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Quick answer
"Empeñarse" is a pronominal verb which is often translated as "to insist on", and "insistir" is an intransitive verb which is often translated as "to insist". Learn more about the difference between "empeñarse" and "insistir" below.
A pronominal verb always uses a reflexive pronoun. (e.g. Te ves cansado.).
1. (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.
2. (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.
3. (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.
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
4. (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.
5. (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.
6. (time)
a. to spend
Empeñó toda su carrera científica estudiando el sistema solar.She spent her whole scientific career studying the solar system.
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An intransitive verb is one that does not require a direct object (e.g. The man sneezed.).
1. (to assert)
a. to insist
Ella insiste en trabajar aunque esté enferma.She insists on going to work even when she's sick.
2. (to repeat)
a. to go on about
No insistas con la misma queja que siempre.Don't go on about that same old complaint.
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