9 Spanish Expressions You Won’t Find in a Phrase Book
Planning a trip to Spain soon? Inviting a Spanish-speaking visitor into your home is a great way to prepare some basic phrases for communication in Spanish. A phrase book will teach you how to order a meal and find the train station, but there are some expressions that you can only learn from the locals. Our Spanish Country Manager Dave has put together a list of 9 interesting phrases to start you off. To practice them, you’ll need to invite a Spanish-speaking guest into your home!
1. A buenas horas mangas verdes (it’s too late, green sleeves)
This is an expression you use when someone arrives too late. This idiom is made up of two phrases. The first, ‘a buenas horas’ means ‘in good times’, while ‘mangas verdes’ means ‘green sleeves’. Put together they mean ‘it’s too late, green sleeves!’ No, it doesn’t really make sense when you translate it, but that’s what makes it such a great expression to know.
Hi guys, do you need some help?
A buenas horas mangas verdes, we already finished!
2. A mal tiempo buena cara (in bad times, good faces)
People use this expression when things are not good but they manage to find the positive side. In other words, it’s similar to English expressions such as ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’, ‘look on the bright side’ or ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going’.
Yesterday I crashed my car.
I’m sorry to hear that.
But you know, a mal tiempo buena cara, I needed to buy a new car anyway!
3. A otra cosa mariposa (another thing, butterfly)
We say this when we want to change the topic of conversation. In English you could substitute it for something like ‘anyway’ or ‘moving on’.
Yesterday, I went to the cinema, visited the city centre, and met my cousins… A otra cosa mariposa, do you know I’m going to Spain next month?
That sounds awesome!
4. Vivir la vida que son dos días (live life because it’s only two days)
With this sentence we express that life is really short so you have to do those things that you really like. In English we would say ‘you only live once’. All the more reason to plan your next cambio right now, don’t you think?
I don’t know if I can afford to travel to Spain this year, I need to save money.
A vivir la vida que son dos días! You should go and have fun!
5. Al pan, pan y al vino, vino (The bread, bread and wine, wine)
Image Credit: Carolina Lucero
This expression sounds a little strange when you translate it into English! It means that bread is bread and wine is wine. In other words, it’s used when someone wants to express that something is quite clear and straightforward.
Your hair looks terrible today.
That’s not a nice thing to say!
Well, al pan pan y al vino vino!
6. Como Pedro por su casa (like Peter in his home)
We use this when someone has a lot of confidence and does things without asking.
For example: Imagine that you are staying at someone’s house for the first time. You are really thirsty and you decide to open the fridge and take some orange juice without asking permission. You act como Pedro por su casa! In other words, you act as though you are in your own house – as if you ‘own the place’ as one might say in English.
7. Coser y cantar (sew and sing)
We use this expression when something is really easy.
How was the test?
It was really easy, como coser y cantar!
8. Dios los cría y ellos se juntan (God raises them and they come together)
This one is difficult to explain! We use this expression when a small group of people have the same hobbies and for the rest of us this hobby is really strange. In English, one would say ‘birds of a feather flock together’.
What are they doing?
Oh, they’re playing Quidditch.
But that’s a bit strange, Quidditch is a made up sport from the Harry Potter books!
Yes, I suppose. But dios los cría y ellos se juntan
9. El quinto pino (the fifth pine)
Image Credit: Kyle Taylor
We use this phrase when we want to explain one concrete place and this place is really far from us. It’s like saying that a place is in the middle of nowhere.
Do you know where the pharmacy is?
Uff. En el quinto pino!
Would you like to learn some more phrases like these? Why not take some advice from the Spanish language and vivir la vida que son dos días! Browse our Spanish-speaking guests and invite one into your home to share their native language with you. By the time you get to Spain, you’ll be speaking like a local.
About the Author: Dave is 24 years old and was born in Madrid, Spain. He is currently living in Ireland where he works as the Spain Country Manager at GoCambio. Dave loves music and movies but he is willing to leave the cinema seats and travel to different countries and discover new cultures. You can connect with Dave on LinkedIn.
COVER IMAGE CREDIT: Dani Vázquez