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Quick answer
"Empeñar" is a transitive verb which is often translated as "to pawn", and "desempeñar" is a transitive verb which is often translated as "to carry out". Learn more about the difference between "empeñar" and "desempeñar" below.
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
1. (belongings)
a. to pawn
La señora empeñó sus joyas para tener dinero para la renta.The lady pawned her jewels in order to have money for rent.
b. to hock
A word or phrase that is commonly used in conversational speech (e.g. skinny, grandma).
Empeñó su reloj para pagar una deuda de juego.He hocked his watch to pay a gambling bet.
2. (word)
a. to give
El candidato empeñó su palabra, asegurando que cumpliría sus promesas.The candidate gave his word, assuring he'd keep his promises.
3. (time)
a. to spend
Empeñó toda su carrera científica estudiando el sistema solar.She spent her whole scientific career studying the solar system.
A pronominal verb always uses a reflexive pronoun. (e.g. Te ves cansado.).
4. (to persist; used with "en")
a. to insist on
Se empeñó en obtener una beca y finalmente lo logró.She insisted on getting a scholarship and she finally did.
5. (to make an effort; used with "en")
a. to endeavor to
Ahora tendrás que empeñarte en ganar su confianza.Now you must endeavor to earn their trust.
6. (to owe)
a. to fall into debt
Me empeñé con el banco para poder comprar un auto nuevo.I fell into debt with the bank to buy a new car.
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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.
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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