The hardest things to learn in Spanish are grammatical constructions that have no equivalent in English, and English words that can be expressed by multiple words in Spanish (like por / para, or ser / estar).
One word on that list is the English verb "to support". We don't think about it in English, but in Spanish there are three different words that can be used to express yourself, and they are not interchangeable; you must know the correct one to use.
Luckily, there are tricks to remembering which to use. These tricks use mnemonic devices by connecting the Spanish word to a very similar word in English, which you can arrive at based on your intent when you say "support".
The first we'll cover is mantener. What English word does this look like?
Maintain, right? And what does it mean to maintain something? It involves routine care, or upkeep. For example, to maintain my car, I need to regular change the oil, check the brakes, etc.
In fact, when figuring out how much a house will cost, in addition to mortgage payments, insurance, and taxes, people include maintenance, and what they mean is an average monthly expense for keeping it in working order. So really, maintenance is an expense, or payment.
Well, mantener, in Spanish, means something similar. It means "to support" in a financial way. So for example, you support your children, or maybe support your elderly parents by paying for an assisted living center.
So here's what we have:
support → financial support → maintenance (cost) → mantener
The next word for "support" is sostener. What English word does this one look like?
Sustain! Now this is where it gets confusing, because "to sustain" can be interpreted in English many ways also. But I prefer to think of it in a different way.
What other kind of meaning is there for "sustain"? I think of music! In particular, I think of this guy: Sustain in this sense is basically how long a note holds out. So to sustain a note, you hold that note for a long time. For example, on a guitar, you physically hold that note with your finger. Same on a piano.
See where I'm getting at yet? You sustain, by physically holding something, which is what sostener means in Spanish!
Sostener means to support physically, or to hold up. Like a beam in a house, or brackets on a shelf. (Unless you're a contractor, you may not use this one as much as the other two.)
support → physical support → sustain (hold a long note) → sostener
Easy, right? Just one more!
This one might be a bit of a stretch, but when I see apoyar, I think of apathy. Apathy means "lack of emotion", so I think of it as a word related to emotion.
And that's what apoyar means, it means to support emotionally.
support → emotionally support → apathy → apoyar
The connection is a little flimsy, but I bet you won't forget it now!
We do more than just practice Spanish verbs here at Maestro Spanish. Although all three of these verbs will show up when you practice. The first two are easy, since they're in the tener family.
Little memory tricks like these are incredibly useful for nailing down hard-to-remember concepts. I bet you'll think of Nigel (from Spinal Tap) whenever you think of supporting something now.