Quick answer
"Destacar" is a transitive verb which is often translated as "to emphasize", and "llamar la atención" is a transitive verb phrase which is often translated as "to call attention to". Learn more about the difference between "destacar" and "llamar la atención" below.
destacar(
dehs
-
tah
-
kahr
)
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
1. (to direct attention to)
a. to emphasize
Hay que destacar la importancia de asistir a clase para aprobar la materia.We've got to emphasize the importance of attending class to pass the subject.
b. to emphasise (United Kingdom)
El presidente destacó su compromiso con el cambio.The president emphasised his commitment to change.
c. to stress
El artículo destaca las diferencias entre un abordaje teórico y uno práctico.The article stresses the differences between a theoretical and a practical approach.
d. to highlight
Quisiera destacar el efecto de las medidas que se piensan tomar en los próximos días.I'd like to highlight the effects of the policies that they're planning to adopt in the next few days.
2. (to send)
a. to detail
Las tropas fueron destacadas para defender la frontera.The troops were detailed to defend the border.
b. to station
Rudi estuvo destacado en la Antártida durante un año.Rudi was stationed in the Antarctic for a year.
c. to post
Tuvieron que destacar más guardias en los puestos fronterizos.They had to post more guards at border points.
d. to assign
Smith fue destacado a Alemania en 1944.Smith was assigned to Germany in 1944.
An intransitive verb is one that does not require a direct object (e.g. The man sneezed.).
3. (to be conspicuous)
a. to stand out
Esa joven destaca por su belleza.That young woman stands out because of her beauty.
destacarse
A pronominal verb always uses a reflexive pronoun. (e.g. Te ves cansado.).
4. (to be conspicuous)
a. to stand out
Laura se destaca por sus habilidades artísticas.Laura stands out because of her artistic abilities.
b. to be outlined
En el cuadro, la punta del campanario se destaca contra la puesta del sol.In the picture, the tip of the bell tower is outlined against the sunset.
c. to be silhouetted
La luna roja se destacaba contra el cielo oscuro.The red moon was silhouetted against the dark sky.
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llamar la atención(
yah
-
mahr
 
lah
 
ah
-
tehn
-
syohn
)
A transitive verb phrase is a phrase that combines a verb with a preposition or other particle and requires a direct object (e.g. Take out the trash.).
transitive verb phrase
1. (to bring to notice; used with "sobre" and with "a")
a. to call attention to
Nuestra misión radica en llamar la atención a la necesidad de salvar la brecha entre la ciencia y la sociedad.Our mission is to call attention to the need to bridge the gap between science and society.
El congreso ofrece una oportunidad de llamar la atención sobre una cuestión largamente olvidada.This conference is an opportunity to call attention to a long neglected issue.
2. (to reprimand; used with "a")
a. to caution
El gerente le llamó la atención a Juan por llegar tarde todos los días.The manager cautioned Juan for being late for work every day.
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
3. (to cause to be noticed)
a. to call attention to oneself
Lisa es una adolescente tratando de llamar la atención.Lisa is an adolescent trying to call attention to herself.
4. (to be noticeable)
a. to strike one's attention
Al mirar el cuadro, lo primero que llama la atención es la forma roja que está a la izquierda.When you look at the painting, what strikes your attention first is the red shape on the left.
b. to stand out
Su actuación llama la atención por la naturalidad.Her performance stands out for its naturalness.
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