In a previous article, I mentioned the 10 weirdest Spanish idioms, including expressions such as, “La cabra tira al monte,” which literally means, “The goat is headed for the forest,” but refers to the unlikelihood of people changing. I know what you are thinking: “Whoever came up with that? Why not just say, ‘People never change’?” Because human beings are fun, intricate creatures. We are not that straightforward. We need to add a hint of play when we can. Idiomatic expressions let us do that through language. They are not only very interesting and fun to learn, but they are also the way people talk. When you learn idiomatic expressions in a foreign language, you gain access to a hidden door.
I know you use idiomatic expressions all the time. Here are 10 expression in English that you wished you knew in Spanish. Now you do! What follows is an example of how to use each of them
empezar la casa por el tejado. Literally: to start the house by the ceiling first.
No deberías mudarte a China sin hablar el idioma. Es como empezar la casa por el tejado – You shouldn’t move to China without speaking the language first. It’s like putting the cart before the horse.
ponerse hasta las chanclas. Literally: to wear even the flip flops.
Me echaron del trabajo. Vamos a ponernos hasta las chanclas – I got fired. Let’s get hammered.
feliz como una lombriz. Literally: happy as a worm.
Marta anda feliz como una lombriz. Debe estar enamorada – Marta is happy as a clam. She must be in love.
con dinero baila el perro. Literally: even a dog will dance when there is money. Some countries use the idiomatic expression, “Por la plata baila el mono,” which is very similar, except instead of a dog, it refers to a monkey.
Se casó por dinero. Ya sabes, con dinero baila el perro – She married for money. You know, money talks.
no hay mal que por bien venga. Literally: something good comes from all the bad.
Ellos perdieron toda su fortuna, pero esto los unió. No hay mal que por bien no venga – They lost all their money, but this brought them together. Every cloud has a silver lining.
camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente. Literally: a shrimp that falls asleep is carried away by the current.
Presta atención en el concurso de deletreo. Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente – Pay attention at the spelling bee. You snooze, you lose.
a quien madruga, Dios lo ayuda. Literally: God helps those who rise up early.
Despiértate temprano y ponte a buscar trabajo. A quien madruga, Dios lo ayuda – Wake up early and start looking for work. The early bird gets the worm.
aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda. Literally: a monkey could dress in silk, but she is still a monkey.
Ellos siempre fueron muy pobres. Ahora tienen muchísimo dinero, pero la mona aunque se vista de seda, mona se queda – They were always poor. Now they have a lot of money. But monkey see, monkey do.
tirarle los perros. Literally: to let the dogs loose on someone.
Le estaba tirando los perros a cada chica que entraba al bar – He would hit on every girl that would enter the bar.
tomarle el pelo. Literally: to take someone’s hair.
¿Crees que soy idiota? Me estás tomando el pelo – Do you think I’m an idiot? You’re pulling my leg.
What other Spanish idioms do you know?
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Irma is a trained linguist, native Spanish speaker, and teacher. She is the founder and CEO of Diáfano.
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