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They both mean improve and encourage.But, what is the difference in usage and meaning?

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  • What research have you done? As in, look up these words in the RAE before asking and posting the results of your research. Open-ended question about basic meanings are not encouraged.
    – Lambie
    Jan 27 at 16:16
  • Hi Lambie ! I indeed have looked up these two words in the RAE. It's ture that it's easy to tell apart the orther meanings. But the first explination of each word is indeed the same. Jan 27 at 23:13

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The main difference, in my opinion, between "estimular" and "fomentar" is that "estimular" can have a personal object, while "fomentar" only has non-personal objects:

  • Hay que estimularlo (NO fomentarlo) para que estudie. (You have to encourage/stimulate him to study.)

There is also a slight difference in nuance between "estimular" and "fomentar" in that the former suggests that there is a difficulty that you help overcome, while the latter is more like "promote" and does not imply the existence of any difficulty, although there might be some:

  • Hay que estimular la educación. (Education needs to be stimulated.)

  • Hay que fomentar la educación. (Education needs to be fostered/promoted.)

Another example that comes to mind is the following. I work in an oil and gas company, and in this context we speak about:

  • estimulación de pozos (well stimulation for enhanced oil/gas recovery) (In this case, wells need to be stimulated to continue producing.)
  • fomento/promoción de las energías renovables (promotion of renewable energies)
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