The different meanings of "como" in Spanish

The different meanings of "como" in Spanish

We know that "cómo" means "how" but, what else?
Well, it has a few meanings and uses.
I put together the most relevant ones (99% of them) and I included a couple expressions to play with!

Questions

Cómo

In questions (also in exclamations), como has an accent mark on the "o".

Remember also that questions can be indirect, without having question marks. They usually start with the following or similar:

Quiero saber (I want to know)
No sé (I don't know)
Dime (Tell me)

Ok, now let's go into the different meanings of "cómo"!

What...looks/is like?

To ask what does something or someone look like or other qualities.

Ex:
¿Cómo es tu primo? - What does your cousin look like?
/ What is he like? (What is his personality like?)

We use "ser" because both personality and appearance are not likely to change quickly.

if you wanted to specify you could say:

¿Cómo es tu primo físicamente? - how is your cousin physically?

¿Cómo es tu primo de personalidad? - how is your cousin regarding personality?

Ex: (indirect question)
Dime cómo es tu primo - Tell me what your cousin looks like/what's he like (what's his personality like).

How?

Ex:
¿Cómo estás? - How are you (feeling)?

In this case we use "estar" because feelings are temporary.

Ex:
¿Cómo puedo solucionar esto? - How can I solve this?

Sometimes, it could be more of an expressions and be translated as "how come?" or a frustrated or angry "really?":

Ex:
- No voy a poder terminar el trabajo - I'm not going to be able to finish the job.
-¿Cómo? ¿Cómo que no vas a terminar? - Really? How come you're not going to finish?

Affirmations

Como

Remember that when it's not in a question nor an exclamation, "como" doesn't have an accent mark.

As

Equivalence in comparison.

Ex:
Es tan lista como yo - She's as clever as me

or

to express type.

Ex: Aprecio tu trabajo como profesor - I appreciate your job as a teacher.

Es mi opinión como mujer - It's my opinion as a woman

In this case we don't ever use the article (como un profesor/como una mujer), otherwise it would mean "like a teacher" or "like a woman" similarity (see next section).

Like

Similarity to something/someone else.

Ex:
Estaban llorando como niños - They were crying like children.

In some cases, a better translation of this is "the way", expressing the way or method in which something is done.

Ex:
Es exactamente como me describiste - It's exactly the way you described it / like you described it.

Vamos a cocinar, como los cocineros (cocinan) - We're going to cook the way cooks cook /like cooks cook.

If

This works when you use "como" before subjunctive, like this:

Ex:
Como salgas, me voy a enfadar - If you go out, I'm going to be angry.

Como no nos preparemos bien, va a ser un desastre - If we don't prepare well, it's going to be a disaster.

Because

ONLY at the beginning of a sentence in a structure:
como + cause + effect/consequence.

In the rest of the cases, you use "porque" all the time.

So, you can say:
No voy al parque porque llueve - I don't go to the park because it rains.

but you can't say:
Porque llueve, no voy al parque.
You need to use "como" instead: Como llueve, no voy al parque.

Ex:
Como no me dices nada, no sé qué comprarte - Because you don't tell me anything, I don't know what to buy you.

Expressions

"Como si nada" or "como si tal cosa"

They both can translated as "just like that" or "as if nothing had happened".

Ex:

Ella canta ópera como si nada - She sings opera just like that (with no effort)

Me habló como si nada - She talked to me as if nothing had happened.

If I had to recommend just one, I'd say the first, it's a bit more common.

¡Cómo no!

This one has accent mark because it's an exclamation.
It means "of course"

Ex:
- ¿Puedes acabar el informe para mañana?
- ¡Cómo no!

Can you finish the report for tomorrow?
Of course!


Practice

Identify what type of "como" are the ones on the following sentences. Expressions are not included.

1- Como no había nada que hacer, me aburrí mucho.
2- ¿Cómo te llamas?
3- Tiene una casa como las casas de las revistas.
4 -¿Cómo sabes si es la tela adecuada?
5 -Corre como un atleta profesional.
6- Estamos tan cansados como ellos.
7- ¿Cómo es la costa del sur de España?
8- Tienes que hacerlo como lo hice yo antes.
9- Quiero saber cómo es su jardín.
10- Como no trabajes más, vas a perder tu trabajo.

Solutions: because/how/like/how/like/as/description/theway/whatislike/if

If you have any doubt about this, leave a question in the comments section below! :)

¡Hasta la próxima!