The best example I can think of is "work". I tried to ask my teacher how I would say, "I am going to work". She replied, "voy a trabajar". I have tried asking other Spanish speakers this before and get the same kind of answers. I am not saying, "I go (verb) to work (verb)". I am saying, I go (verb) to (direction) work (noun). So, in English I am using a verb "work"(what I do) as a noun "work"(the place where I do work). Are there examples of this in Spanish? Are verbs used as nouns in Spanish?

Here are some other examples, though the correlation can be a bit different:

  • I am going to play/I am going to a play
  • I store things there/He bought it at the store
  • I plan on doing that/It is a plan/We made plans
  • I talk/We had a talk

The point being that the spelling is the same but the context makes the verb a noun.

So, going back to my original example, in order to say, "I am going to work" can I say, "Estoy yendo a trabajar", and would "trabajar" then be a noun?

Also, "at work" = "a trabajar" or "en trabajar"?

3 Answers 3


Verbs can be nominalized (that is, turned into nouns) when you want to refer to the action in and of itself. This is common when you say things like the following:

Nadar es divertido. (Swimming is fun)
Después de estudiar(After studying)

Note that for the most part, the nominalized verb in English is the gerund (-ing) whereas as you've noticed in Spanish it is the infinitive. In both languages, you can double check by inserting the phrase act of / acto de before the verb with an appropriate determiner: the meaning shouldn't substantially change if it's a nominalized verb. So for example, the act of swimming is fun and after the act of studying both work fine, but I'm going to the act of work does not, nor does he bought it at the act of storing.

English tends to more often have nouns related to verbs be identical to the verb. In Spanish, the noun forms might coincide with a verb form, but it will always be some particular verb form, generally the first or third person singular present indicative form (for example, el camino from caminar derives from the yo form).

Note that nominalized verbs in Spanish will occasionally be preceded by el (for example, el comer sano es bueno is equivalent to comer sano es bueno), something that doesn't work well in English (the eating healthy is good is weird).

  • Interesting, I think I see what you are saying. But, are we superimposing English on this? It looks like it could still be a verb because, "To swim is fun", still makes sense though it sounds odd. I would have thought "Nadando es divertido". Jan 27, 2019 at 15:10
  • I am giving you the check because I see evidence of your answer in the other answers, although in a sense they seem to be giving the opposite answer..ie you seem to be saying yes this happens, how, and when...they are saying no this does not happen, but give examples which seem to support your answer... Feb 17, 2019 at 17:08

I must adress that this confusion is mainly due to the fact that English words do not always change from verb to noun, but they do change in Spanish.

So, answering your first question:

No, you won't find verbs acting like their associated noun.

Indeed you can see verbs acting like nouns, but, as guifa said, that's used with other meaning (the act of doing). Like in

Smoking is bad = Fumar es malo.

Secondly; it is actually very usual to use "ir a trabajar", because it is supposed that you only "work" at one place: "your work". Of course you do many more things in life, but "working at your job" can only be done "at work". That's why we usually say "Voy a trabajar". It's the same as saying "Voy a comer" = I'm going to eat. It's like that's the important information, the place where you do it is understood.

However, if you want to make a difference between the verb and the noun, you can:

Voy al trabajo

That's "I'm going to work(noun)", to your workplace.

You might say that "trabajo" is also a verb, but (besides workplace), "trabajo" means "I work", not the verb "to work". Verbs themselves do not act like their associated nouns, but some forms might coincide with the noun, by chance.

Finally, the conclusion is that you can use nouns, but they are not the same word. Take into account that verbs have to end in "ar", "er", "ir", whereas nouns do not.

In your examples, the nouns are:

I am going to play/I am going to a play

Voy a jugar / tocar / interpretar // Voy a una obra.

I store things there/He bought it at the store

Almaceno/Guardo cosas ahí // Lo compró en el almacén / en la tienda.

I plan on doing that/It is a plan/We made plans

Planeo hacer eso / Es un plan / Hicimos planes.

I talk/We had a talk

Yo hablo / Tuvimos una charla.

  • You have given some good information here, but you say the answer is "No", and then seem to have some evidence that the answer is "Yes" or "Sometimes". Also, I wonder if part of the confusion is from trying to force the English use of the word "to" into the equation. It makes it seem like, "Voy a trabajar" = "I go to to work". Jan 27, 2019 at 15:16
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    Uh, I didn't mean that haha. I wanted to say that the answer is "no", because nouns cannot be used that way. They can be used in a different way, but not that one. You can use nouns, but not the verb with a meaning of noun. I don't tjink it is about the word "to" either. "Voy a trabajar" is not translated as "I go to working" either.
    – FGSUZ
    Jan 27, 2019 at 21:45

"I go (verb) to (direction) work (noun) early on Fridays" is

[Yo] voy temprano al trabajo los viernes.

Compare this with "Once a week I go to the grocery store":

Una vez por semana voy al supermercado.

It's a quirky coincidence that in English, work is both a noun that means the place where I work and a verb. Here's a similar sentence without that possible confusion:

Voy al buró. | I go to the office.

You are right that "I'm going to work" could also mean "I'm going to do my work," and this is indeed "Voy a trabajar." Here's a similar sentence without the funny coincidence:

Voy a hacer la cena. | I'm going to make dinner.

The answer to your question is no, these funny pairs of words that look and sound the same in the two parts of speech don't occur in the same way in Spanish as in English, that is, not when you're looking at the noun and the verb infinitive.

However, there are other places where you can find two different parts of speech that match exactly, for example:

Voy a dar una charla. | I'm going to give a talk.

¡Charla conmigo! | Talk [chat] with me!

Second example:

Juego a las cartas los viernes. | I play cards on Fridays.

Tengo un juego de ajedrez. | I have a chess game [chess set]

Your last question: "at work" = "en el trabajo". For example:

"Estoy en el trabajo. ¿Te puedo llamar después de las 5?"

  • This adds information to the subject. Oddly enough I see your examples supporting an answer of yes this does happen, and supporting guifa's answer, "In Spanish, the noun forms might coincide with a verb form, but it will always be some particular verb form, generally the first or third person singular present indicative form (for example, el camino from caminar derives from the yo form)". For example, "cena" is the third person form of "cenar" Feb 17, 2019 at 17:14
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    @takintoolong - Okay, sure. I thought you were asking specifically about infinitives. If you're asking more broadly, then the answer is yes. Feb 18, 2019 at 3:09
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    I see how my wording could lead one that way now. Thank you. I am just trying to find patterns and similarities...and understand the differences. I did give you an upvote because your answer was very helpful in my understanding this concept. Feb 21, 2019 at 4:47

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