Spanish Idioms, #15: Es Una Esponja, Se bebe Hasta el Agua de los Floreros

Se bebe hasta el agua de los floreros.

I think this is a really funny expression, and really shows off the humor of the Spanish people. It literally translates to “He/she drinks up the water in the vases,” and refers to a person who drinks quite a lot of alcohol. In English, we don’t have anything quite as clever, but a similar expression is “He/she drinks like a fish.” Also, in spanish you can also use the reflexive verb “tomarse” instead of “beberse,” and it will mean the same.

Another way of saying this expression in Spanish is:

Se bebe hasta el agua de los charcos.

Which translates to “He/she drinks up the water from the puddles,” but to me the expression in this form isn’t as comical. It’s just strange. But to each his own!

You can also begin the sentence by saying:

Es una esponja, se bebe…

Which is referring to the person as a sponge, since they soak up all of the alcohol they can find.

Some examples…

“Es una esponja, se bebe hasta el agua de los floreros, es vergonzoso.”

“He drinks like a fish, it is embarassing.”

Es tiempo de celebrar! Nos bebemos hasta el agua de los floreros.”

“It is time to celebrate! Let’s drink way too much tonight!”

Spanish Idioms, #14: Quién no Arriesga, No Gana

Quién no arriesga, no gana.

Literally, this translates to “who doesn’t risk, doesn’t gain.” This is pretty self explanatory, but it is more commonly said as “No pain, no gain” in English. When I was looking up other possibilities, I also came across the phrase “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” which might be an older expression for the same idea (or perhaps it is more common to say in other parts of the world). Of course, all of these phrases mean pretty much the same thing – that you have to go out of your comfort zone sometimes to get to the next best thing.

I can really relate to this right now because I’m in the process of making some very difficult decisions about my life next year. As a current English teacher in Barcelona, I have the option of returning to California and working or going to school, continuing with my current school another year, trying another school in a different part of Spain, or trying a different school in another part of the world (South America? Asia? The possibilities are endless!). It is proving really difficult for me to decide. Part of me thinks it would be great to stay here another year, and another part of me keeps whispering “quien no arriesga, no gana…”

Some examples:

“No sé si vale la pena, ¿qué pasa si no funciona?”

“Deberías probar, porque quien no arriesga, no gana.

“I don’t know if it is worth it, what happens if it doesn’t work?”

You should try, because nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

(Durante ejercicio) “No puedo seguir! Duele demasiado, estoy agotado.

“Quien no arriesga, no gana! Vamos!”

(While exercising) “I can’t continue! It hurts too much, I’m exhausted!”

“No pain, no gain! Let’s go!”

Spanish Idioms, #13: Por Si Las Moscas

Por si las moscas.

Literally, this translates to “for if the flies.” This phrase came about at the dinner table, and my host family had a really difficult time trying to explain the meaning of it to me. I had to look it up to gain real clarity – it is the equivalent of the English expression “just in case,” which I personally use quite a lot. And it’s funny, because when they told me that phrase, I could have sworn I had never heard it before. But now that I know of it, I swear I hear it everywhere!

Some examples:

“Llevamos nuestros paraguas por si las moscas

“Let’s bring out umbrellas just in case.”

“Es importante preparar para un terremoto cuando vives en California, por si las moscas.

“It is important to prepare for an earthquake when you live in California, just in case.”

Spanish Idioms, #12: Consultar Con La Almohada

Consultar con la almohada.

Literally, this translates to “consult with the pillow.” I absolutely love this phrase! The most commonly used English equivalent is “sleep on it,” and we generally use it when there’s a decision we have to make that we’re unsure about. Or if, for whatever reason, we need more time to give our opinion.

Some examples:

“Si no estás seguro, debes consultar con tu almohada.”

“If you’re unsure, you should sleep on it.”

“Realmente no lo sé, tendré que consultar con la almohada.

“I really don’t know, I will have to sleep on it.”

Spanish Idioms, #11: Ella/él se lo pierde

A few weeks back, I was very frustrated because I was supposed to meet a girl from my program for the first time and she cancelled on me. It wouldn’t have been a big deal except for the fact that she waited until the last minute (I had already gotten ready and was about to take the bus) and the day before, someone else had backed out of plans we had made. I wasn’t happy.

I headed back home and my host mother asked me what happened, she saw the frustration on my face. After explaining it to her, she replied:

Ella se lo pierde.

and then she gave me a big hug.

e2ef6d9be822c39bb24e15e24867e672It translates to “Her loss.” I absolutely love this phrase. I know I use it a lot in English when trying to comfort a friend, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Of course, ella can be replaced with él if you are referring to a male.

Some examples:

“Mi novio me cortó ayer…” 😥

“¡Él se lo pierde!”

“My boyfriend broke up with me yesterday…” 😥

“His loss!”


“Amy me dijo que prefería trabajar con Laura para el proyecto.”

“¡Ella se lo pierde!”

“My friend in class told me she preferred to work with Laura for the project.”

“Her loss!”

