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In English, "to encourage" seems to have at least two uses:

  1. to suggest that someone should do something (e.g. "He encouraged me to find a new guitar teacher.")

  2. to give confidence or hope to someone (e.g. "In a rough time of life, he was always there to encourage me when I was feeling down." or "It's really encouraging to see how you've grown over the past year.")

How can these senses be translated to Spanish? As far as I know, there are at least three words in Spanish: alentar, animar, and fomentar. What is the difference between them?

Also, what about the noun form (encouragement) or the adjective form (encouraging)?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted


Animar, infundir aliento o esfuerzo, dar vigor.

i.e. To encourage (animar), to give life or to give energy.


Incitar a alguien a una acción.

i.e. To encourage somebody to do something.


Excitar, promover, impulsar o proteger algo.

i.e. To excite, to encourage, to boost or to protect something.

So, animar and alentar are synonims when both means encourage.

In general, animar is more used in terms of encourage. I use alentar when trying to encourage someone who is dealing with a depression of some kind. As for fomentar, I've never used as to encourage someone , but to promote something.

These are the most used forms:

  • Noun. encouragement -> ánimo (from animar)
  • Adj. encouraging -> alentador (from alentar)
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