Relax. It’s not what you think. Despite what you learned during your study abroad in Argentina, your mission trip in Guatemala, or your backpacking jaunt in Mexico, coger is as squeaky-clean as could be in Colombia (and many other countries). Don’t waste your time trying to offend anyone with it or register cool points by shocking; rack up points instead by learning to wield it deftly, recognizing its endless usefulness. Just remember that said usefulness becomes iffy when you cross borders.*
Colombia took a genteel cue from the motherland (Spain) and never got on the bandwagon with many other countries in Latin America. Why tarnish a word that’s so all-purpose? Here are some of the most common ones for coger in Colombia:
To take, grab, seize (similar to tomar and agarrar)
La mamá cogió al niño del brazo – The mom grabbed the boy’s arm
To pick up (recoger) (Not so much in that you’ve dropped something and then bend over to pick it back up, but rather that you just simply take it)
Coge ese vaso del suelo – Pick up that glass off the floor
Cogió las llaves y se las dio a ella – He picked up the keys and gave them to her
To catch a criminal, ball, animal (alcanzar, atrapar)
¡Cógelo! (chasing a thief down a street) – Catch him!
To catch, discover, surprise (descubrir, pillar, sorprender)
Coger a alguien con las manos en la masa – To catch someone with their hands in the dough = To catch someone red-handed
Nos está cogiendo la tarde – It’s getting late (The afternoon is “catching” us)
Nos cogió un aguacero – We got caught in the rain
To catch, take a bus, taxi (tomar, agarrar)
Voy a coger un taxi para ir al aeropuerto – I’m going to catch a taxi to get to the airport
To take, get on a street, highway
Cojamos la autopista y después hay que coger la carrera 51 – Let’s get on the highway and then we’ll have to get on 51st Street
To catch, get a cold, sickness, sleepiness
Me cogió un sueño pero tenaz (VERY Colombian!) – I got extremely tired
To pick up a habit, rhythm, affection, experience, the hang of something
Con el tiempo le cogí cariño – I grew fond of him over time
Vas cogiendo el ritmo cada vez más – You’re getting the rhythm more and more
To get, grasp (captar, entender, cachar [en Chile] )
¿Sí cogiste la idea? – So, you’ve got the idea?
To hold hands
Van cogidos de la mano – They walk around hand in hand
Good grief, did I miss any? I’m sure I did– let me know what other ways you’ve been inspired to use this word that’s more flexible than Gumby (Gomosito). Although it’s not quite as multi-purpose as in Spain, where you almost can’t imagine them forming a sentence without it, it is still very, very useful in Colombia and never offensive.
*As best I can tell, beware of coger in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, & Costa Rica. BTW, it’s a synonym for the F word in these countries, in case you’ve been at sea.
No worries about coger in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Panama, & Spain.
Thanks, Piotrek, for the post idea!
_________________________________________________ Non-natives, what’s your experience with coger? How and where have you heard it used? Any embarrassing stories? If you’re a native Spanish speaker, anything to correct, clarify, comment on or concur with?