Popular Spanish expressions and idioms

If there is one thing that characterises Spanish, it is the character of its speakers and the many ironies and expressions in their vocabulary. There are many idioms that you can learn if you learn Spanish, but it is also important that you know other fundamental parts of this language, such as spelling laws.

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The grammar rules we tend to mess up on

As with any language, Spanish also has grammar rules. These are a set of rules that determine how the language is used and how words should be used in a sentence. Even if you are a native speaker, you are likely to make some grammatical mistakes. Therefore, we are going to mention the rules where we tend to make mistakes most often. 

  • How do you write the plural of the different acronyms?

It all depends on the type of acronym. In the case of acronyms that are created from the initials of several words, no "s" is added, and the plural remains unchanged in the written language. For example, in the case of DVD, its plural would be the same. However, if the acronyms end up becoming common nouns, such as "UFO", it would be correct to make the variation to the plural. In addition, it will be written in lower case.

  • "Yo" In front or at the back?

When we are talking about an enumeration in which we are included, we should not use the pronoun in the first person. I'm sure you have heard the expression "the donkey in front so he doesn't get scared". It is a question of courtesy and not so much grammar, we should give preference to others. 

  • " Cuánto cuesta eso?" or " ¿Qué cuesta eso?"

It is preferable to use the expression "cuándo", but using "qué" would not be incorrect either, since when the interrogative is followed by a noun it is considered valid. The preposition and interrogative constructions are colloquial, proper to the spoken language, and therefore should not be reproduced in writing.

  • " En cuyo caso": correct or incorrect?

The determiner "cuyo" has the function of giving a possessive value to the sentence, in this case it does not make any sense. If you want to use this expression, you should advocate alternatives or synonyms such as "en tal caso" or "en ese caso".


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  • "Delante mío" or "delante de mí".

This is one of the most frequent doubts among native speakers themselves. "Delante" is an adverb, so it cannot be combined with determiners such as "mío". Therefore, the expression "delante mío" is incorrect, but "alrededor nuestro" is allowed, since the word "alrededor" can be both an adverb and a noun.

  • " Mi Lucía es arquitecta"

We all know that the formulas "la Paula" or "el Dani" are vulgar and we refuse to use them, but we hesitate when it comes to possessives. This is another incorrect expression used in the popular language. In Spanish, we only allow the use of an indeterminate when we want to emphasise a representative quality.

  • "A día de hoy".

Another of the expressions most commonly used by Spanish speakers, but you may be surprised to know that this phrase comes from French. Journalistic, political and administrative languages are accused of spreading this erroneous expression. We don't need to use this phrase, we have others that are correct and that do the job, such as: "hoy por hoy", "hoy en día", "en la actualidad" or simply "hoy".

The 15 most popular idioms

Do you know what a set phrase is? It is an expression with a figurative meaning, widely used by native speakers. Moreover, its form is fixed, that is to say, we cannot substitute the words by synonyms because it loses meaning. You may be wondering what is the difference between a proverb and a saying; the proverb contains a moral, it is a phrase that expresses a sentence and is used to exemplify or reinforce a statement.

In Spanish there are many idioms, we have chosen some of them to explain their meaning.

  • Contigo pan y cebolla: It means that nothing matters if you are with the person you love. Despite having to eat bread and onions, the only important thing is that you are with him or her.
  • Dar gato por liebre: Means that you have been cheated: you have been given something of lesser value, making you believe that it was something better.
  • Costar un ojo de la cara: When something is so expensive that you have to offer something as important and valuable as your eye to pay for it.
  • Like a fool: Sneakily, trying not to arouse suspicion, pretending that you are not interested in what you are doing.
  • Como quien no quiere la cosa: Having control of the situation, whoever has the upper hand does not get burnt.
  • To have something on the tip of your tongue: When you forget a word, you have it, but you can't manage to say it.
  • Dorar la píldora: To pretend or disguise a harm or damage so that someone will believe it and soften the truth.


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  • Echar más leña al fuego: To increase a problem or conflictive situation, creating controversy. By adding fuel to the fire, we fuel it, we make it grow.
  • No tener pelos en la lengua: Saying everything you think, clearly and directly, regardless of what others think.
  • En menos que canta un gallo: Refers to something that is going to happen quickly or immediately.
  • Estar en las nubes: Usually said when a person is distracted or with his or her mind on something else.
  • Mirarse el ombligo: When a person is very egocentric and is not able to see beyond themselves.
  • No está el horno para bollos: Used when a person or situation can't take any more stress or problems.
  • Pagar los platos rotos: It is usually said when someone takes the blame even if it is not theirs, or at least not entirely.
  • Sacar los trapos sucios: Bringing out in front of everyone conflicting issues that belong in the private sphere.

I'm sure you'd like to continue learning more about Spanish idioms. Register with Classgap and find your online Spanish tutor to learn more expressions and sayings.

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