«Acaban de mudarse a Chicago». ALLEN MCGREGOR / CC BY

Acabar means the same thing as terminar: to finish or to end something. Here are some examples:

In English: Using terminar Using acabar (same meaning)
Have you finished? ¿Has terminado? ¿Has acabado?
I finished the project last night. Terminé el proyecto anoche. Acabé el proyecto anoche.
What time does the concert end? ¿A qué hora termina el concierto? ¿A qué hora acaba el concierto?

Acabar, however, has a very specific meaning when we use it in conjunction with the preposition de. The expression acabar de means to have just done something. It’s a little complicated, because, while in English we use an adverb (just), acabar de in Spanish is still a verb, so we have to conjugate it. Let’s see some examples:

I just bought this watch. Acabo de comprar este reloj.
She just came here. Ella acaba de venir/llegar.
They just moved to Chicago. Ellos/as acaban de mudarse a Chicago.

Ellos/as se acaban de mudar a Chicago.

James just left. James acaba de irse.

James se acaba de ir.

Sarah just called. Sarah acaba de llamar.

The meaning in Spanish is the same as the meaning in English, but, again, we have to be very careful when using this expression, as we always have to conjugate verb acabar. Also, since we are using a two-verb construction (acabar de + infinitive), when using reflexive verbs (or object pronouns) we can always place the pronoun before acabar or after the infinitive: acaban de mudarse / se acaban de mudar. Acaba de irse / se acaba de ir.

Practice – Translate the following sentences into Spanish

1. My parents just bought a house in Denver.
2. Your friend Elvira just called.
3. Mary and Tom just visited LA.
4. I just went there.
5. We just sent that letter.
6. Valerie just hired a new intern.
7. My company just opened a new office in Boston.
8. Did you just leave? (informal)


Correct answers for Practice – Translate the following sentences into Spanish:
1. Mis padres acaban de comprar una casa en Denver. 2. Tu/su amiga Elvira acaba de llamar. 3. Mary y Tom acaban de visitar Los Angeles. 4. Acabo de ir ahí/allí/allá. 5. Acabamos de enviar esa carta. 6. Valerie acaba de contratar a un(a) becario/a nuevo/a. 7. Mi empresa acaba de abrir una oficina nueva en Boston. 8. ¿Acabas de irte? / ¿Te acabas de ir?

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