I've been struggling lately in translating the English concept of work. I am familiar with trabajar but I was told only to use that to describe a physical action. Like so:

The man is working. -- El hombre está trabajando.

But how do I translate these?

It is broken. (As in, "It doesn't work.") -- ???.

This is not working. (As in, "I am having problems.") -- ???

A working prototype. -- ???

What verb is appropriate to use, and why? Or are there idiomatic expressions that would fit?

3 Answers 3


Rewording it in English can give you clues.

For example, when work refers to ability-to-function, the verb funcionar percolates to the mind's surface.

El televisor ya no funciona. No funciona mi coche.

Another version of work in English is, for instance, this doesn't work for me, as in not appropriate or doesn't serve me well. The latter one gives us the best verb in Spanish: servir: algo me sirve bien (works for me).

Since the working model example falls under the meaning of ability-to-function you can base its translation on that:

un prototipo que funciona, un prototipo funcional, un prototipo funcionante

The latter one is less common but with a number of uses in published works with that exact meaning. The catch is that most of the words have some semantic overlap with other terms so different fields seem to prefer different terms (I also found operacional / operativo, or simply de trabajo).

  • "Prototipo operacional" is exactly what immediately came to my mind; the other options suggested in different answers sound rather odd to my ear, but it might just be a regional thing. Sep 24, 2014 at 4:40

The man is working. -- El hombre está trabajando.

It is broken. No funciona (meaning "está averiado")

This is not working. -- Esto no está funcionando / esto no está dando resultado (as in "este plan no está funcionando)

A working prototype. -- Un prototipo funcional


Aquí están las opciones:

It is broken. (As in, "It doesn't work."):

Está dañado.

Broken implies that it is broken so "dañado" can mean that is damagged.

This is not working. (As in, "I am having problems."):

Esto no está funcionando. This is not working.

Esto no está trabajando. This is not workig [an engine or something mechanical].

A working prototype:

Un prototipo funcional.

  • 1
    Broken implies that it is broken. Well, very strongly, I'd say ;)
    – Gorpik
    Sep 24, 2014 at 9:18

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