Spanish Idioms, #10: Como Si Nada Hubiera Pasado

I was tutoring a girl the other day when she accidentally spilled the glass of water she was drinking. She quickly cleaned it up and said:

Vamos a continuar como si nada hubiera pasado.

I asked her to repeat this a couple of times, since it was the first I had heard of it (and I knew it’d be good for her to know in English as well). This isn’t really an idiom, per say, because it actually translates quite literally. It means Let’s continue as if nothing has happened” or “carry on as if nothing had happened.” Another way of expressing the same sentiment in English is “business as usual.”

Some examples:

“Tropecé cuando vi mi enamoramiento, y traté de actuar como si nada hubiera pasado.”

I tripped when I saw my crush, and I tried to act like nothing had happened.

“Mi novio sabía que yo no era feliz, pero él actuó como si nada hubiera pasado.”

My boyfriend knew that I wasn’t happy, but he acted as if nothing had happened.

Spanish Idioms, #9: Poner Los Cuernos

Apparently this is a very common expression in Spain (which is unfortunate):

Poner los cuernos.

Literally, it translates to “Put (on) the horns.” The expression is used to signify that someone in a relationship has been unfaithful to their partner. More casually in English we would say that the person cheated on the other. In old English, it was common to say that a person was being cuckolded.

To conjugate in context, here are some examples:

Su novio le ponía los cuernos.

Her boyfriend was cheating on him.

“¡No me pongas los cuernos!”

Don’t cheat on me!

It is also common in Spanish to say:

Engañarle a alguien.

The above translates to “to fool someone” and often signifies an unfaithful partner. I think I prefer the horns, however, because it gives you the image of a devil (at least for me). In context, here are some conjugations:

“Ella me engañó.”

She cheated on me.

“Él no sabía que ella lo engañaba.”

He didn’t know that she was cheating on him.

Spanish Idioms, #8: Es Más Vale Pájaro en Mano que Ciento Volando


During one of my many language exchange conversations, a woman told me this phrase:

Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando.

In English, it translates literally to “It’s worth more to have a bird in hand than a hundred flying.” The expression we normally use in English is “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” This is not a very common expression in English though, I think… the only person in my life who I have heard say this besides dead Presidents is my grandmother. I think that it is more common to say in Spanish, and I actually think I prefer the birds flying rather than in the bush.

For those of you unfamiliar with this old proverb, it means that it is more valuable to have something for certain (a bird in hand) than having other uncertain options (like flying birds that’ll be very difficult to catch).

Spanish Idioms, #7: El que no corre, vuela

A couple months ago, I started meeting with one of the teachers at my school for a good ol’ fashioned intercambio (a native English speaker and a native Spanish speaker come together and try to communicate in the other’s language – it’s a party). Once a week, we’d go to her house for lunch and do our best to show off our language skills. It was incredibly nerve-wracking at first, I didn’t think I’d be able to go more than a minute in a conversation after I exhausted the basics (Hola cómo estás? Que tal tu día? ¿Cómo fue tu fin de semana?). After all, I hadn’t had much practice actually speaking Spanish.

To my surprise, Spanish came pouring out of me. I became super excited to actually have the opportunity to speak, for once, and not be judged by how bad my pronunciation was. Sure, I screwed things up. To her, I probably sounded like a 4 year old on a rant. But it was so exhilerating to finally be able to speak, and it was also a big confidence-booster that I could actually speak in Spanish beyond small-talk.

On one of these days, I told her that I had been learning some new idioms. I have really been enjoying learning these from various people, I think it might just be one of those big things that I’m missing that’s keeping me away from my goal of being fluent. We started brainstorming idioms in our languages, and this came out of it:

El que no corre, vuela.

Literally, it translates to “He that doesn’t run, flies.” It implies that those who really want to achieve something will go above and beyond running, they will fly (figuratively, of course). It’s difficult to find a similar idiom in English, but after researching a bit, this is my favorite, similar phrase: “You snooze, you lose.” Both signify that you have to get up and actually work hard for something to happen. However, I like how the phrase in Spanish focuses more on the winner rather than the loser, and how you have to work hard for something to happen… not just ‘wake up’ like the phrase in English implies. Another possible English equivalent (and more formal, at that) is “He who hesitates is lost.” Again, I think I prefer the Spanish idiom here because this also focuses it’s attention on the loser.

However, this phrase is obviously difficult to translate to English… I found many different answers as I was researching this. Anyone else have any input? 🙂

Spanish Idioms, #6: Es Pan Comido

I was listening to the radio with my host dad as we were on our way to the school. It’s an English station that aims to teach conversational English to Spanish speakers, and it actually turns out to be pretty helpful for me as well (he explains common colloquial sayings in Spanish, so I end up learning, too!). The announcer used this expression and I was really confused – luckily the host dad was able to explain it to me:

Es pan comido.

Literally, it translates to “It is eaten bread.” He explained that you use this expression when something is really easy, such as an exam or riding a bike. The english equivalent would be “It’s a piece of cake” or “It’s a breeze.” I think this will come in handy for me! Especially as a teacher of some whiny students 😉