Spanish Phrases I’ve Learned

Yesterday I wrote about the advantages and disadvantages of dating a foreigner. One is, as I’ve repeatedly said, learning a new language from said foreigner. That said, I know I have many American readers who either a) are learning Spanish or b) want to learn Spanish. I love learning new phrases from my boyfriend, ones that make no sense literally, but are used just the same. (Think “cut to the chase” – what am I cutting and what is the chase?)

I often want to learn new phrases in Spanish, but it’s not as though Mario can think of them off the top of his head (another set phrase in English!). So, I wait until they come up in conversation, as they inevitably do, and then pick his brain (+1 more for me), as you will see below. I suppose I could Google them, but the useful Spanish phrase websites are almost always written for beginners and it’s more fun this way as well as easier to remember.

Example of phrases I do not need to learn. Thanks, but no thanks.

  • a secas - Mario, of course, said this to me. Here’s how it went down, Spanglish and all. And yes, this is copy + pasted straight outta Gmail.
Mario: I hope my next mobile is a mora negra
Mario: o mora a secas
me: mora a secas?
Mario: a secas means “just that”
Mario: in this case, there’s no need to say “mora negra”
Mario: because blackberry means mora
  • pan comido - literally, “eaten bread,” but it means easy as pie / cake. Like, “Ese examen es pan comido” = “That exam will be easy as pie.”
Mario: ¿por qué es pan comido?
me: muy fácil de hacer. eso es lo que significa pan comido, ¿no? ¿fácil?
Mario: sí, aquí ya sabes que hay un culto hacia el pan
Mario: por eso, decimos pan comido
  • irse / marcharse con los bártulos a otra parte - take your stuff and go, but more in the sense of “this sucks, I’m gonna take off.” I love the word bártulos, by the way. Example from Cinco Días.
  • ser una piña - literally, “to be a pineapple,” but you use it to mean to be a tight-knit group. “Somos una piña” = “We’re tight.” Example from La Voz de Galicia.
  • a diestra y siniestra  – this one happened early on in our relationship/my Spanish learning. It means “left and right” in the sense of “The Spanish team is winning medals left and right” = “El equipo español está ganando a diestra y siniestra.” Example from El País.
So, fellow Spanish language learners / Spanish people who want to teach me a cool new phrase – what should be the next phrase I learn? I’m all ears.
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14 comments

  1. I grew up bilingual and my family always called the mulberries from the tree in our front yard moras. I didn’t know that was the same word for blackberry. Come to think of it, I’ve never thought about how to say blackberry in Spanish.

    I agree with Mario. It’s not that easy to think of phrases off the top of your head. You have to use them first. One I like is “hechar de menos.” It means the same as extrañar or to miss someone.

    1. Thank you for your feedback! In Spain, they don’t really say extrañar for “to miss” as much as they do in Latin America, I think. They usually just use echar de menos!

  2. Kaley,

    I’m loving this post and fearing it at the same time. I move to Santiago de Compostela in two months for the same program and am faaaar behind you in my quest to learn Spanish. It’s all gravy though.

    Just wanted to let you know I’m still reading and enjoying your blog! Best of luck with the new teaching position and take care! Audrey

  3. Hello Kaley! Thank you so much for visiting my blog!!!!!

    :) And now in Spanish, I know you´ll understand!!!!

    Me ha hecho mucha gracia lo de “mora” por blackberry”, jjjjjjj, yo he oído a extranjeros decir “me he olvidado la mora en casa” ¿? Como Blackberry es una marca, diremos simplemente blackberry, ya está. En inglés hay muchas “berries”, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, blueberry, lingonberry… es bastante dificil para nosotros distinguirlas!

    A new phrase for you: “a diestra y siniestra” = “a troche y moche”

    Si sigues leyendo mi blog, y hay algo en él que no entiendas (soy muy coloquial, y a veces pongo palabras en euskera) me preguntas sin problema! yo te preguntaré cosas de recetas en inglés que tengo por ahí que no termino de pillar! (another phrase: “pillar algo” = “understand something”)

    un beso

  4. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to think of anything cool to share, but alas, often times when we’re trying to think of something it escapes us. I’ll keep you posted! jeje and I enjoyed learning what “a secas” and “ser una piña” mean!

  5. Ohh this is such a fun topic! There are actually a couple of books with literal English translations of Spanish phrases which are quite funny. One’s called “From lost to the river”, which would be the translation of the phrase “De perdidos al río”, meaning that when you’re in a rough situation or things are looking bad you shouldn’t be afraid of taking drastic or risky measures fearing that things might get worse; the other’s called “Speaking in silver”, translation of the phrase “Hablando en plata” which means saying something bluntly and using “bad words”. So that’s two more for you.

    Others that come to mind are:
    “De cajón”: when a thing is de cajón, it means it is really obvious/common sense
    “No dar un palo al agua”: If you say that somebody “no da un palo al agua”, it means they don’t do anything that involves work or effort
    “Estar hasta las narices” : to be fed up with something

    Hope you like them!

  6. Hi! I found your blog through the facebook group for auxiliars. I really liked your phrases (and the rest of your blog!).

    These expressions might be basic (I’m only an intermediate speaker), but they were interesting to me:

    When my skinny friend and I were eating dinner at a restaurant, we ordered family style, and our hosts kept on telling my friend to eat more because “no tienes sangre!” I thought it meant that he was skinny and unhealthy, the “eat up” the way your aunties or mom would tell you; but a look online says that it might mean more like someone who is shy or lacks initiative, and they might have just been telling him it’s okay to keep on eating if he’s hungry and to encourage him to get additional helpings. Point: it sounds really bad if you look up the translation, but they were using the term in a fond way.

    Another thing I picked up while eavesdropping on the train, and this is little, but that when listening, everyone says “eso” and “claro” and nod a lot when listening. Another woman also said “maaaaaaarvellosa!” a lot and I couldn’t tell if it was an eccentricity or just a more common adjective in Spain.

    Another important thing is to ask “cómo?” instead of “qué?” if you want someone to repeat themselves. I felt really rude after I found this out!

    1. My boyfriend sometimes points out how I talk and if it’s rude (on accident). I tend to say “or what?” a lot in English, but he’s told me the equivalent in Spanish is a bit maleducado. :)

  7. I’ve been following your blog for quite some time now, and I can definitely relate to the reasons to “never” date a foreigner. I lived in Sweden for 18 months, and I’m now back in Canada…I’m in the “how to get a visa” boat. Don’t you just wish you were born in Europe??

    And congratulations on your wedding!! x

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