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What is the difference between 'guardar' and 'conservar'?

They both mean 'to keep' and 'to preserve'.

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    There're some words in spanish that may be ambiguous or with similar meanings. Without examples that you can provide, it will be difficult get an adequate answer for your question. A possible approach is find their meanings in a dictionary, you'll see there a clear meaning of each one of them. – Mauricio Arias Olave Feb 5 '15 at 22:47
  • Welcome to our site. We're glad you're here. I would like to encourage you to flesh out your questions a bit more. This question, for instance, appears to be easily answered by any Spanish dictionary. If you have consulted a dictionary, and remain with a question, please indicate this in your question, and explain the reason for your confusion over their differences. – Flimzy Feb 6 '15 at 15:55
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In Spain, as a rule of thumb, people would use guardar for objects, tangible things. Conservar would be used for food or more abstract entities.

He guardado mis calcetines en ese cajón.

La comida se conserva mejor (se mantiene por más tiempo) si la guardas (metes/pones) en el frigorífico.

Todavía guarda la medalla que le dio su madre hace 30 años.

Lleva trabajando aquí 30 años y todavía conserva la ilusión del primer día.

There could be some exceptions to this rule of thumb, of course:

Cuéntamelo todo. No te guardes ningún secreto.

Este cuadro del Siglo X se conserva perfectamente. Posiblemente porque lo guardamos en uan bóveda aclimatada.

Even in some contexts you could use one or the other indistinctly.

Tienes que guardar fuerzas para el último tramo de la carrera

Tienes que conservar tus fuerzas para usarlas en el último tramo de la carrera

Guardo buenos recuerdos de aquel viaje.

Conservo buenos recuerdos de aquel viaje.

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From my 2 year experience in Mexico, those two are never used in the same context.

"Guardar" is used very frequently and it means "To keep" or "To put away" something.

Me puedes guardar esto por favor? (Hasta que regrese) Translation: Could you keep that for me please? (Until I come back)

"Conservar," on the other hand, means to "To keep/maintain something as is."

Queremos conservar eso así. (Una regla, una ley, un artículo, etc.) Translation: We want to keep that like it is. (A rule, a law, an article, etc.)

I hope this helps!

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  • This is a great answer Robert. Welcome to Spanish.SE. – Diego Feb 6 '15 at 15:38
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From my perspective as a user (I'm Chilean), when the action does not involve maintaining something in good condition over time, then use only "guardar". For example, if your child socks are lying on the floor you would say:

Hijo, por favor guarda tus calcetines. [Right]

Hijo, por favor conserva tus calcetines. [Wrong]

But if your intention is to keep something "fresh" over time (food, memories, machines) you need use "conservar".

Este líquido refrigerante te permite conservar mejor el motor. [Right]

Este líquido refrigerante te permite guardar mejor el motor. [Wrong]

Extrapolating, we can say that guardar is to save in space, and conservar is to maintain over time. However, both words usually are synonymous when this distinction is not necessary, or considering that things which are conserved in time also saved in places.

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