5 Spanish idioms that beginners need to learn

5 Spanish idioms that beginners need to learn

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated November 4, 2022

2021 is almost here. Many of us made promises to learn Spanish at home or take online Spanish lessons in the New Year. Here at Lingoda, learning a new language is our favourite New Year’s resolution of all time! We are excited to help you out. Since we always stress how to sound natural, we are going to start the year with fun Spanish idioms. What is an idiom? It’s a figurative saying that makes sense in Spanish but doesn’t always translate into English. To give you a jump start on that #LanguageLearning resolution, here are 5 Spanish idioms that beginners need to learn.

5 Spanish idioms you need to know

1. Pasarlo chancho (pass time like a pig)

This is my favourite Spanish-language idiom of all time. I hear it mostly from my tías (aunties) in Chile during holiday parties. In Chilean Spanish the word chancho means pig. You may have heard cerdo, cochino, or marrano in Spanish from different countries. This idiom describes a feeling that a pig would have after eating a big meal and rolling around in the mud. It means feeling satisfied and surrounded by all the things that make you happy. 

  • Las nietas vinieron a la casa para abrir sus regalos de Navidad. Lo pasamos chancho. (The grand-daughters came to the house to open their Christmas presents. We passed time like pigs.)

2. Tomarse el pelo (to pull someone’s hair)

Directly translated into English, this Spanish idiom doesn’t explain much. Use this saying when you think somebody is joking, kidding, or teasing you. In English I would accuse somebody of ‘pulling my leg’. You will hear this idiom amongst friends a lot, especially jokesters. If my friend tells me I have chocolate sauce all over my face, I’d ask:

  • ¿En serio o me estás tomando el pelo? (Are you being serious or are you pulling my hair?)

3. No hay color (there is no colour)

In English we would say it’s like ‘talking apples and oranges’. This Spanish idiom means there is no way to compare the things you are describing. I found this idiom useful when I lived in Madrid during my study abroad to learn Spanish programme. Why? Well even though I was bilingual, I wasn’t comfortable enough with the language to get into serious discussions with my Spanish classmates. Whenever they talked a mile a minute about any topic, I could bring up this Spanish idiom to sound smart. 

  • Es imposible comparar el queso francés con el queso español. No hay color. (It’s impossible to compare French cheese and Spanish cheese. There is no colour.)

4. Meter la pata (to insert the leg)

We’ve all had that situation where we ‘put our foot in our mouth’, right? This Spanish idiom means you’ve said something wrong, or made a mistake, and wish it could be undone. It conveys a strong feeling of regret. As a beginner, it’s the perfect Spanish idiom to use when you don’t have a large vocabulary to make a sincere apology.

  • Vi a tu ex y le dije que la/lo extrañas. Lo siento, metí la pata. (I saw your ex and I told her/him that you miss her/him. Sorry, I inserted the leg.)

5. Encontrar tu media naranja (to find your half-an-orange)

This Spanish idiom is quite possibly the cutest one of all. Imagine that every person on earth is half an orange. All our life we walk around trying to see who matches up with us. Other orange halves might be larger, smaller, wrinkled, lop-sided, or otherwise not fit. When you find your media naranja it means that you have found the perfect fit, or your ideal partner. 

  • No me gusto tu ex, pero con esta nueva pareja es obvio que has encontrado a tu media naranja. (I didn’t like your ex, but with this new partner it’s obvious you have found your half-an-orange.)

From chilling like a chancho to finding fruitful love, these Spanish idioms are super useful for beginning Spanish speakers. They speak to daily life, holiday traditions, and love. The best way to learn Spanish is to practise, right? Why not use a Spanish idiom during your next online Spanish lesson? Try it out and see if your Spanish instructor notices. 

What is your favourite Spanish idiom out of these five?

It’s time to start on your New Year’s resolution to learn Spanish. Register for a 7-day free trial with Lingoda today. 

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