarse means to be situated in a place.
La iglesia se encuentra cruzando la calle.
The church is across the street.
Nos encontramos en un lugar sagrado para los Mayas.
We are in a sacred place for the Mayas.
5. To Experience a Sensation
Encontrarse also means to sense or feel something.
Después de tomar la medicina me encuentro mejor.
After taking medicine I feel better.
Hoy no me encuentro muy animada.
Today I don’t feel very cheerful.
6. To Meet Unexpectedly
This is a meaning that is not shared with hallarse. Encontrarse can mean to run into someone and it is often used with the preposition con.
Ayer me encontré con mi compañero de primaria. ¡Qué sorpresa!
Yesterday I ran into a classmate from my primary school. What a surprise!
No me quiero encontrar con mi ex, no voy a ir.
I don’t want to bump into my ex, I’m not going.
7. To Meet
Encontrarse con alguien can also mean a planned meeting.
¿Dónde nos encontraremos?
Where shall we meet?
Quedamos en encontrarnos en el muelle pero nadie vino.
We arranged to meet at the pier but no one came.
8. To Crash
When talking about vehicles, encontrarse can mean to crash.
Al tomar la curva, giré mal y me encontré con el árbol.
As I rounded the corner, I made a wrong turn and hit the tree.
1 Common Encontrar Expression
There’s also one expression using encontrar that you may use to impress your Spanish-speaking friends.
This expression means to feel out of place.
No me encuentro en este ambiente de gente de alta sociedad.
I don’t belong in this environment of high society.
Conjugation of Encontrar
Let’s see how the verb encontrar conjugates in the present, past, and future tenses. It’s an irregular -AR verb, so pay attention.
Present Tense Conjugation Chart: Encontrar
Encontrar is irregular in the present tense in all grammatical persons but the “we form.”
|yo encuentro||I find|
|tú encuentras||you find|
|él, ella, usted encuentra||he, she, it finds (formal you find)|
|nosotros encontramos||we find|
|ustedes encuentran||you find|
|ellos, ellas encuentran||they find|
No encuentro un lugar para estacionar.
I can’t find a place to park.
Nos podemos encontrar a las 7pm si quieres.
We can meet at 7 pm if you want.
Preterite Tense Conjugation Chart: Encontrar
The verb encontrar is regular in all forms of the Spanish preterite tense.
|yo encontré||I found|
|tú encontraste||you found|
|él, ella, usted encontró||he, she, it found (formal you found)|
|nosotros encontramos||we found|
|ustedes encontraron||you found|
|ellos, ellas encontraron||they found|
Por fin encontré mi cartera.
Finally, I found my wallet.
Encontramos un lugar ideal para las vacaciones.
We found an ideal place for holidays.
Future Tense Conjugation Chart: Encontrar
You’ll be happy to hear that encontrar is also regular in all forms of the Spanish future simple tense.
|yo encontraré||I will find|
|tú encontrarás||you will find|
|él, ella, encontrará||he, she, it will find (formal you will find)|
|nosotros encontraremos||we will find|
|ustedes encontrarán||you will find|
|ellos, ellas encontrarán||they will find|
¿Encontrarán a los turistas perdidos en la montaña?
Will they find the tourists lost in the mountains?
If you want to learn more about encontrar, look at the entry in Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy).
Keep Practicing Hallar vs Encontrar
IAs you can see, these two verbs are synonymous in most of their uses. Still, encontrar is more common to be heard in the street, and you won’t get it wrong if you use it in case of doubt.
hope you’re motivated right now to keep learning and you’re comfortable using both hallar and encontrar in a conversation and writing.
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