The Ultimate Guide to De and Desde in Spanish: What’s the Difference?
When learning a new language you might reach that moment when everything seems clear. You are certain that perfect fluency is right around the corner. You’re having tons of fun learning Spanish and even having conversations with new friends, when all of a sudden you realize you don’t understand the difference between de and desde. Luckily, this is easy to learn, and I’ll show you how!
It’s normal to reach this point while mastering a new language. As you might have noticed, the learning process is not a straight line, but rather full of ups and downs. One moment you might feel like you’ve got a hold of it when suddenly you hit a wall.
But do not worry! This only means that you are actually on the right track. It’s like the Greek philosopher Plato once said: “All I know is that I know nothing,” which only means that you are breaking barriers and discovering the deeper ins and outs of the language. This is a level that many medium level speakers might never reach, so you are on your way to the top!
What is De vs Desde?
The difference between de and desde is problematic for English speakers essentially because both words translate to the word from. However, upon further examination, there is more than meets the eye to this simplified translation.
Understanding the difference between these two words is helpful for your comprehension and speaking skills. Note that once you master using de and desde, your Spanish will sound a lot more advanced! These types of word choice errors stem from direct mistranslations that fortunately come with easy fixes.
First of all, the words de and desde are prepositions, which connect different elements within a sentence. Despite the fact that these two little words have the same meaning in English, there is, in fact, a way to differentiate them.
In the simple sense, the prepositions de and desde are occasionally interchangeable.
Necesito llegar de aquí a mi casa.
Necesito llegar desde aquí hasta mi casa.
I need to get from here to my house.
If you pay close attention, you will see the words a and hasta change. While it may be useful to understand why this change occurs, it’s not essential at the moment and so we will explore it in more detail further on. The following will help you have a clearer idea on when to use de or desde.
The Grammar of Time and Place
The first thing to have in mind is space and time. These prepositions indicate location or origin of an object or person, often demonstrating the distance something has travelled and its position within time and place.
How are De and Desde similar?
The prepositions de and desde are used similarly in tandem with a and hasta.. They reference two points—of origin and destination—and a travelled distance. Remember that de goes with a and desde with hasta.
Hoy caminé desde mi casa hasta el colegio.
Ayer caminé de la pizzeria a tu casa.
Today I walked from my house to school.
Yesterday I walked from the pizza shop to your house.
Now, given that there does not seem to be any difference in meaning between the translation in English, do not worry. Here, it is a matter of your own choice.
How are De and Desde different?
The first difference between the prepositions as seen above is that they cannot both be accompanied by a and/or hasta. Instead desde must always be linked with hasta, and de must always be linked with a.
Los astronautas viajan desde la tierra hasta la luna.
Mi viaje es de Guatemala a Italia.
The astronauts travel from Earth to the moon.
My trip is from Guatemala to Italy.
This is because even though both words are used to refer to a movement from one place to another they don’t have the exact temporal and special meaning. This might seem very complex, but it is actually quite simple. However, it is better understood and more apparent when we look at how the words are used on their own.
The preposition desde refers to a specific point in time or a specific place.
- When using desde to indicate a specific starting point within time, there is no need to specify certain aspects of the sentence, such as the inclusion of the word hasta because this would be indicated by the context of the situation.
In the following example, the word desde would mostly be translatable to the word “since.”
Estuve esperando a mi hermana desde las 8.
I was waiting for my sister since 8 o’clock.
As I mentioned, the rest of the sentence that would explain that I’ve been waiting here until 10 is not necessary because it’s often obvious, but some examples could be:
Estuve esperando a mi hermana desde las 8 hasta las 10.
I was waiting for my sister since 8 o’clock until 10.
- Another use of the preposition desde refers to a specific location, which like the above does not need to fill in the contextual part of the sentence.
This usage translates to “from”.
Viajé en avión desde Londres.
I travelled by plane from London.
Desde Guatemala son 8,642 km.
From Guatemala it’s 8,642 km.
Again, the rest of the sentences may be obvious through context, but some examples could be: hasta Guatemala / to Guatemala or hasta Londres / to London.
The preposition de is more common in Spanish than desde and it translates to both from” and of.”
When de specifically refers to a point of origin, it is used in combination with the verb “to come” or venir.
Ella viene siempre de su casa.
She always comes from her house.
Vengo del trabajo.
I come from work.
Alternatively, the use of de as a word for origin also indicates where someone is from. For example:
Yo soy de Guatemala.
I am from Guatemala.
Ellos son de los Estados Unidos.
They are from the United States.
As you can see, using the word de in relation to origin always translates to the word “from.”
When de translates to “of,” it expresses possession, refers to a part of a whole, or explains what something is made of.
To express possession:
Ese libro es de Ana.
That is Ana’s book.
In Spanish, we say “the book is of Ana.”
To refer to an object which is part of another whole:
Este plato es parte de una collection de platos.
This plate is part of a collection of plates.
To explain what something is made of:
Este recipiente está hecho de plástico.
This container is made of plastic.
Recap: Differences and Similarities.
De accompanied by the verb “to come” indicates a distance travelled.
Desde indicates either a specific moment in time, or a distance travelled from a specific place.
To review, the difference between the prepositions de and desde rely on three factors:
- First, de goes with a and desde goes with hasta. Both have the same meaning, so you can choose whichever is easiest for you.
- Secondly, desde refers specifically to distance and the trajectory travelled.
- Finally, the preposition de can be more widely as a synonym for the word “of.”
¡Vamos, tú puedes!
These complexities in Spanish may seem daunting at first, but don’t be discouraged! It only takes practice and a little extra attention to detail for these small differences to become second nature to you. Exercise your speaking skills every day by practicing Spanish. To accomplish this easily, I invite you to book a class with our excellent team of teachers who love to help learners like you feel confident in their quest for Spanish fluency.
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