Boost your Spanish with Spanish common expressions

Here you have a list of Spanish expressions with their literal translation, the example and the explanation. Some of them are quite funny. I’m from Spain, so I’ve listed expressions we use in informal situations here. If you know more expressions, feel free to add them (and there are, I just didn’t want to add a lot)!

  • tener/haber ____ para parar un tren (to have, there’s ____ to stop a train). meaning: to have a lot of the same thing, it doesn’t have to be an object. example: tengo hambre para parar un tren (i’m so hungry that it could stop a train) - hay agua para parar un tren (there’s water to stop a train)
  • ¡_____ muerto, abono pa’ mi huerto! (dead _____, fertiliser for my vegetable patch!). Used to talk about how the fact that a type of person is dead is actually positive. example: ¡fascista muerto, abono pa’ mi huerto! (dead fascist, fertiliser for my vegetable patch!)
  • ser de la acera de enfrente/ser de la otra acera (to be from the other pavement. english: to play for the other team). Used to say that someone is not straight. example: amiga 1: sergio es guapísimo amigo 2: pues es de la acera de enfrente (friend 1: sergio is really handsome friend 2: he’s actually from the other pavement)
  • estar a dos velas (to be at two candles). Two meanings: you don’t have money (broke, basically) or you haven’t had sex in a while. example 1: se quedó sin trabajo y ahora está a dos velas (he lost his job and now he’s broke/at two candles). example 2: Andrea rompió con su novia y ahora está a dos velas (Andrea broke up with her girlfriend and now she’s at two candles)
  • ser la leche (to be the milk). Used to say that something/someone is really cool. example: ¡ese libro es la leche! (that book is the milk!)
  • estar hecho un Cristo (to have been made a Christ). Used when someone has been beaten or something has been destroyed, leaving them in a poor condition. example: ¿has visto a Andrés? está hecho un Cristo (have you seen Andrés? he’s been made a Christ). You can also say ir hecho un Ecce Homo (to go around like an Ecce Homo), especially when someone’s clothes are a disaster.
  • hacerse el sueco (to do the Swedish). I’ve talked about this one before. Used when someone ignores something they have to do. Basically you pretend that you don’t understand what you’re being told, ignoring the message. example: no te hagas el sueco y paga tu parte de la cena (don’t do the Swedish and pay your part of the dinner)
  • donde dije Digo digo Diego (where i said “I say” i say “Diego”). This is playing with really similar words. Basically, used when someone says something that they had said they wouldn’t do. example: el político dijo que no prohibiría el aborto, pero, ya sabes, donde dije Digo digo Diego (the politician said that he wouldn’t ban abortion but, you know, where I said “I say” I say “Diego”)
  • apaga y vámonos (switch it off and let’s go). 2 uses: Used when something is over and you have to leave or used when someone says something really stupid. example 1: apaga y vámonos, la fiesta se ha acabado (switch it off and let’s go, the party is over). example 2: persona 1: yo creo que la tauromaquia no debería prohibirse. persona 2 a persona 3: apaga y vámonos (person 1: i think that bullfighting shouldn’t be banned. person 2 to person 3: switch it off and let’s go)
  • con la iglesia nos hemos topado (we’ve bumped into the church). Used when you have an idea that is not accepted in a conservative environment. Also used when you want to do something but a higher power doesn’t let you do it. example 1: siempre hemos apoyado ideas progresistas, pero nuestros padres no. con la iglesia nos hemos topado (we’ve always supported liberal ideas, but our parents don’t. we’ve bumped into the church) example 2: querían salir antes de clase, pero el profesor no les dejó. con la iglesia se han topado (they wanted to get out of school earlier, but the teacher didn’t let them. they’ve bumped into the church).
  • hablando del Papa de Roma (talking about the Pope of Rome). Used when you’re talking about someone and that person appears. example: amigo 1 a amigo 2: ¿has visto a Julia? julia: *entra* amigo 1: hablando del Papa de Roma… (friend 1 to friend 2: have you seen Julia? julia: *comes in* friend 1: talking about the Pope of Rome…
  • estar en la luna de Valencia (to be on Valencia’s moon). Used when someone is daydreaming. example: ¡Juan, estás en la luna de Valencia! Baja y atiende. (Juan, you’re in Valencia’s moon! Get down and pay attention)
  • hace un frío de los cojones (to be cold like bollocks). Used when it’s very cold. example: fuimos al centro y hacía un frío de cojones: we went to the centre and it was cold like bollocks (cold as fuck, basically). I’ll do a post about expressions with bollocks because there’re SO MANY.
  • Dios los cría y ellos se juntan (God breeds them and they join). Used to talk about a group of people with similar characteristics that end up meeting each other and having a really strong friendship. example: los idiotas son así, Dios les cría y ellos se juntan (Idiots are like that, God breeds them and they join)
  • ¡Jesús! (Jesus!). The Spanish “Bless you!”. Used when someone snorts. You can also use “¡Salud!”.
  • quien se fue a Sevilla perdió su silla (the one who went to Seville lost his chair). Used when you sit on a chair previously used by someone else. example: 1: ¡eh, yo estaba sentado ahí! 2: quien se fue a Sevilla perdió su silla (1: hey, i was sitting there! 2: the one who went to Seville lost his chair)
  • ponerse las botas (to put the boots on). Used when you eat/drink a lot. example: nos estamos poniendo las botas a vino (we’re putting the boots on wine).
  • tener un morro que te lo pisas (to have such a huge lip that you step on it). Used when someone is really lucky. example: a alba le han subido el suelo, tiene un morro que se lo pisa (alba has had her wage increased, she has such a huge lip that she steps on it).
  • a palo seco (in a dry stick). Used when you someone eats something without a sauce or dressing. example: se comió la carne a palo seco (he ate the meat in a dry stick).
  • costar un ojo de la cara (to cost an eye of the face). This one exists in Italian too! Used when something is really expensive. example: me iba a comprar un portátil, pero cuesta un ojo de la cara (i was going to buy a laptop, but it costs an eye of the face).