HomeQ&AHow do you say 'to be literate' in Spanish? do you ever use ser or estar in the phrase?

How do you say 'to be literate' in Spanish? do you ever use ser or estar in the phrase?


What is the Spanish equivalent of the phrase 'to be literate' used in English. Do you ever use the adjective alfabetizado with the verbs ser or estar? Which?


updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by afulford

4 Answers


Since you are new to the forum, first, let me explain that when you ask what this word or that word means going from one language to another you must always provide context (the specific meaning of the word as you are using it) An example sentence using the word usually suffices. If you asked me what house meant in English I would have to know if you meant the noun for a domicile, or as a verb for to provide lodging.

to be literate in English can simply mean to be able to read. More often it means to be well read or well educated and to be familiar with classic literature. So before one can translate your request we first have to know which meaning that you are looking for.

lit·er·ate (ltr-t) adj.

  • 1.
  • a. Able to read and write.
  • b. Knowledgeable or educated in a particular field or fields.
    1. Familiar with literature; literary.
    1. Well-written; polished: a literate essay.


  1. One who can read and write.
  2. A well-informed, educated person.

liter·ate·ness n.

Usage Note: For most of its long history in English, literate has meant only "familiar with literature," or more generally, "well-educated, learned." Only since the late 19th century has it also come to refer to the basic ability to read and write. Its antonym illiterate has an equally broad range of meanings: an illiterate person may be incapable of reading a shopping list or unable to grasp an allusion to Shakespeare or Keats. The term functional illiterate is often used to describe a person who can read or write to some degree, but below a minimum level required to function in even a limited social situation or job setting. An aliterate person, by contrast, is one who is capable of reading and writing but who has little interest in doing so, whether out of indifference to learning in general or from a preference for seeking information and entertainment by other means. · More recently, the meanings of the words literacy and illiteracy have been extended from their original connection with reading and literature to any body of knowledge. For example, "geographic illiterates" cannot identify the countries on a map, and "computer illiterates" are unable to use a word-processing system. All of these uses of literacy and illiteracy are acceptable.

As galsally points out alfabetizado can be used with both Ser and Estar, but it will have different meanings. I suggest you read the Reference articles dealing with usage of these two verbs. Adjectives with Estar are more state of being while those with Ser provide inherent qualities or characteristics.

updated JUL 15, 2010
edited by 0074b507
posted by 0074b507



  1. Analfabetismo.

  2. Falta de instrucción, ignorancia.

updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by ian-hill

Do you mean literate as in knowing how to read or write?

Or something more specific like Computer literate?

If the first maybe this will help:

link text

Los seres humanos puedan ser descritos como alfabetas. o letrado.

Human beings can be described as..

Hope that helps?

updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by galsally

You could use, "saber leer y escribir", which means to know how to read and write.

updated JUL 15, 2010
posted by sth1161
SpanishDict is the world's most popular Spanish-English dictionary, translation, and learning website.
© Curiosity Media Inc.