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I've learned that both "lejos" and "alejados" mean "far" / "far away".

What are the differences between these words? When should you prefer one over the other?

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    That's an interesting question, Cal, and welcome to the site. // It's best practice to check at least one dictionary first, before asking, and include what you found there in the body of your question. – aparente001 Jan 5 at 18:56
  • lejos and alejados are not parallel construction. – Lambie Jan 5 at 19:23
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"lejos" is an invariable adverb.

"alejado" is an adjective whose gender and number varies according to the noun to which it refers.

Both tend to appear within the predicate, after verbs like "estar", "encontrarse" or "quedar", but "lejos" is much more usual and "alejado/a/s" can sound a little more formal or literary. Also note that the verb "quedar" is only used for things.

Both "lejos" and "alejado/a/s" can also be used attributively (after, never before the noun they refer to) but will always tend to be followed by a prepositional phrase with "de":

  • Vive en una casa lejos del centro. (He/She lives in a house far from downtown.)

  • Vive en una casa alejada del centro. (He/She lives in a house far from downtown.)

There is an important difference between "lejos" and "alejado/a/s" and that is that "lejos" can refer to a temporary/occasional or permanent distance, while "alejado/a/s" almost always refers to a permanent distance and will thus tend to be used for properties or locations being far from other places.

  • (Nosotros) Estamos / Nos encontramos lejos del centro (we are far from downtown). (temporary or permanent distance)

  • Nuestra casa está / se encuentra / queda lejos del centro (our house is far from downtown). (permanent distance)

  • Nuestra casa está / se encuentra / queda alejada del centro (our hourse if far from downtown). (permanent distance)

I recommend that you use "lejos" at all times: it's invariable and will always sound right.

Note: "estar alejado" (NOT "estar lejos") can be used for a temporary, emotional rather than physical distance, though in this case I prefer "estar distanciado", e.g. Estoy alejado / distanciado de mi familia (I am estranged from my family).

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  • alejarse is also to distance oneself from someone: Quiero alejarme de ti. I want to get away from you or distance myself from you. And estar lejos de and estar alejado de can be translated in the same way in English sometimes. You recommend always using lejos even when the meaning is the other one? estar alejado de mi familia is said in English: I'm not close to my family. It is not the very formal: to be estranged from. – Lambie Jan 7 at 16:21
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    @Lambie Have you read my final Note? There, I expressly recommend when not to use "estar lejos". – Gustavson Jan 7 at 16:24
  • Yes, and the usual thing one hears is: alejarse and not distanciar. A family member of mine is in this situation. Never did that person say distanciadoi de. The person always says: alejada de mi familia. And yes, lejos is an adverb (my oversight saying it was an adjective) and is never "attributive": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attributive – Lambie Jan 7 at 16:31
  • @Lambie I hear "estar distanciado" a lot. It's a euphemistic way of saying "estar alejado", meaning you are not on speaking terms but not completely apart. – Gustavson Jan 7 at 16:32
  • Google: "distanciado de su familia" at site:.es 10, 400 hits. "alejado de su familia" at site:.es: 197,000. The numbers, at least for Spain, say otherwise. And, also, for site:.co, Colombia, for example. Many more alejados than distanciado. So... – Lambie Jan 7 at 16:37
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La casa queda lejos de la playa. The house is far (away) from the beach.

La casa [en le terreno] está alejada de la calle. The house is located away from the street. Or: The house is at a distance from the street. Or: The house is away from the street. Or: The house is not close to the street. Or: The house is far away from the street.

Be careful: In English, in everyday language both **alejada and lejos can be translated the same way in certain contexts.**

  • Quiero alejarme de ti. I want to get away from you or distance myself from you.

  • Quiere irme lejos de ti. I want to go far away from you.

alejarse is a verb and implies moving a distance away from a person or thing or being at a distance away from something or distancing oneself from something.

lejos is just the adverb for far away from.

In English, the only verb for alejarse de alguien" is **to distance oneself from someone. Otherwise, one has to use: go far away from or get away from.

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  • Thanks for giving it some formatting! I gave it a little more. But you can easily do a rollback if you want to. // I'd suggest "alejarse is a verb" instead of "alejar is a verb" because the learner probably doesn't need both, and I think "alejarse" is the more important one for the learner. You might also want to link to a post that explains about using the past participle as an adjective. – aparente001 Jan 5 at 18:54
  • @aparente001 I used it as alejarse. No, I am not going to link it to anything. The basic points are there. – Lambie Jan 5 at 19:03
  • Thanks for adding the se. – aparente001 Jan 5 at 19:08
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    "alejado" is an adjective. "Lejos" is an adverb. – wimi Jan 5 at 19:16
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    @Lambie you are right. I edited your post to remove the words "CORRECTION OF MY POST": such notices should be in comments. Everything else is accurate. – wimi Jan 7 at 17:38
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I'm contributing another answer because I sense that OP was hoping for a simple explanation without a lot of jargon.

"Lejos" is an adverb and would be a common choice to describe the location of something, for example

  • Su casa está lejos de aquí. | Her house is far away [from here].

"Alejado" is an adjective, and is often used for emotional distance, for example

  • Desde que se murió mi tía, mis primos han estado un poco alejados de nosotros. | Since my aunt died, my cousins have been been a bit distant.

It is also possible, but less common, to use "alejado" to mean "far" or "far away" in the sense of "remote," for example:

  • El aeropuerto está alejado del centro. | The airport is far from the center of town [meaning that it was built at a distance from town].

As an adjective, "alejado" will need to agree with the noun it describes, in number and gender. Here's an example with a feminine noun:

  • La estación no está tan alejada del centro. | The station is not as far from town.

(For a more complete listing of sample sentences and possible usages, I would encourage you to check some dictionaries.)

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