DE or DESDE in Spanish? Get the right preposition every time!

DE or DESDE in Spanish? Get the right preposition every time!

¿De cuándo haces yoga?
(Since when do you do yoga?)

Intermitentemente, desde que tengo quince. Es desde cuándo, no de cuándo.
(Intermittently, since I’m 15. It’s “desde cuándo”, not “de cuándo”.)

¿Por qué?

Luego te explico.
(I’ll explain later.)

So, de cuándo (from when?) is not necessarily wrong, it’s just wrong in this situation. We’ll cover why in just a second. That, plus when to use de y desde (from and since) correctly and comparing both of them together to avoid confusion coming up next.

Yo soy Maura, de (I am Maura from) Spring Spanish and, créeme (trust me), I know prepositions drive people crazy in a lot of languages. We’ll focus on the most common chunks so you can get a good grasp on how they behave and can start using them immediately. ¡Empecemos!

1. What is Desde used for in Spanish?

“¿Desde cuándo haces yoga?” significa: ¿cuándo empezaste? “¿De cuándo?” significa: a qué fecha pertenece algo. Por ejemplo: “¿de cuándo es este edificio?”.  
(“Since when do you do yoga?” means: when did you start? “Since when?” means: to what date does something belong. For example: “when is this building from?”.)

Ya, entiendo. Por cierto ¿de cuándo es este edificio? Debe ser viejo.
(Right, I understand. By the way, from when is this building? It must be old.)

Sí, como todos los edificios del centro. Es de mil ochocientos.
(Yes, like all the buildings in the center. It’s from 1800.)

So, in general terms, you can associate desde with the beginning of an action or a starting point. That’s why it tends to be translated as “since” or “from” in English. Many things can be considered a starting point, check out the following examples:

  • Este edificio existe desde mil ochocientos. (This building has existed since 1800.)
  • Desde que era una niña, siempre me ha gustado dormir mucho. (Ever since I was a little girl, I have always liked to sleep a lot.)
  • Ha estado lloviendo muchísimo desde las ocho de la mañana. (It has been raining heavily since eight o’clock in the morning.)
  • No veo a mis amigos desde la última fiesta. (I haven’t seen my friends since the last party.)

Also, desde has a sense of perspective that de doesn’t have. Which is why it tends to be paired with words like desde arriba (from up) or desde la derecha (from the right). Common chunks of perspective would be:

  • Desde arriba se ve mejor. (From above you can see better.) You can, of course, use anything similar, like: desde abajo (from below), desde aquí (from here), desde la ventana (from the window).  
  • Desde mi punto de vista, es mejor preguntar que asumir. (From my point of view, it is better to ask than to assume.)
  • Visto desde una perspectiva científica tiene más sentido. (Viewed from a scientific perspective it makes more sense.)

Another important thing desde can do is create a starting and an ending point for an action. For this, we pair it with hasta (until) to create the couple: desde… hasta (from… until). Examples could be:

  • Estuve despierta desde las tres hasta las cinco de la madrugada. (I was awake from 3 until 5 o’clock in the morning.)
  • Tenemos vacaciones desde el ocho de noviembre hasta el doce. (We have vacations from November 8 to November 12.)
  • En verano, las tiendas están abiertas desde temprano hasta las diez de la noche. (In summer, the stores are open from early in the morning until 10 o’clock at night. )

Chunk Alert!

An interesting chunk with desde that we should definitely add to this is desde hace (since). This combination is similar to desde… hasta (from… to) but it mostly stays together. Desde… hasta (from… to) creates a range. Desde hace (since) allows you to talk about amounts of time or space, like desde hace horas (for hours). We actually have a whole video about this you can check out here. Examples of it, though, would be things like:

  • Desde hace años no veo a gran a parte de mi familia. (For years I haven’t seen a large part of my family.)
  • Desde hace tres kilómetros nos pasamos la salida. (Since 3 kilometers ago we passed the exit.)

Desde hace tiempo les he estado diciendo que revisen el link en la descripción. (For some time now I have been telling you to check the link in the description.) But, in case you’re new, I’ll say it again: Seriously, check that link and get our kit of Essential Spanish Chunks! Also, do let me know from where you’re watching this video by using: desde + your city in the comments!

2. What is De used for in Spanish?

¡¿Es de mil ochocientos?! Qué locura. Y, ¿de quién es?
(It’s from 1800?! That’s crazy. So, whose is it?)

Todo el edificio es de la misma familia desde hace décadas. Pero ha pasado por reformas de todo tipo.
(The whole building has been of the same family for decades. But it has undergone renovations of all kinds.)

Se nota. Excepto por la escalera de madera, ¿no?
(It shows. Except for the wooden staircase, right?)

Claro. La escalera de madera es la original, del siglo anterior. Yo la amo.
(Of course. The wooden staircase is the original, from the previous century. I love it.)

