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In English, the phrase "leading him/her on" indicates suggesting, by word or deed, a romantic (or sexual) interest that isn't really there. Examples:

I thought she liked me, but she was just leading me on.

She would like to spend time with him, but she doesn't want to lead him on.

Is there a way to express this same concept in Spanish?

3 Answers 3

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The ones I can think of are:

  • Jugar (con alguien):

    I thought she liked me, but she was just leading me on. => Creí gustarle a ella, pero estaba jugando conmigo.

  • Dar falsas esperanzas:

    She would like to spend time with him, but she doesn't want to lead him on. => A ella le gustaría pasar tiempo con el, pero no quiere darle falsas esperanzas.

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Pensé que yo le gustaba, pero me estaba dando largas.

A ella le gustaría pasar más tiempo con él, pero no quiere darle falsas esperanzas.

Nota: "Dar largas" es una expresión muy común, que quizás muchos no saben que su origen está en la tauromaquia. En la jerga taurina, ciertos movimientos amplios (largos) de la capota son "las largas" ("las suertes largas", de ahí el femenino). Como esos movimientos buscan engañar al toro y evitar su embestida, no es difícil entender su significado en situaciones amorosas , o no tan amorosas (negocios, política, etc.).

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Another way to express this would be to use the verb ilusionar

I thought she liked me, but she was just leading me on. (Yo) pensaba que (yo) le gustaba a ella, pero solo me estaba ilusionando.

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