Acercarse a / Alejarse de

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Here are two important verbs:

Acercarse (a) – To move closer (to)
Alejarse (de) – To move away (from)

These two verbs are built on adverbs cerca and lejos. When using them, we have to remember two things:

1. They are reflexive verbs, and they should be conjugated as such:

Presente: Me acerco, te acercas, se acerca, etc. Me alejo, te alejas, se aleja, etc.

Pretérito perfecto: Me acerqué, te acercaste, se acercó, etc. Me alejé, te alejaste, se alejó, etc.

Pretérito imperfecto: Me acercaba, te acercabas, se acercaba, etc. Me alejaba, te alejabas, se alejaba, etc.

Futuro: Me acercaré, te acercarás, se acercará, etc. Me alejaré, te alejarás, se alejará, etc.

2. If we use them by themselves, they don’t need a preposition:

Me alejé I moved away.
Te estás acercando. You are moving closer.
Nos alejaremos. We will move away.
Se acercaban. They used to move closer. / They were moving closer.

But if we mean moving closer to something/someone/somewhere or moving away from something/someone/somewhere, then we always need a preposition, just like in English:

Me alejé de la ventana. I moved away from the window.
Te estás acercando a la meta. You are getting closer to the finish line.*
Nos alejaremos de todo esto. We’ll move away from all this.
Se acercaban al coche. They used to get closer to the car. / They were getting closer to the car.

* Note: in English, it’s very common to use get closer (to) or get away (from) respectively instead of using moving closer/away, but in Spanish there are no other options.

Practice – Translate the following sentences into Spanish

1. Peter and Mary were getting closer to the house.
2. Javier moved away from the door.
3. We will get closer to the painting in order to see it better.
4. I always get away from the smoke.

(Find the correct answers at the bottom of the page.)

Los atletas se están acercando a la meta.


Correct answers for Practice – Translate the following sentences into Spanish:
1. Peter y Mary se acercaban a la casa. (Also: Peter y Mary se estaban acercando a la casa.) 2. Javier se alejó de la puerta. 3. Nos acercaremos al cuadro para verlo mejor. 4. Siempre me alejo del humo.

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