My understanding is that they both mean "tools." But could they be references to different types of tools?

¿Cuál es la differencia entre "herramientas" y "útiles?"

Mi entendimiento es que ambos significan lo mismo ("tools)". Pero, ¿pueden ser referencias a tipos de "tools" distintos?

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    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 7:11
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6 Answers 6


In the RAE dictionary, the definition for "útil" sends you to "utensilio" as an "herramienta".

So, we can say "útil" and "herramienta" are the same, as the definition for "útil" includes the entrance "Herramienta o instrumento de un oficio o arte".

But this is not the only definition.

Outside this definition, an "útil" refers to two more definitions from the military world.

With this information we can say that "útil" meaning will vary depending the context of the text, if we are speaking about something like a tool, "útil" is the same as an "herramienta" so, in some way you can change between these two words.

Another way to know what to put in a text in Spanish. Is just practice, here in Spain, we refer to "herramienta" when we are speaking about something like a hammer some "heavy" tool, but when we speak about some tool more "light" as a knife to prepare fish almost always we will use "útil".

I'm adding here the two urls from the RAE dictionary in the Internet:




Where I come from (Mexico) "útiles" always refers to school supplies as in "útiles escolares" and "herramientas" to tools.

I do not know if the term "útiles" is used differently in any other country.


"Herramientas" are tools you use to work.

"Útiles" could mean school suppplies.

Also "útil", which is the singular for "útiles", is an adjective that means useful. Remember that in Spanish you are able to pluralize adjectives, so depending on the context could also mean useful.

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    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 0:16
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    – JoulSauron
    Commented Oct 4, 2012 at 15:52

In Spanish from Spain, tools are "herramientas", and "útiles" is seldom used as a noun. Only very rarely as a substitute for (kitchen) utensils ("útiles de cocina") or fishing gear ("útiles de pesca").

  • 1
    Don't you use útiles escolares in Spain? That is a very common use in LatinAmerica for útiles. Commented Oct 5, 2012 at 2:56

Pienso que la diferencia entre "herramientas" y "útiles" es como la diferencia entre "tools" y "utensils".


Útiles básicos

Herramienta, instrumento, utensilio, útil

Aquí hay varias acepciones, incluso una que se refiere a que los útiles incluyen a las herramientas, aunque con la introducción de la terminología informática estos conceptos han cambiado mucho. En Contabilidad es común decir Utiles y Herramientas, aunque en la práctica siempre se contablizan como si fueran la misma cosa.

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