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Quick answer
"Desvelar" is a transitive verb which is often translated as "to keep awake", and "velar" is a transitive verb which is often translated as "to keep vigil over". Learn more about the difference between "desvelar" and "velar" below.
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
1. (to prevent from sleeping)
a. to keep awake
La película de terror me desveló.The horror movie kept me awake.
2. (to discover)
a. to reveal
Afortunadamente, un testigo pudo desvelar la identidad del atacante.Thankfuly, a witness was able to reveal the attacker's identity.
b. to disclose
Los sospechosos de fraude tuvieron que desvelar sus registros bancarios a las autoridades.The fraud suspects had to disclose their bank records to the authorities.
c. to uncover
Los detectives lograron desvelar el misterio.The detectives were able to uncover the mystery.
A pronominal verb always uses a reflexive pronoun. (e.g. Te ves cansado.).
3. (to be kept awake)
a. to be unable to get to sleep
Anoche me desvelé porque hacía muchísimo calor.Last night I was unable to get to sleep because it was really hot.
b. to stay awake
Mis amigas y yo nos desvelamos en la pijamada.My friends and I stayed awake at the sleepover.
4. (to work hard)
a. to do one's utmost
Los voluntarios se desvelan para que las víctimas de la inundación reciban la ayuda.Volunteers are doing their utmost to make sure the flood victims receive aid.
b. to do one's best
Hay que desvelarse hasta alcanzar los sueños.We have to do our best until we achieve our dreams.
c. to make every effort
Mis padres se desvelaron para que yo pudiera ir a la universidad.My parents made every effort so that I could go to college.
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A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
1. (to observe the deceased overnight)
a. to keep vigil over
Rafael murió en la mañana, y por la tarde lo vamos a velar.Rafael died this morning, and this afternoon we are going to keep vigil over him.
La gente se dirigía al panteón para velar a sus seres queridos difuntos.The crowd was headed toward the cemetery to keep vigil over their deceased loved ones.
b. to have a wake for
Velamos a mi tío anoche, y estoy exhausto.We had a wake for my uncle last night, and I'm exhausted.
2. (to care for a sick person overnight)
a. to sit up with
Julia veló a su hijo cuando estaba enfermo.Julia sat up with her son when he was sick.
3. (to partially conceal)
a. to mask
Su sonrisa vela sus verdaderas intenciones.Her smile masks her true intentions.
b. to veil
El aromatizante vela el hedor de la basura, pero no lo quita.The air freshener veils the stench of garbage, but doesn't get rid of it.
4. (photography)
a. to expose
Velaste la película cuando se te cayó la cámara y la tapa se abrió.You exposed the film when you dropped the camera and the cover popped open.
b. to fog
Si no abres la cámara en la oscuridad, puedes velar el rollo.If you don't open the camera in the dark, you can fog the roll.
5. (to cover with a veil)
a. to veil
Es costumbre velar la cara de la novia de camino al altar.It's tradition to veil the bride's face while she walks down the aisle.
An intransitive verb is one that does not require a direct object (e.g. The man sneezed.).
6. (to go without sleeping)
a. to stay awake
Horacio veló toda la noche esperando una llamada de su novia.Horacio stayed awake all night waiting for a call from his girlfriend.
b. to stay up
Sus papás velaron hasta que llegó a casa.Her parents stayed up until she got home.
7. (to care for)
a. to look after
Eugenio vela por sus nietos.Eugenio looks after his grandchildren.
b. to watch over
La señora Moreno vela por los niños del barrio.Mrs. Moreno watches over the neighborhood children.
c. to see to it
Hay que velar que cumpla su palabra.We must see to it that he keeps his word.
d. to ensure that
Para velar que nadie se vaya borracho de la fiesta, el anfitrión recoge las llaves al llegar.To ensure that no one leaves the party drunk, the host takes their keys when they arrive.
e. to safeguard
Este nuevo organismo del gobierno existe para velar por los derechos de los indígenas.This new government body exists to safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples.
An adjective is a word that describes a noun (e.g. the big dog).
8. (anatomy)
a. velar
La boca de Enrique sufrió daño velar cuando chocó con una paleta en la boca.Enrique's mouth suffered velar damage when he crashed with a lollipop in his mouth.
9. (linguistics)
a. velar
La g en "bingo" es un sonido velar.The g in "bingo" is a velar sound.
A reflexive verb is a verb that indicates that the subject performs an action on itself (e.g. Miguel se lava.).
10. (to cover oneself with a veil)
a. to veil oneself
Aadila se ha velado desde que tenía 12 años.Aadila has veiled herself since she was 12 years old.
A pronominal verb always uses a reflexive pronoun. (e.g. Te ves cansado.).
11. (photography)
a. to get exposed
El rollo se veló al pasar por los rayos X.The roll got exposed by passing through X-rays.
b. to get fogged
Se veló la imagen por un químico que se le cayó durante la revelación. The image got fogged by a chemical spilled during the developing process.
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