Idioms: they are often funny-sounding and may not make total sense when taken literally, but they are absolutely key to mastering a foreign language and sounding like a native. The tricky thing about idioms is that they often cannot be understood through basic word-to-word translation, and so they must be memorized as part of language study. Check out these 5 Spanish idioms to learn this weekend.


1. (No) valer la pena: To (not) be worth it

This is the most literal idiomatic expression on our list, but it as an extremely common one. From song lyrics to daily conversation, vale la pena (or, to make the statement negative, no vale la pena) is a popular phrase that means simply: it’s worth it (or, it’s not worth it). The idiom can be used on its own, or with a verb attached to say that it is or is not worth it to do something.

Used in a sentence (in this case, a song lyric!): No vale la pena enamorarse. (It’s not worth it to fall in love.)

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2. Tomar el pelo: To tease; joke; make fun of

Literally translated as to take the hair, this expression is the Spanish equivalent of the English phrase to pull your leg; or to tease, joke, or poke fun at someone or something.

Used in a sentence: Te estoy tomando el pelo! (I’m pulling your leg; I’m kidding with you!)

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3. Ser pan comido: To be a piece of cake

Ser means to be, and it is one of the very first verbs you’ll learn in any Spanish class. In Spanish, pan means bread, and comido is a past tense conjugation of the verb comerto eat. So, taken literally, ser pan comido means to be eaten bread. In other words, easy peasy, simple, a piece of cake!

Used in a sentence: El examen estará pan comido. (The exam will be a piece of cake.)

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4. Pedir peras al olmo: To ask the impossible

The literal translation of pedir peras al olmo is to ask the elm tree for pears. Of course, an elm tree could not possibly give you pears, as it does not have any to give! The idiom means just that: to ask the impossible or to ask for too much.

Used in a sentence: Querer que mi hermano lave los platos es pedir peras al olmo. (Wanting my brother to wash the dishes is asking the impossible.)

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5. En un abrir y cerrar de ojos: In a flash

In Spanish, abrir means to open and cerrar means to close, while ojos translates to eyes. Therefore, this phrase is fairly literal: in an opening and shutting of the eyes—in other words, something happened extremely quickly, or in a flash or in the blink of an eye.

Used in a sentence: Este artículo pasó en un abrir y cerrar de ojos, pero yo quiero aprender más español. (This article was over in a flash, but I want to learn more Spanish.)

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…Well, in that case, consider enrolling in CORE’s beginner Spanish small group class! Over the course of 13 weeks and 20 engaging hours of instruction and practice, our certified teacher will guide you through 10+ essential topic areas and help you build your comprehension skills in the Spanish language. Click here for more information on course options.

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