Category Archives: Learn Spanish Phrases

We love Cool Spanish Phrases, in fact, we include new ones in every edition of our famous ‘Real Spanish Newsletter’ (sign up for free here!)

Fun Autumn Spanish with Double Meaning!

Hola amigas y amigos!

Autumn is here! It’s freezing in Madrid! Marina found a funny Spanish phrase this morning, ‘Los únicos marrones que me gustan, son los del otoño’…

It looks like it means, the only brown colours I like, are the autumnal ones (the leaves, of course), but… did you know what else ’un marrón’ is?

It’s something which is a massive a pain in the neck! For example:

Me ha caído un marrón tremendo en el trabajo – I’ve been given a real nightmare to do at work

Tengo un marrón en casa, todos tienen la gripe y yo no puedo faltar al trabajo – Things are really tough at home, everyone has got ‘flu and I can’t miss work (You can also say, ‘tengo un marronazo en casa’ which sounds even more dramatic!)

Menudo marrón, me han pillado copiando en un examen – What a nightmare, I’ve been caught copying in an exam

So what’s the opposite of ‘un marrón’? how do you say something is really great? We asked our son, and he said, ‘¡Es la pera limonera!’

For example, ‘¡El parque de atracciones de Madrid es la pera limonera!’ – Madrid’s theme park is fantastic!

We looked up ‘pera limonera’ and found it is an actual type of pear. One Spanish fruit website I found made the following fantastic statement:

‘Las características de esta fruta, fresca, viva y positiva pero algo ácida y explosiva, también definen en cierta manera nuestra cultura española’ – The characteristics of this fruit, that it is fresh, alive and positive, but a little acidic and explosive, also define to a certain extent our Spanish culture’ – Spot on!

We’ve got a ‘pera limonera’ for you a week from today, on Monday November 5th, when the first of our brand new Advanced-level ’Notes in Spanish Conversations’ audios will be ready for you to listen to! We’ll be back with more details, more Real Spanish, and more big news, before the end of the week.

Until then, keep listening to our Real Spanish audios!

¡Un abrazo!

Ben y Marina

The photo at the top of this email: Autumn in Madrid’s Retiro Park, Palacio de Cristal, back in 2011, Via our Instagram feed.


Cool Spanish and New NIS Audios News!

Cordoba, back in 2008

¡Hola amigas y amigos!

First more cool, real Spanish vocab, then news of NEW real Spanish audios from Ben and Marina coming very soon, plus our Instagram for photo lovers!

The other day I heard Marina telling her sister, ‘Nos ha sobrado un montón de comida’ – we’ve got loads of food left over (after a party we had).

And it reminded me of the wonderful verb ‘sobrar’, to be too much, or to be left over – and a classic Joaquin Sabina song, ‘Nos sobran los motivos’ – We have plenty of reasons.

In our case… Nos sobran motivos para ser felices – We’ve got plenty of reasons to be happy…

Because we are starting a brand new audio series on November 5th – Notes in Spanish Conversations.

These will be more of our trademark real-speed, 100% natural, real Spanish conversations, just like our Advanced series, with a new, streamlined ‘Real, Essential Spanish’ transcript that includes the transcript of our whole conversation and a list of the Real Essential Spanish you need to know from each show.

We’ll be in touch soon with more details, and the first weekly episode will be out November 5th. Until then, keep listening to our other audios and working with the worksheets in our store to bring you up to speed.

Photo lovers: the photo at the top of this email is from Cordoba, back in 2008 – check out more at our Instagram page (which Ben is very excited about getting out with his camera to work on!):

¡Un abrazo!

Ben y Marina

Great Spanish Phrases with Dar Vuelta and News

Hola amigas y amigos,

Lots of news today! First some useful Spanish phrases with ‘dar vuelta’, then links to a great interview with Ben and Marina about life in Spain, and much more (so do read on below!)

Spanish phrases with Dar Vuelta:

Le voy a dar una vuelta – I’m going to think about it (e.g. a decision or possible plan)

Darle una vuelta y me dices – think about it and let me know

No le des tantas vueltas al coco – (slang) don’t overthink it, don’t think about it so much (“it” being whatever you are thinking too much about!)

Also in the world of mindfulness, you will hear:

La mente da muchas vueltas – the mind spins around a lot

Another way to say this is ‘la mente es muy saltarina’ – the mind jumps around a lot. ‘Saltarina’ comes from ‘saltar’, to jump.

Ben and Marina Interview:

We were interviewed by Paul Burge for his When in Spain podcast. We chat with Paul about how Spain has changed since Ben first arrived here twenty years ago, the ups and downs of bi-cultural and bilingual relationships, observations on Spanish life, favourite places in Madrid, whether living in a foreign country changes you, and if there is a specific type of personality that’s suited to building a life abroad.

