Cambiar, cambiar de or cambiarse de?

The verb cambiar basically means “to change”, but it may also mean some form of “exchange” or “trade” (as in “changing” one thing for another) when it's used with a pronoun or preposition.

Rodrigo cambia de trabajo.

Rodrigo is changing jobs.

Rodrigo se cambia de ropa.

Rodrigo is changing his clothes.

  • Cambiar + noun + por + noun. Indicates the kind of change where we “trade”, ”swap", or "exchange" one thing “for” another thing.

Carolina cambió las ensaladas por lentejas con chorizo.

Carolina swapped the salads for lentils with chorizo.

  • Cambiar + de + noun. Indicates the kind of change where we leave one thing and take another very similar thing.

Ana ha cambiado de trabajo varias veces.

Ana has changed jobs several times.

  • Cambiarse + de + noun. Used when we move from one place to another ("change" places) or “change” clothes.

Me cambié de camiseta.

I changed my shirt.

Ana se cambió de asiento en el tren.

Ana changed seats on the train.

Note: cambiar places the emphasis on the thing we are “changing”, whereas cambiarse places the emphasis on the person doing the "changing".

Ana ha cambiado de apartamento.

Ana has changed apartments.

Ana se ha cambiado de apartamento.

Ana has changed apartments.

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