6 Spanish Sayings That Don’t Make Sense in English

In this article we learn about different Spanish sayings that don't exactly make senes in English.
In this article we learn about different Spanish sayings that don’t exactly make senes in English.

Idioms are expressions in language that can have figurative or literal meanings. They are a huge pain for most English language learners.

It’s common to hear about the thousands of English idioms that leave language learners frustrated. However, it’s less common to hear about idioms from other languages. Spanish definitely has its fair share!

Although idioms rarely make sense when translated, that’s the fun of them. In fact, you can improve your English skills by attempting to explain your interesting cultural idioms to an English speaker.

Check out these six Spanish sayings that make absolutely no sense in English!

1. A lo hecho, pecho

Literal meaning: In the face of deeds done, present a full chest.

This doesn’t quite make sense in English, but there is an English idiom that is close to the same meaning – what’s done is done. A Spanish speaker might use this phrase after taking a test they didn’t study for.

“I didn’t study for that test and probably bombed it, but what’s done is done!”

2. En boca cerrada no entran moscas

Literal meaning: Flies don’t enter a closed mouth.

Unlike the last idiom, this one is easier to analyze. It encourages a person to keep quiet. Something similar in English would be, “Loose lips sink ships.” In fact, there are quite a few English phrases that encourage a person to watch what they say.

3. A mal tiempo, buena cara

Literal meaning: In bad times, put on a good face.

This one is pretty easy to figure out, and it applicable to countless times in a person’s life. If you’re ever giving a pep talk in English and want to throw some Spanish in there to spice it up, that is the time to use this idiom.

4. Dime con qui?n andas, y te dir? qui?n eres

Literal meaning: Tell me who you hang out with, and I’ll tell you who you are.

There are a few English idioms that broach this same topic. One of those idioms is, “Birds of a feather, flock together.” This is one of those idioms that an older, wiser person would use.

5. M?s vale ser cabeza de rat?n que cola de le?n

Literal meaning: It’s better to be the head of a rat than the tail of a lion.

This idiom is a little more confusing, but you may be able to gather that it’s about being a leader. In English, it’s similar to, “It’s better to be a big fish in a small pond, then a small fish in a big pond.”

6. Moro viejo nunca ser? buen cristiano

Literal meaning: The old Moor will never be a good Christian.

Obviously, this idiom has a lot of history and context behind it. Without those two things, many idioms can be hard to understand. This is because idioms are culturally tied to the language. All it means is that you can’t change people who are stuck in their ways.

More on Spanish Sayings

Figuring out idioms can make you a better English speaker. Not only because you’ll understand English speaking cultures better, but because it can even help you explain your own idioms to English speakers.

To improve your English more quickly, get some help from PronunciationPro! The course covers many other important aspects of spoken English, and you can start with a free 7 day trial!


English Pronunciation & Fluency Expert
Annie Ruden M.S.CCC-SLP
CEO | Accent Reduction Trainer

[email protected]

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