Aprovechar vs Aprovecharse (pronominal verbs)

In Spanish, we can use the verb aprovechar with or without a reflexive pronoun. The meaning changes depending on how it is used.

Let's see some examples:

  • Aprovechar = to make the most of something/make good use of something

Susana aprovechó un rato libre que tenía en el trabajo para llamar a su novio.Susana made good use of some free time at work to call her boyfriend.

Los enamorados aprovecharon la ocasión para anunciar su boda.The lovebirds took advantage of the moment to announce their wedding.

Voy a aprovechar este trozo de tela para hacerme una falda.I am going to make good use of this piece of material to make a skirt.

In the examples above, we use "aprovechar" with no reflexive pronoun. It is a transitive verb and as such you find a direct object right after it (e.g., un rato libre, este trozo de tela, la ocasión). Note that despite the presence of the preposition "of" in English, we do not use any preposition in Spanish in this context.

With the preposition, this is incorrect:

Susana aprovechó de un rato libre...

Sometimes we can use "aprovechar" with the same meaning as above but with no direct object. The words "la ocasión", "el momento" are implicit. For example:

 
Al cancelarse la clase de español, los estudiantes aprovecharon para irse a tomar una cerveza juntos.As the Spanish class was cancelled, the students took advantage of it and went to have a beer all together.

Using "aprovechar" this way tends to have a positive or neutral nuance.

A direct object after "aprovechar" could also be expressed with a clause:

Aprovechó que sus padres estaban de viaje y organizó una fiesta en su casa.He took advantage of his parents being away and organised a party at home.
  • Aprovecharse de = to take advantage of someone or something/to use someone

As a pronominal verb (using the reflexive pronouns) it has the same meaning but indicates taking advantage of people or something specific, in which case it has a negative connotation. 

In this case, we need the preposition "de" before the direct object.

Miguel se ha aprovechado de ella y luego la ha dejado por otra.Miguel used her and then he left her for another.

Laura siempre se está aprovechando de sus padres. No deja de pedirles dinero.Laura is always taking advantage of her parents. She won't stop asking them for money.

No te aproveches de mí. Yo no soy idiota.Don't take advantage of me. I am not an idiot.

El jefe se ha aprovechado de la ingenuidad de sus trabajadores para explotarlos.The boss took advantage of his employees' naivety to exploit them.

Remember that if it is used with pronouns (of me, of you, of her...) you need: , ti, él, ella, usted, nosotros/as, vosotros/as, ellos/as, ustedes.

Extra note:

Note that "aprovecharse de alguien" can also imply taking advantage of someone sexually. For example:

Carmen lo denunció a la policía porque él se aprovechó de ella.
Carmen reported him to the police because he took advantage of her [sexually].

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Examples and resources

No te aproveches de mí. Yo no soy idiota.Don't take advantage of me. I am not an idiot.
Susana aprovechó un rato libre que tenía en el trabajo para llamar a su novio.Susana made good use of some free time at work to call her boyfriend.
Laura siempre se está aprovechando de sus padres. No deja de pedirles dinero.Laura is always taking advantage of her parents. She won't stop asking them for money.
El jefe se ha aprovechado de la ingenuidad de sus trabajadores para explotarlos.The boss took advantage of his employees' naivety to exploit them.
Al cancelarse la clase de español, los estudiantes aprovecharon para irse a tomar una cerveza juntos.As the Spanish class was cancelled, the students took advantage of it and went to have a beer all together.
Aprovechó que sus padres estaban de viaje y organizó una fiesta en su casa.He took advantage of his parents being away and organised a party at home.
Voy a aprovechar este trozo de tela para hacerme una falda.I am going to make good use of this piece of material to make a skirt.
Miguel se ha aprovechado de ella y luego la ha dejado por otra.Miguel used her and then he left her for another.
Los enamorados aprovecharon la ocasión para anunciar su boda.The lovebirds took advantage of the moment to announce their wedding.
Clever stuff underway!