Today's word of the day on spanishdict.com is despacio. There I found this sentence:

A mi hermano le fastidia cuando la gente que quiere manejar despacio conduce en el canal de velocidad.

I perfectly understand the sentence, not least because they provide a translation.

I just wonder why they don't use conducir twice. I understand manejar as to steer (when it comes to cars) and that use feels strange.
I found a statement on the Internet claiming that manejar is Mexican colloquial for to drive. That would suggest, in conclusion, that the sentence above wouldn't be considered idiomatic in Spain.

So, what's the difference between these two words (in regard to driving)?
Is the use of manejar in the sentence above really more idiomatic than conducir?

  • 3
    The sentence is indeed written in American Spanish. Manejar points to that, but also canal de velocidad (we'd use carril rápido in Spain).
    – delCano
    Dec 3, 2014 at 11:57
  • 1
    To avoid repetition, simplify the sentence with just one verb. In Spain we would say "A mi hermano le fastidian los que van despacio por el carril rápido."
    – PA.
    Jun 11, 2016 at 8:58
  • @fedorqui olé tu celo.
    – PA.
    Jun 11, 2016 at 21:23

5 Answers 5


Although they are expressions of the same sense (observing regional differences that have been mentioned), you must remember that these are words with different meanings.

Manejar involves taking action to get something. Originally, these actions were manual (manos = "hands"), and the word relates to manipular ("manipulate") and maniobrar ("maneuver").

Conducir involves carrying something in one direction. It derives from Latin "ducere" (to guide), and is related to conducto ("duct") and conducta ("behavior").

So, strictly speaking:

manejas el vehículo con las manos y los pies, para conducirlo por la calle hacia el trabajo.

ergo, you maneuver the vehicle to drive down the street to work.

  • +1 For explain both words with clear definitions. Dec 3, 2014 at 13:40
  • 2
    The definitions are clear but the real (de facto) meanings are blurred.
    – leonbloy
    Dec 3, 2014 at 13:55

That's quite a weird phrase to me simply because I'm from Spain.

Manejar is only used in Latin American countries; conducir is the only word for drive in Spain.

Also, this phrase must have been written by a person from South America because in Spain we use carril instead of canal.

Of course you can use conducir or manejar twice, but it sounds quite repetitive. If you don't want to use manejar, a person from Spain would say:

A mi hermano le fastidia cuando la gente que quiere conducir despacio lo hace en el carril rápido.

I hope you find this information useful.

  • 3
    +1 For avoid use more than once the word conducir in the sentence and add: but it souns quite repetitive (which is true). Also, in Colombia is used too the word carril instead canal de velocidad. Dec 3, 2014 at 13:42
  • it's going to be so much "fun" traveling to spain next week, with all my mexican spanish knowledge. ;(
    – user428517
    Dec 3, 2014 at 23:18
  • 1
    @sgroves Don't worry, everybody will understand you. Unless you use a lot of Mexican slang, of course; but just using a Mexican register will cause you no problem.
    – Gorpik
    Dec 4, 2014 at 8:05
  • Just for the record, I am from Spain and my grandma used to say "manejar" instead of "conducir".
    – bgusach
    Dec 4, 2014 at 11:25

Yes, that statement would sound funny in Spain, where indeed the speaker would have used conducir twice.

Latin American countries favor "manejar" (to handle or steer a vehicle, if you fancy it that way) instead of "conducir" but that doesn't mean that they don't know (or use) the word conducir.

In the same way, some these countries you would probably hear more "manejar el carro" or "manejar el auto", that also gives you a hint of where the speaker is from but this doesn't hold true for all Latin American countries.

My guess is that the speaker could have used manejar twice in your example, but to avoid repetition, he or she used "conducir" instead. What is interesting is that he/she used "manejar" for a person controlling the vehicle (fast/slow) and "conducir" for the action of the vehicle being controlled/positioned in a certain lane.

Also remember that the source you cite is an online resource, and not everything on the Internet is completely accurate and reliable (without any intentions to misrepresent that site). I wouldn't be too surprised if it is not completely consistent. As you can see, what sounds completely normal to just one of the many Spanish speaking countries can be a little bit (or completely) off in others. Whoever wrote that example is maybe trying to "show off" a little bit and include more vocabulary (sacrificing consistency).


The difference between "manejar" and "conducir" is subtle, and, in spite of Rodrigo's explanation, is totally blurred by de facto usage, which varies wildly from region to region. By the way, I'd translate both as "to drive" more than "to steer."

In Argentina, we understand, but rarely use, "conducir" for steering a vehicle. We'd prefer "manejar" for both:

  • manejar despacio

  • manejar por el carril rápido / de alta velocidad (instead of "en el canal de velocidad")

To avoid the repetition, we'd naturally say something like:

  • ... cuando la gente que quiere manejar despacio va por el carril rápido

  • ... cuando la gente que quiere ir despacio maneja por el carril rápido

Some replacements: "va" -> "elige ir", "ir" -> "viajar", "marchar"


I would say there is no difference. They have the same meaning in regards to driving a car. "Manejar" is used in Latin America and "conducir" is used here in Spain.

But they can have different meanings sometimes. For example, in Spain, "estoy conduciendo una grúa" means "I'm driving a crane," but "estoy manejando una grúa" means "I'm operating a crane."

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