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Learning a language through expressions is a fun way to learn the intricacies of a culture, and of course helps you communicate with locals from Madrid to Caracas and in between in a colorful manner.
Here are 5 Spanish idioms and phrases that will impress your, jefe, amigos or at the very least your live-in Spanish profesor.
Ser pan comido
Literally “to be eaten bread”, this first expression is worth every bite. In Spanish, saying something is pan comido means that it is very easy to complete or obtain. An English translation of this idiom would be “to be a piece of cake”.
Some say the expression goes back to the Spanish Civil War, a time when bread was one of the easiest and cheapest food people could get their hands on.
Example: Este ejercicio de gramática española es pan comido, ¿no crees?
Translation: I thought this Spanish grammar exercise was a piece of cake – didn’t you?
In Spanish, estar frito (“to be fried”) is a colloquial idiom which has three distinct meanings:
- To find oneself in a difficult or compromising situation. English speakers might use the expressions “I’m cooked”, “I’m doomed” or “I’m in deep trouble”. We know the feeling well.
Example: Me quedan pocas horas para entregar mi tesis. ¡Estoy frito!
Translation: I only have a few hours before handing in my thesis – I’m doomed!
- To be bored
Example: Teo lleva una hora hablando de sus problemas de pareja, ¡me tiene frito! ¿Cómo puedo escaparme sin que se de cuenta?
Translation: Teo has been talking about his relationship problems for the past hour, I’m so bored. How do I escape without him noticing?
- To be very tired. An English equivalent would be “I’m beat” or “I’m knackered”.
Example: Hoy hemos hecho una excursión de 10 kilómetros por la montaña, estoy frito.
Translation: We did a 10 km trek in the mountains all day, I’m beat.
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Meter la pata
A pawsome idiom, meter la pata literally means “to stick one’s foot/paw” (in something). This colloquial expression is used in Spanish when somebody has made a mistake or has said something inappropriate. This idiom originates from Spain but is now used extensively throughout most of South America.
An English equivalent of this expression would be – you’ll have guessed it – “to step in it”, to “put your foot in it”, or, if you have said something foolish, “to put your foot in your mouth”. Tasty.
Example: Hablé de la fiesta sorpresa de cumpleaños de Magda mientras estaba en la habitación. Realmente metí la pata esta vez.
Translation: I talked about Magda’s surprise birthday party when she was in the room. I’ve really put a foot in it this time.
No pegar ojo
Tossing and turning all night? Woke up on the wrong foot? The idiom no pegar ojo is just what you’re looking for, as it helps describe the fact that you haven’t slept all night (literally “to not hit an eye”).
In the English language, we might use the idiom “I haven’t slept a wink”.
– “¿Ha dormido bien?”
– “No he pegado ojo en toda la noche”.
– “How did you sleep?”
– “I didn’t sleep a wink all night.”
No tener pelos en la lengua
Literally “to not have hairs on one’s tongue”, this next idiom is hirsute to say the least. It refers to somebody saying things bluntly, in a direct way. An English equivalent would be “not to mince one’s words” or “to speak one’s mind” or “to be blunt”.
Example: No tengo pelos en la lengua, le dije al camarero que la paella estaba horrible.
Translation: I had to speak my mind. I told the waiter the paella was awful.
Bonus 1: Llamar al pan, pan y al vino, vino
While pan and vino are the essentials to any lifestyle, both terms are also widely used in Spanish idioms. Llamar al pan, pan y al vino, vino (literally “to call bread, bread and wine, wine”) expresses the necessity to call something what it really is and to stop beating around the bush.
Example: Llamemos al pan, pan y al vino, vino ¡esta fiesta es una porquería!
Translation: Let’s call a spade a spade, this party stinks!
Bonus 2: Estar más sano que una pera
The Spanish expression estar más sano que una pera (“to be healthier than a pear”) and refers to somebody who is very healthy and/or who looks well or is in good shape. Sickening.
Example: Mi abuelo tiene 80 años, ¡pero está más sano que una pera!
Translation: My grandfather is 80 years old but he’s as fit as a fiddle!
Did you know? The word “pear” is also used in the idiom ser del año de la pera which means “to be very old”.
Want to learn more Spanish expressions? We’ve got you covered. Try our online Spanish course Hotel Borbollón: fun, personalized and adaptive online Spanish lessons.
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