Encontrar vs Encontrarse (pronominal verbs)

In Spanish there is often confusion about whether to use encontrar or encontrarseEncontrar means "to find [something]" and the pronominal verb encontrarse means "to bump into someone" or, used with an adjective/adverb, "to feel".

Let's see some examples:

Encontrarto find [something]

No encuentro mis gafas, ¿las has visto tú?
I cannot find my glasses, have you seen them?

Encontré la respuesta en el libro de matemáticas.
I found the answer in the maths book.

You can also use the verb encontrar to talk about finding something more abstract, for example:

Encuentro esa teoría muy interesante.
I find that theory very interesting.

Nos costó mucho pero al final encontramos la solución a nuestros problemas.
It was difficult but in the end we found the answer to our problems.

If someone is looking for someone (as oppossed to bumping into someone by chance) we can also use encontrar. 

For example:

Daniel ya ha encontrado a los niños. Estaban en el parque jugando.
Daniel found the children. They were playing in the park.

Encontraron a los ladrones escondidos detrás de unos matorrales.
They found the thieves hidden behind some bushes.

Notice that in this case, you need the preposition "a".

Encontrarse:

  • to bump into [someone] 

Me encontré con Marcos en la calle y estuvimos charlando un rato.
I bumped into Marcos in the street and we chatted for a bit.

The preposition con is needed in this context.

  • to find yourself in a situation / to feel a certain way

Me encuentro fatal. Debo haber comido algo que estaba malo.
I feel awful. I must have eaten something that was off.

De repente nos encontramos acorralados en una calle sin salida.
All of a sudden we found ourselves cornered in a cul-de-sac.

  • to express where you meet someone

¿Dónde nos encontramos esta tarde?
Where shall we meet this evening?

¿Por qué no os encontráis en la entrada del teatro? 
Why don't you meet at the entrance of the theatre?

  • to say where things or people are located physically

Sierra Nevada se encuentra en la provincia de Granada.
Sierra Nevada is located in the province of Granada.

El señor Sanz no puede atenderlo ahora. Se encuentra en una reunión.
Mr. Sanz can't see you at the moment. He is in a meeting.

  • to be surprised to discover something

Me encontré con la tienda cerrada y eran solo las 12 y media.
To my surprise, I found the shop closed and it was only half past 12.

¡Se encontró un billete de 50 euros en el suelo!
He found a 50 euro note on the ground!

Note that in the last example, despite meaning "to find", we are using the pronominal verb encontrarse to emphasise the fact that it was a surprise. 

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

¿Por qué no os encontráis en la entrada del teatro? 
Why don't you meet at the entrance of the theatre?


Nos costó mucho pero al final encontramos la solución a nuestros problemas.
It was difficult but in the end we found the answer to our problems.


Encontraron a los ladrones escondidos detrás de unos matorrales.
They found the thieves hidden behind some bushes.


¿Dónde nos encontramos esta tarde?
Where shall we meet this evening?


Encuentro esa teoría muy interesante.
I find that theory very interesting.


Daniel ya ha encontrado a los niños. Estaban en el parque jugando.
Daniel found the children. They were playing in the park.


De repente nos encontramos acorralados en una calle sin salida.
All of a sudden we found ourselves cornered in a cul-de-sac.


El señor Sanz no puede atenderlo ahora. Se encuentra en una reunión.
Mr. Sanz can't see you at the moment. He is in a meeting.


No encuentro mis gafas, ¿las has visto tú?
I cannot find my glasses, have you seen them?


¡Se encontró un billete de 50 euros en el suelo!
He found a 50 euro note on the ground!


Me encuentro fatal. Debo haber comido algo que estaba malo.
I feel awful. I must have eaten something that was off.


Me encontré con la tienda cerrada y eran solo las 12 y media.
To my surprise, I found the shop closed and it was only half past 12.


Sierra Nevada se encuentra en la provincia de Granada.
Sierra Nevada is located in the province of Granada.


Me encontré con Marcos en la calle y estuvimos charlando un rato.
I bumped into Marcos in the street and we chatted for a bit.


Encontré la respuesta en el libro de matemáticas.
I found the answer in the maths book.


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