SobreThere’s something mischievous about words which are both homonyms (sound the same) and homographs (spelled the same). They lurk in a language, ready to trick foreigners.

In English, we have plenty of homonym+graphs, for example, ‘tie’, ‘lap’, ‘lie’, ”fair’ etc.
Here’s today’s Spanish trickster: ‘sobre’.

Sobre means both ‘on’ and – wait for it – ‘envelope’ or ‘packet’.

This photo (left) shows part of a recipe on the back of a sobre of chocolate chips. So for this recipe, you need packets of baking powder (which in Spain, for no obvious reason, comes rationed in little sobres) and chocolate chips.

When I asked for un cafe descafeinado, the camarera asked me:
¿Sobre o la máquina?
She was asking if I wanted a ‘packet’ or ‘machine’ coffee.

So this photo below shows: Dos sobres sobre la mesa. El sobre pequeño esta sobre el sobre grande.

Dos sobres sobre la mesa