How to say "catch up with" in Spanish

Rob Ashby

Rob Ashby

The Spanish Obsessive

This video is from our series “how to say” in Spanish, where we explore the most natural way to say English common expressions, in Spanish.

In this video, we’ll be looking at a few ways of saying “catch up with” in Spanish:

  • Alcanzar
  • Pillar
  • Ponerse al día con…
  • Adelantar cuaderno

Saying “catch up with” in Spanish

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Have you ever struggled to say “catch up with” in Spanish? This was always a really tough one for me. And when I spoke Spanish for some reason it was just something which I needed to say all the time. I was never really sure of the best way to do it.

Welcome to How to Say in Spanish, where we take common English phrases and expressions and we look at the best, most natural way to say those in Spanish. And remember the goal is natural Spanish. We’re not talking about just translated English. This video series is intended for intermediate to advanced learners, but if you’re a beginner, you’re still benefit from it.

In this video, we’re looking at how to say “catch up with”. In English “catch up with” actually has a couple of different meanings. So let’s start with physically catch up with. So that’s when you’re behind someone, they’re walking ahead of you and you need to physically catch up with them. To say this in Spanish, there are a couple of verbs that we can use. Now the most common one which we recommend is alcanzar. Now, if you look in a dictionary, you’ll probably see that this translates to “reach”. So when you say something like…

Ya te alcanzo.

You’re really saying, “I’ll reach you” or “I reach you”. So for example, if you’re walking with someone and maybe you’ve forgotten something, you say, “Oh, you go on ahead, I’ll catch up with you”. You’d say something like.

Tú ve primero, yo te alcanzo cuando termine esto. Tú ve primero, yo te alcanzo cuando termine esto.

Now you try one using this verb. How do you say “I couldn’t catch up with him?” Let’s break it down. We’ve got I couldn’t, no podía, catch up with, that’s our verb alcanzar. And then we use le.

No le podía alcanzar. No podía alcanzarle.

So I said there were two verbs that we could use. We’ve got alcanzar and the second one that we can use is pillar. Now, in our experience, pillar is used everywhere, but you certainly hear it more commonly in Spain and it has a really wide range of uses in Spain. So how could you use this verb? Let’s take a really simple example again. “I’ll catch up with you.”

Ya les pillo, ya te pillo.

So that’s our first use or meaning of “catch up with”, when you need to catch up physically with someone. So another use of “catch up with” is in the figurative sense. So when you need to catch up with something or catch up on something that you’re behind on. So for example, “I need to catch up on the news”. And with this we don’t use pillar, we don’t use alcanzar because that’s used more literally. But there is a magic expression here.

Ponerse al día con…

Now notice that’s ponerse. So it’s a reflexive verb. That means you’re going to need to conjugate that reflexive pronoun in these phrases. Let’s take a couple of examples. What does this phrase mean?

He estado de vacaciones, ahora tengo que ponerme al día con mi trabajo.

And you can use ponerse al día in the sense of catching up with friends as well. Catching up with people you haven’t seen for a long time. So let’s say you’re meeting up with someone. You haven’t seen them for a long time for some reason, let’s say there’s, I don’t know, a global pandemic. You haven’t met anyone for ages. Something you might say is…

No nos hemos visto en mucho tiempo, deberíamos quedar para ponernos al día.

So you’ll notice we had the word “meet” in there. If you’re looking for different ways to say meet, we’ve got a video for you which you should check out. So that’s catch up with something you’re behind on or catch up with someone you haven’t seen for a long time. The magical phrase is ponerse al día con. The final use or meaning of catch up which we’re going to use is to catch up with like you, you meet someone, let’s catch up over a coffee. And again we can use the phrase ponerse al día. There’s another nice one we could use though.

Adelantar cuaderno.

So this is used in Colombia. I don’t know if it’s used in any other countries, but it’s a nice one to throw into your Spanish. Adelantar cuaderno. So in summary, we use the verbs alcanzar or pillar to say “catch up with” in the sense of physically catch up with something or someone when you’re behind them. So you need to move faster to catch up with them. When you want to say “catch up with” in the figurative sense, that’s when we use this amazing expression ponerse al día con.

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2 Responses

  1. Esta muy bien. Estoy de acuerdo en tu puntos. Esto fue muy útil para mi clase de español. Gracias por profundizar en la pronunciación. Buen trabajo!

  2. Very interesting your post. Thanks a Lot. Some comments by my part. In Spain we use the verb “coger” more than “alcanzar” but this has negative connotations in Latin America. Many funny situations occur when we Spaniards talk about Spain with Mexicans or Venezuelans or Agentinians and we say “coger”…they raise their hands to their heads 😉

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