Quick answer
"Desempeñar" is a transitive verb which is often translated as "to carry out", and "hacer un papel" is an intransitive verb phrase which is often translated as "to play a role". Learn more about the difference between "desempeñar" and "hacer un papel" below.
desempeñar(
dehs
-
ehm
-
peh
-
ngahr
)
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
1. (to execute)
a. to carry out
El becario ha desempeñado todas sus tareas de manera eficiente.The intern has carried out all his assignments efficiently.
b. to hold
Actualmente, desempeña un puesto muy importante en la empresa.Currently, she holds a very important position in the company.
2. (to retrieve valuables)
a. to redeem
Si usted no desempeña su premio, lo revenderemos.If you fail to redeem your prize, we will resell it.
3. (theater)
a. to play
Mi primo desempeña el papel de Romeo.My cousin plays the part of Romeo.
desempeñarse
A reflexive verb is a verb that indicates that the subject performs an action on itself (e.g. Miguel se lava.).
4. (to perform functions)
a. to work as
Me desempeñé como mesera para pagar la universidad.I worked as a waitress to pay for university.
5. (finances)
a. to get out of debt
Él se desempeñó temprano porque pagó más y más cada mes.He got out of debt early because he paid a little more each month.
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hacer un papel
An intransitive verb phrase is a phrase that combines a verb with a preposition or other particle and does not require a direct object (e.g. Everybody please stand up.).
intransitive verb phrase
1. (to participate in a specific way)
a. to play a role
La comisión hizo un papel destacado en la protección de los derechos humanos.The committee played a prominent role in the protection of human rights.
2. (to portray a character)
a. to play a role
Carlos hizo un papel secundario en una telenovela.Carlos played a secondary role in a soap opera.
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