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The Preposition contra in Spanish

Are you familiar with the Spanish preposition contra? In most cases, the Spanish preposition contra can be translated as "against" and functions very similarly to many uses of its English counterpart. Occasionally, however, this Spanish preposition can be used to depict situations in which a different English preposition could be utilized. Let's explore some uses and nuances of this Spanish preposition. 


1. Opposition of Two or More Things

The first meaning of the Spanish preposition contra refers to the opposition of two or more things, in which case it is typically translated as "against." Let's take a look at a couple of examples that describe entities facing off "against" one another:


una batalla ocurrida en mil setecientos dos que enfrentó a ingleses y holandeses contra españoles y franceses,

a battle that took place in seventeen oh two, which pitted the English and Dutch against the Spanish and French,

Captions 56-57, Adrián en Galicia Vigo

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¿Cómo ves el Mundial? ¿Cómo ves esto? -Yo lo veo que vamos a ser España contra Argentina.

How do you see the World Cup? How do you see this? -I see it as we're going to be Spain against Argentina.

Captions 55-56, Víctor en España El Mundial de Catar 2022 - Part 2

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Similarly, the Spanish preposition contra can reference the literal or figurative fight "against" something specific, such as a disease or cause:


pero la lucha contra el narcotráfico continúa

but the fight against narco-trafficking continues,

Caption 41, Los Tiempos de Pablo Escobar Capítulo 1 - Part 11

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Busco un remedio contra el dolor de cabeza.

I'm looking for some headache medicine. 


Note that in this last example, while the word "contra" implies combatting pain, it is not explicitly translated into English. 


2. A Contrary Position 

Like the English word "against," the Spanish preposition contra can indicate a sentiment of disagreement, disapproval, or opposition, for example, to a particular cause, notion, or person. Let's examine some examples of this meaning of contra:


¡Y contra eso estamos!

And we're against that!

Caption 58, Los Tiempos de Pablo Escobar Capítulo 1 - Part 13

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In this context, the word contra often appears within the construction en contra de, which means "against" or "in opposition to":


Los diferentes sistemas o soluciones constructivas, eh... No estoy a favor o en contra de ninguno.

The different systems or constructive solutions, um... I'm not in favor of or against any one.

Captions 7-8, Leif El Arquitecto Español y su Arte - Part 2

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3. Towards

This third use of the Spanish preposition contra denotes the direction of a movement "towards" something or someone. Although the word "against" can sometimes act as an English equivalent of this usage, in other cases, different English prepositions may be more common translations. For example, if you said "Reboté mi pelota contra la pared," a common translation would be "I bounced my ball off the wall." Let's see a few more examples:


El coche chocó contra la pared

The car crashed into the wall 


Bochica lanzó su báculo contra la montaña,

Bochica threw his staff at the mountain,

Caption 51, Aprendiendo con Carlos América precolombina - El mito de Bochica

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se percuten contra el piso. Otras veces, esos instrumentos se percuten... madera contra madera.

are struck against the floor. Other times, those instruments are struck... reed to reed.

Captions 29-31, Sonido Babel Los quitiplás

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4. In Front of

This meaning of the Spanish preposition contra typically describes things that are leaning "on" or "(up) against" something else, or facing it, as in the following examples:


El niño apoyó su patinete contra la pared.

The child leaned his scooter on/against the wall. 


Arrimaron los tablones contra el muro. 

They put the boards up against the wall. 


5. In Exchange for

In common expressions like "entrega contra reembolso" (delivery on/upon payment) or "pago contra entrega" (payment on/upon receipt), the Spanish preposition contra conveys that one thing happens in exchange for another and/or cannot happen until something else has occurred:


Recibirán el dinero contra entrega de la factura. 

You'll receive the money when you submit the invoice.


Interestingly, the securities industry uses a similar term, versus, in expressions like Delivery Versus Payment (DVP) to say that payment must take place in order for the delivery to happen. However, most of the time, the English words "on," "upon," or "when" convey this notion. 


That's all for today. We hope that this lesson has clarified for you the different uses of the Spanish preposition contra. Can you think of any additional examples and/or their English translations? We'd love for you to write us with you insights and questions.


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