Tomar or coger?

Tomar or coger?

This is one of the most common questions people have when it comes to vocab in Spanish, and it's not about when to use each, but where.

Let's have a look!

In South America


To use in Latin America for all contexts, because "coger" is a vulgar term in those countries.

That means, use "tomar" for every single case: "to take the street to the right", "to take the bus", "to take a book"...


  • Voy a tomar el avión mañana - I'm going to take the plane tomorrow.

  • Tomamos nuestras maletas y salimos - We take our suitcases and we go out/we leave.

  • Toma la tercera carretera a la izquierda - Take the third road on the left.

  • Ella me tomó del brazo - She took me from the arm (she grabbed my arm).

  • No tomé el autobús esta mañana - I didn't take the bus this morning.

In Spain


"Coger" is completely fine in Spain, in fact, we use it preferably over "tomar" when it means the following:

  1. to catch - To catch a thief, to catch the train, to catch a ball, to catch the flu...
  2. to take all transport - the train, the car, the bike, the plane...
  3. to grab/take with your hands or to hold


  • Los policías cogieron al sospechoso - The police men caught the suspect.

  • Él siempre coge el balón rápido -He always catches the ball quickly.

  • Cogemos el coche para todo - We take the car for everything.

  • Coge tus cosas para el viaje - Take/grab your things for the trip.

  • Creo que he cogido un resfriado - I think I've got a cold.

  • ¿Puedes coger mi bolso mientras me ato los cordones? - Can you take/hold my bag while I tie my shoelaces.


We use this one in these situations:

  1. Directions,like "to take the second street to the left"
  2. To have food/drinks or to ingest something, like medicine - we say "to take water" ,"to take a sandwich" or "to take a pill".
    You can also use "comer" (to eat) or "beber" (to drink) instead, of course.
  3. Tomarse also means to receive or acept news. See the third example below.
  4. more rarely, with the meaning of "to occupy" or "to conquer"


  • Toma la segunda calle a la derecha - Take the second street to the right.

  • Tomamos cervezas por la noche - We have beers at night.

  • Paula se tomó la noticia muy mal - Paula took the news very badly.

Expressions and phrases

Apart from those distinctions, there are expressions with both verbs. These are some of them:

  • Tomar el pelo (to pull someone's leg)
  • Tomar decisiones (to make decisions)
  • Tomar el sol (to sunbathe)
  • Tomar algo (to have a drink)
  • Tomar el aire (to get some air)
  • Tomar nota (to take note, can be mentally)
  • Tomar notas/tomar apuntes (to take notes)
  • Tomar a broma (to take as a joke)
  • Tomar a la ligera(seriamente (to take lightly/seriously)
  • Tomar conciencia de (to become aware of)

  • Coger con pinzas (to take with a pinch of salt)

  • Coger el ritmo (to pick up the pace or keep pace)
  • Coger impulso (to gather momentum)
  • Coger gusto a (to take a liking to)
  • Coger aire (to take a breather)

NOTE: Remember to avoid the use of coger in South America.

Coosing tomar or coger depending on the country, as we saw earlier:

  • Tomar/coger por sorpresa (to take by surprise)
  • Tomar/coger carrerilla (to run up)
  • Tomar/coger al vuelo (to catch on the fly)

And that's it!
Those are the rules for using both of these words and some expressions with them too! :)

Hope it helped! Espero que ayude!

¡Hasta pronto! :)