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Quick answer
"Usar" is a transitive verb which is often translated as "to use", and "aplicar" is a transitive verb which is often translated as "to apply". Learn more about the difference between "usar" and "aplicar" below.
A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
1. (to utilize)
a. to use
Puedes usar mi teléfono viejo si no logras encontrar el tuyo.You can use my old phone if you don't manage to find yours.
2. (to have on)
a. to wear
Voy a usar mi chaqueta nueva cuando haga frío.I'm going to wear my new jacket when it gets cold.
A reflexive verb is a verb that indicates that the subject performs an action on itself (e.g. Miguel se lava.).
3. (to be in fashion)
a. to be worn
En verano se vuelven a usar los vestidos y las faldas.In summer, dresses and skirts are worn again.
b. to be in fashion
Se usaban los overoles en los ochenta y los noventa.Overalls were in fashion in the eighties and nineties.
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A transitive verb is a verb that requires a direct object (e.g. I bought a book.).
1. (to put a substance on)
a. to apply
Aplique la loción en el brazo y extiéndala de manera uniforme.Apply the lotion to your arm and spread it evenly.
b. to put on
La maquilladora aplica maquillaje a los actores antes de la filmación.The makeup assistant puts makeup on the actors before shooting.
c. to give
Aplica una segunda capa de pintura a la mesa y déjala secar.Give the table a second coat of paint and let it dry.
d. to administer
Para este tipo de cirugía tenemos que aplicar anestesia.For this type of surgery, we need to administer an anesthetic.
2. (to implement)
a. to apply
Vamos a aplicar un nueva estrategia para obtener mejores resultados.We're going to apply a new strategy to achieve better results.
b. to put into practice
En la sala de emergencias aplicas lo que aprendiste en clase.In the emergency room, you put into practice what you've learned in school.
c. to use (a method or a tecnique)
El método aplicado resultó ser el más efectivo.The method used proved to be the most effective.
d. to impose (punishment)
El juez aplicó fuertes sanciones por comercio ilegal.The judge imposed strict sanctions for illegal commerce.
An intransitive verb is one that does not require a direct object (e.g. The man sneezed.).
3. (to send a request) (Andes)
Regionalism used in the Caribbean: Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico
Regionalism used in Central America: Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama
(Central America)
Regionalism used in Mexico
a. to apply
No cumplo los requisitos necesarios para aplicar a una beca en Harvard.I don't meet the requirements to apply for a scholarship at Harvard.
A pronominal verb always uses a reflexive pronoun. (e.g. Te ves cansado.).
4. (to work hard)
a. to apply oneself
Tengo que aplicarme en los estudios si quiero graduarme el año que viene.I have to apply myself to my studies if I want to graduate next year.
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