Spanish expressions that really come in handy

The Spanish language is very rich and some of the most common idioms are not usually taught in books. In this article you are going to have at your disposal some of the most useful idiomatic expressions that you might hear in Spain brought into proper context.



If you are learning Spanish, you might have heard some strange sentences that seem not to make any sense at all.
If you are planning to visit Spain or any other Spanish speaking country or you are simply about to start watching a Spanish TV show to get used to the sound of the language it’s very likely that you will run into lots of idioms. As a matter of fact, it’s very likely that you would get easily sidetracked if you were not familiar with such expressions.
Spanish native speakers use idioms all the time and there are some cases you ought to add to your active speech as of right now.

Me suena - It rings a bell
In this case we need to use the indirect object pronoun depending on the subject and the verb “sonar” conjugated in the third person singular, usually the present indicative tense.

  • ¿Conoces ese lugar?
  • Me suena, pero nunca he estado en ese lugar
  • Have you ever heard of that place?
  • It rings a bell, but I have never been to that place

Perder el hilo - Lose your train of thoughts
Have you ever been talking to somebody and suddenly you haven’t been able to remember what you were saying or what you were about to say? Have you ever drawn a blank and suddenly you didn’t know exactly what was something about? If that has happened to you I recommend that you say, “lo siento, he perdido el hilo”.


Tener pinta de / looks like /seem
In Spanish this expression is a must. We use it all the time as a synonym of “apariencia” (appearance) and it simply describes how something or even someone looks like or feels like.

  • Este ejercicio tiene pinta de ser muy complicado
  • This exercises seems to be very difficult
  • We can just add the adjectives “buena” o “mala” to express how good or bad something looks like.
  • La paella tenía muy buena pinta
  • The paella looked delicious

No tomar algo al pie de la letra - take it with grain of salt

This idiomatic expression is one of my favourites because it’s really useful in daily life conversations and because I’ve been hearing this expression all my life.
This expression means that you should be reluctant to believe something without making sure first. Take a look at the following example to understand this expression better.

  • No deberías tomar al pie de la letra todo lo que tu jefe dice
  • You should take with a grain of salt what your boss says

Molar (gustar) - to be cool

We use this verb in the same way we use the verb “gustar” however unlike the verb gustar, we can also say that something is cool like “ese peinado mola”, “that haircut is cool”.
Keep in mind that this verb is commonly said in Spain but not in other Spanish speaking countries. This verb is not formal therefore you should avoid saying it whenever you are in certain situations.

  • Me mola mucho hacer snowboard
  • I love to go snowboarding

Costar un ojo de la cara , it costs an arm and a leg

This expression is used to express how expensive something is. For example:
Ese collar costó un ojo de la cara, espero que le guste

  • That necklace cost an arm and a leg, I hope she likes it

Mirar por encima del hombro - look down your nose at

If someone considers himself of herself superior it’s commonly said that they look down their nose to people. The idea is basically the same but in Spanish we use our shoulders as a reference point instead of our noses.

  • La amiga de Juan siempre mira por encima del hombro a la gente
  • Juan’s friend always look down her nose to people

Quedarse con alguien, tomar el pelo - to have sombedody on , to pull somebody's leg

If someone is having you on, if you speak British English or pulling your leg if you speak American English this person “te esta tomando el pelo” or “se esta quedando contigo”.
Both expression are frequently heard in Spanish and both can be easily translated as “to kid somebody”. The most colloquial one is by far “quedarse con alguien”.

  • ¿Te estás quedando conmigo? - ¿Me estás tomando el pelo?
  • Are you kidding me?

As I said at the beginning of this article there are quite a few expressions that are frequently used in spoken Spanish, therefore if you are really interested in taking your Spanish to the next level you need to, at least, be capable of understanding them quickly. It’s advisable to incorporate some of these expressions to your active speech because they’ll make your task much more fun, interesting, rewarding and in the long run you’ll be able to understand jokes, movies, tv shows and native speakers with relative ease.
August 30, 2018