‘Escoger’ vs ‘elegir’

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re in Latin America and you’re trying to make up your mind about what delicious meal to order at a restaurant.

A friend might recommend that you ‘escoger’ (or ‘choose’) between two dishes, while another might tell you to hurry up and ‘elegir’

… which probably leaves you wondering which one is correct …

Here’s a sneak peek:

In short – ‘escoger’ and ‘elegir’ are used interchangeably when used as synonyms of ‘to choose’, but only ‘elegir’ is used as a synonym of ‘to elect’.

Stick around to find out EXACTLY how to ‘choose’ between these two Spanish verbs!


‘Escoger’ and ‘elegir’ can be used in the following ways –

1. As synonyms of ‘to pick’ or ‘to choose’.

Escogí/elegí ponerme los calcetines rojos. = I chose to wear the red socks.

Elegir’ also means ‘to elect’, ‘to appoint’ or ‘to designate’.

El candidato más joven fue electo presidente. = The younger candidate was elected president.

‘Escoger‘ vs ‘elegir

First, let’s have a quick look at how we can use ‘elegir’ and ‘escoger’ interchangeably as synonyms of ‘to choose’ and ‘to pick’.

Alma – Debí haber elegido/escogido otra carrera; tal vez, una ingeniería.

Elga – ¡Híjole*! ¿Ya no te gusta estudiar derecho?

Alma – I should have chosen another major, engineering, maybe.

Elga – Darn! Don’t you like studying law anymore?

*Erika’s note – ‘Híjole’ is a rather amusing Mexican interjection, the likes of ‘darn’ or ‘jeez’.

Madre – A ver, elige/escoge qué paleta quieres, ¿la verde o la amarilla?

Niño – ¡La verde!

Mother – Okay, pick which lollipop you want … the green one or the yellow one?

Kid – The green one!

En la heladería

Lety – ¡Hay cincuenta sabores a escoger!

David – Son demasiados…¿Cómo voy a saber cuál elegir?

At the ice cream parlor

Lety – There are fifty flavors to choose from!

David – That’s too many … How will I know which one to choose?

However, if you’re referring to the action of appointing someone by election to a position or title, you can ONLY use ‘elegir’, since ‘escoger’ doesn’t share that same meaning.

Dalia – ¿Ya viste que Óscar fue elegido senador?

César – ¿Óscar qué? ¡No me digas que nuestro compañero de la Universidad!

Dalia – Did you see that Oscar was elected senator?

Caesar – Oscar who? Don’t tell me you mean our college buddy!

En el noticiero

Los resultados preliminares indican que el Estado de Veracruz eligió a la candidata del nuevo partido como su gobernadora.

On the news

Preliminary results indicate that the State of Veracruz elected the new party’s candidate as its governor.

Erika’s note – don´t forget that del is the union of ‘de’ with the masculine article ‘el’.

Expressions with ‘escoger’ / ‘elegir

Dar a escoger

This is a very common expression that you definitely need to know!

It literally translates as ‘to give to choose’, but it actually means something along the lines of ‘to give (someone) a choice’.

When using this phrase, don’t worry about conjugating the verb ‘escoger’ as it’s always in its infinitive form.

La maestra nos dio a escoger entre tomar un examen escrito o hacer una exposición frente al salón.

The teacher gave us a choice between taking a written exam and giving a presentation in front of the class.

Te toca elegir

‘Tocar’ often means ‘to touch’ in English, so this one may seem a little odd at first!

But, in this context, ‘te toca’ actually translates to ‘it’s your turn’. So, ‘te toca elegir’ means ‘you have to choose’ or ‘it´s your turn to choose’.

Te toca elegir qué camino tomar: seguir los pasos de tu padre, o forjar tu propio destino.

You have to choose which path to take: follow in your father’s footsteps or forge your own destiny.

Jugando un juego de mesa

Vamos, les toca elegir una ficha de diferente color y una carta a cada quien.

Playing a board game

Let’s go, each of you has to pick a different color token and a card.

Es tu elección

This phrase will come in handy as well (trust me!).

‘Elección’ sounds similar to ‘election’, so it might be tempting to translate it as such …

… but, whereas in English an ‘election’ is used almost exclusively to refer to politics and the process of voting, in Spanish an ‘elección’ is also a ‘choice’.

So, if someone says ‘es tu elección’, they just mean that ‘it’s your choice’.

Es tu elección. Sólo tú sabes qué es lo mejor para ti.

It’s your choice. Only you know what’s best for you.

No importa lo que digan los demás. Es mi elección.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else says. It’s my choice.

Final thoughts

I hope this article has helped you get a better grasp on ‘elegir’ and ‘escoger’.

Just remember that when speaking about ‘electing’ someone, ‘elegir’ will be your verb of choice … but whenever you’re talking about ‘choosing’ in general, you can use the two interchangeably.

Keep that formula in mind and you’ll be right as rain!

Oh, and if you wanna keep improving your Spanish skills, be sure to check out our article on ‘TRATAR’ VS ‘INTENTAR’.

¡Hasta la próxima!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

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