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Quick answer
"Descansa" is a form of "descansar", an intransitive verb which is often translated as "to rest". "Cuida" is a form of "cuidar", a transitive verb which is often translated as "to take care of". Learn more about the difference between "descansa" and "cuida" below.
An intransitive verb is one that does not require a direct object (e.g. The man sneezed.).
1. (to take a break)
a. to rest
Tienes que descansar diez minutos por cada cuatro horas de trabajo.You need to rest ten minutes for every four hours worked.
b. to have off
Últimamente tengo mucho trabajo y solo descanso los domingos.I have a lot of work on lately and only have Sundays off.
2. (to be asleep)
a. to sleep
No pude descansar anoche.I couldn't sleep last night.
b. to nap
Él descansó un rato después de almorzar.He napped a while after eating lunch.
3. (to be buried)
a. to rest
En este lugar las almas desafortunadas pueden descansar en paz.This is a place where unfortunate souls can rest in peace.
4. (agriculture)
a. to rest
El campo descansa un año entero cada tres años.The field rests for a full year once every three years.
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A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
1. (to watch over)
a. to take care of
La vecina me cuida las plantas cuando estoy fuera.My neighbor takes care of my plants when I'm away.
b. to look after
¿Puedes cuidar a los niños mientras hago la cena?Could you look after the children while I'm cooking dinner?
c. to care for
Él cuida de su padre durante el verano cuando cierran la residencia.He cares for his father during the summer when the nursing home is closed.
2. (to be attentive)
a. to pay attention
Cuida mucho los detalles cuando invita a cenar a alguien.She pays great attention to detail when she invites someone for dinner.
b. to take care over
Cuida su apariencia porque trabaja de cara al público.He takes care over his appearance because he has to deal with customers in his job.
An intransitive verb is one that does not require a direct object (e.g. The man sneezed.).
3. (to watch over; used with "de")
a. to take care of
Puedo cuidar de tu perro mientras estás de vacaciones.I can take care of your dog while you are on vacation.
b. to make sure that
Cuidaré de que esté todo listo para la inauguración.I'll make sure that everything is ready for the opening.
A reflexive verb is a verb that indicates that the subject performs an action on itself (e.g. Miguel se lava.).
4. (to watch over oneself)
a. to take care of oneself
¡Disfruten su viaje y por favor, cuídense bien!Have fun on your trip, and please take care of yourselves!
b. to look after oneself
Cuando cuides de otras personas, asegúrate de cuidarte a ti mismo también.While taking care of others, make sure to look after yourself as well.
A pronominal verb always uses a reflexive pronoun. (e.g. Te ves cansado.).
5. (to watch over)
This refers to an idiomatic word or phrase for which there is no word-for-word translation.
no direct translation
Se cuidó mucho de volver a insultarlo.He was careful not to insult him again.
El personal del hotel se cuidó de cada detalle en nuestra habitación.The hotel staff took care of every detail in our room.
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