Quick answer
"Derecho" is an adjective which is often translated as "right", and "ley" is a noun which is often translated as "law". Learn more about the difference between "derecho" and "ley" below.
derecho(
deh
-
reh
-
choh
)
An adjective is a word that describes a noun (e.g. the big dog).
1. (direction)
a. right
El futbolista se lastimó el pie derecho.The soccer player injured his right foot.
b. right-hand
Tu oficina está a la mano derecha al entrar.Your office is on the right-hand side as you go in.
2. (not curved or crooked)
a. straight
Este árbol ha crecido completamente derecho.This tree has grown completely straight.
b. upright
Hay que poner derecho las sillas que tumbó el viento.We need to put upright the chairs the wind blew over.
3. (honorable)
a. honest
Mi vecino es un hombre derecho y humilde.My neighbor is an honest, humble man.
b. upright
Ojalá me pareciera derecho por lo menos uno de los candidatos.I wish at least one of the candidates seemed upright to me.
c. straight
No temas tratar con ella. Es derecha cuando se trata de los negocios.Don’t be afraid of dealing with her. She’s straight when it comes to business.
An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or other adverbs (e.g. to run quickly, very tired).
4. (in a straight line)
a. straight on
Sigue derecho por esta calle y llegarás en seguida.Walk straight on down this street and you'll be there in no time.
5. (not bent over)
a. upright
Camina derecho, con los hombros hacia atrás y la cabeza en alto.Walk upright with your shoulders back and your head held high.
6. (directly)
a. straight
Después de trabajar, fui derecho al gimnasio.After work, I went straight to the gym.
A masculine noun is used with masculine articles and adjectives (e.g. el hombre guapo, el sol amarillo).
7. (legal)
a. law
Mi hijo va a estudiar derecho en la universidad.My son is going to study law at college.
8. (entitlement)
a. right
Todos los niños tienen derecho a la educación.Every child has the right to an education.
9. (exterior side)
a. right side (clothing)
No planches el pantalón por el derecho o le darás brillo.Don't iron the pants on the right side or they'll shine.
b. outside
El derecho de este suéter está lleno de pelusas.The outside of this sweater is covered in lint.
derechos
A plural noun indicates that there is more than one person, place, thing, or idea.
plural noun
10. (charge)
a. duties
Tuvieron que pagar los derechos de aduana para importar la mercancía.They had to pay the customs duties to import the goods.
b. fees
¿Cuánto vienen siendo los derechos de admisión a esta escuela?How much are the admission fees at this school?
c. dues
Denunciaron a la empresa por no pagar los derechos portuarios.They sued the company for not paying the harbor dues.
11. (property)
a. rights
Tenemos los derechos exclusivos para su autobiografía.We have the exclusive rights to her autobiography.
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ley(
ley
)
A feminine noun is almost always used with feminine articles and adjectives (e.g. la mujer bonita, la luna llena).
1. (rule)
a. law
La nueva ley de atención médica ha resultado ser polémica.The new healthcare law has turned out to be controversial.
2. (system of rules)
a. law (uncountable)
Todos deberíamos ser iguales ante la ley.We should all be equal in the eyes of the law.
3. (scientific principle)
a. law
¿Me puedes explicar la ley de la conservación de la energía?Can you explain the the law of conservation of energy to me?
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