Before we continue, I’ll have a trick for English speakers at the end that might very well solve half of this problem!

As you can see in the dialogue, de comes up even more often than desde, making it part of the royalty of prepositions. It is used for many different things that show up on a daily basis. One of those things is to talk about possession. Which is why we said:

  • Y, ¿de quién es? (So, whose is it?)
  • Todo el edificio es de la misma familia. (The whole building belongs to the same family.)

Another thing de can do is talk about origin and content. Think about this origin both as places and materials. Like:

  • Excepto por la escalera de madera. (Except for the wooden staircase.): the origin of the stair being the wood.
  • El chocolate de Venezuela es de los mejores del mundo. (Chocolate from Venezuela is one of the best in the world.)
  • Necesito una taza de té, ya. (I need a cup of tea, now.)

In the dialogue we also have the chunk: de todo tipo (of every kind). This is because de can also refer to style. This is why we say things like:

  • Vestido de gala (Gala dress)
  • Libros de psicología (Psychology books)

Now, de gets confused with desde sometimes because it also talks about time. We can say things like:

  • La escalera es del siglo pasado. (The staircase is from the previous century.)
  • De pequeña no me gustaba tanto ir a la playa. (When I was little I didn’t like going to the beach so much.)

De even has its own chunk to create spectrums or ranges. We say de… a (from… to) For example:

  • Estaré ocupada de nueve a once. (I will be busy from 9 to 11.)
  • De lunes a viernes me levanto temprano. (From Monday to Friday I get up early.)

3. Comparing De and Desde

The confusion only comes when de and desde can both be translated in English as “from”. For this purpose, let’s check the difference between the following:

Yo vengo de Venezuela. VS. Yo vengo desde Venezuela.(I come from Venezuela.)

  • Yo vengo de Venezuela: with de, this is more about my origin, where I’m from. So, my nationality.
  • Yo vengo desde Venezuela: with desde, this is about a starting point. So, it’s more about where my trip started.

You could still use de to mean where your trip started, but it’ll be less common to phrase it as such. Unless you’re at the airport and someones asks: ¿de dónde viene usted? (where do you (formal) come from?), since they are clearly talking about your flight and not so much your nationality.

Next comparison:

Regalos de España VS. Regalos desde España (Gifts from Spain)

  • Regalos de España: with de it means the gifts are about Spain. Like a fancy fan.
  • Regalos desde España: with desde it means the gifts came all the way from Spain, but they could be anything.

And next:

De pequeña (When I was a child) VS. Desde pequeña (From childhood)

Here the translation itself might solve it for you, but, let’s make sure:

  • De pequeña means something that used to happen when you were a child, but not anymore.
    • De pequeña me asustaban los bichos. (When I was child I was scared of bugs.)
  • Desde pequeña means something that continues to happen ever since you were a child.
    • Desde pequeña amo a los animales. (I have loved animals since I was a child.)

4. A trick to avoid confusion plus a very common mistake

So, a good trick I found online for English speakers is as follows:

When “from” could also make sense if you change it to “of” then it’s mostly a de in Spanish. For instance:

  • Estoy cansada de leer: this could be “I’m tired from reading” or “I’m tired of reading”. Therefore, it’s a de in Spanish.
  • Saca los libros de la gaveta: Spanish uses de when English could say “Get the books from the drawer” or “get the books of the drawer” and it’ll still kind of make sense.

Remember, it’s a trick! So, it isn’t perfect and it might not apply every single time.

A typical mistake you could make is with the very common chunks: saludos de and saludos desde (greetings from).

So you never make this mistake associate de with people and desde with places. Like this:

  • Saludos de Maura. (Greetings from Maura.)
  • Saludos desde Madrid. (Greetings from Madrid.)


Alright! Now, try filling in the blanks:

  • _____ hace días no veo a mis vecinos. (”Since” days I don’t see my neighbors.)

Correct answer: Desde hace días no veo a mis vecinos. (”Since” days I don’t see my neighbors.)

  • ______ pequeños los humanos procesamos los idiomas mucho más rápido. (From a young age, we humans process languages much faster.)

Correct answer: De pequeños los humanos procesamos los idiomas mucho más rápido. (From a young age, we humans process languages much faster.)

  • Ten cuidado con esa caja, contiene vasos _____ vidrio. (Be careful with that box, it contains bottles of glass.)

Correct answer: Ten cuidado con esa caja, contiene vasos de vidrio. (Be careful with that box, it contains bottles of glass.)

  • Podemos quedarnos ______ las dos _______ las cuatro máximo. (We can stay from 2 o’clock until 4 o’clock maximum.)

Correct answer: Podemos quedarnos desde las dos hasta las cuatro máximo. (We can stay from 2 o’clock until 4 o’clock maximum.)

Another preposition couple that might trigger confusion is En Vs. A. Let’s continue this lesson together and figure out those two problematic little words. Click the image on the screen! I’ll see you there!

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