This article is written by one of the language teachers at italki                                                     Image by Guillermo Vasquez (CC BY 2.0)


Today we are going to learn about idioms.


Idioms are a natural part of any language. We use different idioms depending on the situations we find ourselves in. So, if you want to go to Colombia, Peru, Bolivia or Venezuela, you will enjoy this article.


At this point in your language learning, you may still be wondering, “How can I sound more like a native speaker?” Knowing a few idiomatic expressions will help you pull it off. Let’s get started.


1. No tener pelos en la lengua.

What is the meaning of this idiom, and why do people say it? Does somebody really have hair on their tongue? Don’t worry, nobody’s tongue needs a haircut; this only means that the person will speak their mind without fear.

For example:

Juan no tiene pelos en la lengua 

"Juan will always speak his mind no matter what."


2. Ser uña y mugre.

Even though we all want to keep as clean as possible, sometimes we inevitably find dirt under our nails. This idiom means “as thick as thieves,” or simply bosom friends.

For example: Maria y Laura son uña y mugre.


3. Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por Diablo.

Of course the Devil knows a lot of things, but in this case, the idiom means that an old person is wiser than a young one, since he or she has experienced more things in life.


4. Donde manda capitán no manda marinero. 

I like this one; my mother used to say it a lot. It means that your boss or the person in charge of you will always have the last word, and you must obey them no matter what, even if they are wrong. I know, sounds unfair, but it’s sure nice if you’re the captain!


5. Más vale estar solo que estar mal acompañado.

I have used this one a couple of times. It means it is better to be alone (not in a relationship) than being in a bad relationship that may cause you a lot of pain, physically and emotionally.

6. Es mejor dar que recibir.

This is a familiar saying for speakers of English. It translates to “It’s better to give than to receive.” The idea, of course, is that it’s better to help people by giving gifts and assistance than to simply receive the generosity of others.


7. Tirar paso.

This means to dance, to go out and about, get drunk and have a good time, which is what I am about to be doing!


8. Tirar la casa por la ventana.

This one means to spend a lot of money on a party, or have a wild party that lasts all night long. It’s similar to the English phrase, “to paint the town red.”


9. Wachimán 

This comes from the English word “watchman”. So, it’s rather funny to say it, but believe me, we use it a lot.

10. El que no coge consejos, no llega a viejo.

My grandmother is fond of this one. It means you have to listen to old people because they know better and they have lived longer than you have. Besides, they want to make life easier for you, so just listen to them.


11. Al son que me toquen bailo.

I like this one. As a matter of fact, I use a lot when in bad situations. It means that it doesn’t matter how good or bad the conditions are, no matter what, I will still be able to do something and do it properly.


12. Barriga llena corazón contento. 

When you are full of food, you are happy. Makes sense, huh?


13. Quien canta sus males espanta.

It is believed that music heals everything, so when one is singing--usually badly--it’s because one is sad and wants to cheer oneself up.


14. Para todo hay remedio menos para la muerte. 

Another favorite of mine. This one means that it doesn’t matter how bad a situation seems to be, there is always something one can do to fix it, except for death. Death is the only thing that is out of one’s control.


15. Mona es mona aunque se vista de seda. 

This refers to people who brag about their money and their success, but still live in a poor neighborhood and don’t have any manners.


16. Se paró en la raya 

refers to a person who suddenly says, “No more! This is what I want in my life and I will do it right now.” It doesn’t matter how much time it takes them or what they will have to do--they know what they want and will work for it starting this very instant.


17. Aletoso is an easily offended person.

For example, andres si es aletoso.


18. Ábrase basically means “Go away!” or “Get the hell out of here!


19. Cayó como anillo al dedo.

This is an idiom that refers to something that suits you very well.

For instance, this meal callo como anillo al dedo.

By using these new words and expressions, you will gain fluency and sound far more like a native speaker! I wish you the best.