Echar can be such a confusing verb!!
It seems to me that echar has a million uses!! What is its main function?
Hey Sunshinzmommie! This is several weeks late, but I just read something that made me think of your question. The following is a quote from the book: 'Cassell's Colloquial Spanish'. It is an awesome reference to have. My wife is reading it from cover to cover, just for fun. It's that kind of book, instructive and entertaining!
This is a Spanish all-purpose verb with a multitude of very diverse applications, most of which are best learnt by the direct method. Since we are confined to the written word the reader should appreciate that it is a cognate with eject and means to out in all kinds of senses: ¿Le/lo echo? would mean, Shall I throw him out? in reference to some undesirable person but ¿Lo echo?, Shall I pour it out? if the tea had just been brought in. ¿Qué echan? literally: What are they emitting? is likely to mean Whats on? In connection with radio, TV or movies. Echar la culpa, to push the blame (on to somebody). Echar is particularly likely to be used for the transference of liquids: ¿Le echo gasolina? Shall I fill her up? ¿Le echo más leche? Will you have a little more milk in it? (tea or coffee); echar agua, to quench.
Echar a with an infinitive suggests a sudden breaking into a particular activity: echó a correr, he broke into a run; echaron a reír, they burst out laughing. Rather an idiomatic one is echar a perder, to spoil (in all senses, including children).
I found this entry very useful. I hope you do to!
Confusing? Yep. Impossible to figure out? Well, I hope not!
Just remember there are also verbs like that in English. Just one example: get
Think of how many ways "get" is used in expressions. SpanishDict has 19 entries for the first dictionary and 12 for the second one. How did we learn to use it? Exposure and practice.
So I have a feeling, the real way to learn echar is going to be the same way. Hearing it, using it, practicing it.
Yes, it's one of those multi-purpose verbs that keeps us humble! Valerie had a good observation that it leans toward a motion of throwing or tossing, sometimes literally or sometimes figuratively.
"échate a andar" - get going... "échate" - lie down (toss yourself down)
"échame una mano" - give me a hand..."echa una mirada" - take a look
"echa esta carta" - mail this letter..."echa la basura" - throw out the garbage
"Lo echaron de la universidad" - they kicked him out of school...."Lo echaron abajo" - they knocked it down
"Echa tus problemas a un lado" - Put your troubles to the side..."échame la buenaventura" - tell me my fortune
If you look at all of the above expressions (which are maybe 1/10 of all the expressions using "echar"), you can see that they all involve some sort of movement outward, whether literally or figuratively.
Maybe this will help...
You can buy "Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish" for $8.58 cheap at amazon (New).
It has a great seciton on "64 Verbs, Up Close and Personal" like --- echar, acabar, hacer, haber, tener, mandar, parar, seguir ...... (and how to use these very common verbs in everyday sentences and conversations.)
I am not going to provide the discussion on "echar" from the book ... maybe you can get a look somewhere on the web (Page 80-81 for "echar")
But most of the uses (it seems to me) could (often figuratively) be thought of as "to toss, to throw, to cast".
Does that help?
I'm sure you looked in the dicitionary already so I'm not going to smother you with examples.
The main use for echar is to put something inside something else --- Echar la basura en el basurero.
Most of the other uses are interchangeable with other verbs and probably more common than echar.
Echar sometimes sounds like a trashy word --- Echar un discurso --- It sounds better to say: Dar un discurso --- In this case in my country people use echar a lot.
There are also lots of idioms linked to this word which I really wouldn't even know how to translate. It'll probably be better to start a new thread for that. Here are two that I (sort of ) remember: Echar guindas al pavo. y Echar riendas --- Don't ask me what they mean, I'm not even sure if they are spelled right.
Anyway --- Echar --- something inside something else --- Look at the descriptions and you'll see that most of the meanings are like that.
Déjenme echar un vistazo al diccionario para aclarar el asunto!