If I find something I lost, should I use 'hallar'?

For example, I found missing keys and said to my wife:

Hallé las llaves!"
"¿Las encontraste?" —she replied—.

Then a discussion about 'hallar' vs 'encontrar' began.

  • Prácticamente sinónimos. Me gusta pensar que puedes encontrar una cosa por casualidad (originalmente se refería a salir al encuentro), y puedes hallar una cosa que estabas buscando. Véase la etimología de hallar
    – enxaneta
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 9:00

4 Answers 4


My knowledge of Spanish is old school so I have found that the meaning of some things have changed. "Hallar" and "Encontrar" are basically synonyms but in the most proper Mexican Spanish. "Hallar" implies knowing where something is, whereas "Encontrar" means you have what you where looking for. Exp:

"¡Hallé mis llaves! Se las llevó María." (I found my keys, Mary took them.)

"¡Encontré mis llaves! Estaban en el sofá." (I found my keys, they were in the sofa.)

"Halla" and Hallar" have the same root so you say:

"Hallé una nube que parece un pato." (I found a cloud that looks like a duck.)

"Encontré" can be used, but properly because the clouds are at a distance, "Hallar" is more fitting.

  • Fortunato dice que su sabiduria esta vieja. ¿Alguna puede confirmar esta moderno tambien?
    – nickalh
    Commented Apr 12 at 19:52

In Argentine Spanish, hallar and encontrar are exact synonyms, although hallar is not used often, just formally, as in news or papers.
Hallazgo is used though, meaning finding (as noun)

Also, both words have alternative meanings when used in reflexive*:
no me hallo meaning I don't fit, or I don't feel comfortable in a certain situation.
me encuentro aquí meaning I am here, but it's kind of formal.

* It's pretty common in Spanish that reflexive verbs have an alternative meaning than the original verb. E.G. ver = to see, verse = to look (as in you look good)

  • 1
    I've seen hallazgo used for a scientific discovery. Commented May 1, 2019 at 2:40
  • @aparente001 yes, they are kinda synonyms, discovery, finding.
    – Petruza
    Commented May 3, 2019 at 18:01

From my experience, I'd say that hallar means to find (as result of searching), while encontrar has a wider meaning, it's more like to find including finding by chance or to encounter, as in the meaning to meet someone. However, random finding could be still described as hallazgo.

  • You are correct *hallar" implied that you where searching where "Encontre" does not." "Allazgo" still works because it suggest something you have always wanted. I forgot to put this in my answer. Good catch.
    – Fortunato
    Commented Jan 10, 2012 at 22:11

At least in my country, Spain, they mean exactly the same. Even one of the definitions of "encontrar" in the official spanish dictionary has the word "hallar" in it.

Even tough, the main difference relies on the fact that you can found "hallar" in formal contexts, like scientific papers, and "encontrar" is colloquial.

  • 3
    Mmm but in Spain we would say 'me encuentro mal' (I feel sick), while 'me hallo mal' is never used in this context. Don't you think so?
    – fedorqui
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 9:28
  • Wow. True. I didn't thought about that case, but you are definitely right.
    – Manrique
    Commented Apr 29, 2019 at 14:20
  • No se encuentra. [no está en casa]. No se diria: no se halla. Encontrar is not colloquial, what an idea.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 1, 2022 at 17:01
  • @fedorqui 'SO stop harming' Esto me lo encontré en el DLE bajo la entrada de hallar: "9. prnl. Encontrarse en cierto estado. Hallarse atado, perdido, alegre, enfermo"
    – nopaltepec
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 19:01
  • @nopaltepec interesante, a mí no me suena idiomático, pero bien puede serlo en otras zonas o países.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 20:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.