Legal False Friends: practicar vs. “practice”

In legal contexts, practicar cannot always be translated literally as “to practice.” In procedural law, for example, practicar la prueba refers to “examining evidence,” while practicar la prueba testifical is specifically the “examining (or) questioning of witnesses” or “taking witness testimony.” Likewise, practicar la notificación de la demanda is one of the ways to express “service of process.”

In tax law, practicar retenciones denotes an employer’s “withholding taxes” from an employee’s paycheck, while practicar reducciones en la declaración del IRPF means “to take deductions on a personal income tax return.” With regard to public registers, practicar la inscripción registral refers to “recording,” “entering” (or) “making an entry” on a register. And the expression practicar un aborto denotes “performing an abortion.”

Similarly, “practice” cannot always be translated as practicar. A common example is to “practice law,” which in Spanish is ejercer la abogacía. In this context the expression “attorney-at-law” denotes an abogado en ejercicio, one who has a “law practice.” And a lawyer who is in business for himself (abogado con despacho propio) is often said to have a “solo practice” and is known as a “solo practitioner.”

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