10 Spanish Phrases for Getting In and Out of Trouble

Getting ready to study abroad and learn Spanish? Here are some lively sayings that you may hear when you’re learning Spanish abroad and hanging out with some of your local friends. Ojo: Translating an expression literally from one language to another rarely works. So watch out for these fun phrases when you’re hanging out, so that you know what you’re getting yourself into:

  1. No tener pelos en la lengua. 

(Literally: “I don’t have hairs on my tongue.”) Let’s explain: If you don’t have hairs on your tongue, there’s nothing that keeps you from speaking your mind. So when somebody says “No tengo pelos en la lengua,” it means “I’m going to give it to you straight.”

  1. Es mejor pedir perdón que permiso.

(Literally: It’s better to ask for pardon than permission.) This expression is actually very similar to the one we use in English: “It’s easier to apologize than to ask permission.” If you and some friends are thinking about doing something risky and you hear this phrase, you’re being advised to just do it and face the consequences later.

  1. Trato hecho.

(It’s a done deal.) Use this with your Spanish-speaking friends after you’ve come to an agreement and are sealing the deal.

  1. A lo hecho, pecho.

(What’s done is done.) This phrase doesn’t make sense if you try to translate it literally, since ‘pecho’ can mean breast or chest. But like its figurative English translation, the phrase implies: “Something’s happened, and we’ll face the consequences later — so let’s move on.”

  1. Cuando la rana eche pelos

(Literally: “When the frog grows hair.”) Use this fun, informal phrase to tell your friends that something just ain’t gonna happen. Ever. English equivalents include: “when pigs fly;” “when donkeys fly;” and “when hell freezes over.”

  1. Creerse la última coca-cola del desierto

(Literally: To think you’re the last coca-coca in the desert.) Use this phrase in jest when one of your good friends is acting like they’re a big shot, a big deal, or “all that and a bag of chips.” In Spanish, forget the chips and go for the coca-cola: “Te crees la última coca-cola del desierto!” 

  1. Tomarle el pelo (a alguien) 

(Literally: To pull someone’s hair.)  In English, we say: “To pull someone’s leg.” If you think your friends are putting you on or pulling one over on you, tell them, “Me estás tomando el pelo.”

  1. Meter la pata

Meaning “to stick your foot (or paw) into something,” this Spanish phrase can mean that you’re literally or figuratively making a mess. So if your friend says, “¡Estás metiendo la pata!” you’re sticking your foot in your mouth — or you’re messing things up royally in another way. 

  1. Tómalo con calma.  / Tranquilo. Cálmate.

(Take it easy. / Be cool. Calm down) Just like the saying in English, if one of your friends is telling you this, it’s time to slow down and take a deep breath.

  1. Pura vida.

(Literally: Pure life.) This is a local phrase from Costa Rica. Used very often in this country, it has multiple uses: to express that everything is fine, that things are going well, also as a greeting or farewell, to say thanks or show appreciation.  More than just a phrase it is considered Costa Rica´s motto and a reflection of the easy going, optimistic and friendly way of life found in this tropical paradise.

Listen up for these expressions when you’re keeping up with your Spanish-speaking friends, learning Spanish vocabulary, or just having a lively conversation in Spanish. And, if you liked these, you can learn lots more if you go to a Spanish school abroad. We offer both short and long-term Spanish immersion programs at Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA). So if you’d like learn Spanish in Costa Rica, please contact us.