Listen here (interview in English) and check out the When in Spain Facebook page for show notes.

Today’s photo:

The photo at the top of today’s post is from Asturias, near Arriondas, and is part of Ben’s fine art photo collection at the Print Arcade.

Notes in Spanish now in Spotify and Stitcher:

You can now find all our podcasts in Spotify, and Stitcher, just search for ‘Notes in Spanish’ in either, and of course, we’ve been in Apple Podcasts forever!

Remember the worksheets!

If you like the phrases in today’s email, do buy the worksheets that accompany our audios, they are full of useful Spanish like this, plus you support Notes in Spanish with your purchase! Find them in our store now.

Un abrazo!

Ben y Marina

P.S. (or ‘P.D.’ as the Spanish write) if you are interested in happiness, and mindfulness, check out Ben’s side project ‘Being Happiness’ (in English).

Some cool Spanish slang!

Hola amigas y amigos,

We hope you’ve had a great summer! We spent some time at the beach in Cantabria, near Santander (see the photo above!) Today we’ve got some great slang Spanish from the streets of Spain.

Some cool Spanish slang!

It’s 20 years since I (Ben) moved to Madrid, so I can say:

Llevo 20 años en Madrid, un huevo de tiempo – I’ve been in Madrid for 20 years, a really long time (literal translation “an egg of time”!)

“Un huevo”, an egg, is often used in Spain to show something is really big, or long. But don’t use this in formal circumstances, it’s pretty slang – fine with friends though! Here are more examples:

Los precios de las casas han subido un huevo este año – The prices of houses have gone up a huge amount this year.

Los mejores futbolistas ganan un huevo – The best football players earn a huge amount of money (not an egg!)

This is going to be a great year for your Spanish!

Saludos desde Madrid,

Ben y Marina

More great, Real Spanish phrases

You’ve probably heard the phrase, ‘Estás en Babia’, to mean that you are dreamy, distracted, or ‘on another planet’. It comes from times gone by, when the kings of the region of León would go to the nearby area of Babia to hunt.

Someone was telling me this story again the other day, and commented, ‘Los reyes se quedaron allí ensimismados.’ – The kings were there (in Babia) lost in themselves, lost in their own thoughts. What a great word! Ensimismados!

Ben está ensimismado – Ben is in a dream

Here’s one more great one from our kitchen table…

I was sitting at the table the other day, ‘ensimismado’, while we were preparing supper. Marina, wanting my help, said ‘No te sientes ahí como un zero a la izquierda’ – Don’t sit there being useless.

Como un zero a la izquierda’ means something is useless – it literally means, ‘like a zero on the left’. When you put a zero on the left of a number, e.g. 023, that zero does nothing, hence the origin of the expression!

No quiero trabajar más con David, es un cero a la izquierda – I don’t want to work with David anymore, he’s useless.

More cool Spanish like this!

Remember, there is so much more cool Spanish like this in all our free Spanish-learning audios! We also highlight this type of phrase specifically in the worksheets for each level, available in our store.


Summer Real Spanish Phrases and more!

Queridos amigos,

As you know, we love to collect and share with you real Spanish phrases (Ben carries a notebook around and is always writing down the best from conversations with Spanish friends!)

Here are a few of the latest that have made us think ‘we have to send these to our Notes in Spanish listeners!’

First of all, why haven’t you heard from us in a while?

Hemos estado muy liados con las nuevas leyes de privacidad – We’ve been really busy with the new privacy laws.

Y como dicen en España, ‘Cosas del palacio van despacio’ – As they say in Spain, bureaucracy is a slow process. (Literally, things of the palace go slowly – you hear this phrase often when there is tedious paperwork to be done involving the state).

Another phrase with ‘liado’:

Estoy super liado en el trabajo – I’m really busy at work

Pero bueno, ha llegado el verano, y hace un calor que te mueres – But anyway, summer has arrived, and it’s unbelievably hot (literally ‘it makes a heat that you die!)

Ha llegado el calor y me ha dejado planchado – The heat has arrived and it’s knocked me out (literally ‘it has ironed me’!)

Nos cuesta más dormir por la noche, y por la mañana se nos pegan las sabanas – It’s harder for us to get to sleep at night, and in the morning we can’t get out of bed (literally ‘the sheets stick to us’)

And a phrase Ben often uses at swimming pools:

Soy de secano – I’m not much of a water person (when someone asks me why I don’t get in the pool or the sea much)

And finally, a verb that is much used around June/July in Spain, veranear:

¿Donde veranáis? – Where are you going on holiday this summer?

Los Reyes siempre veranean en Mallorca – the Royals always go on their summer holiday in Mallorca.

More cool Spanish like this!

Remember, there is so much more cool Spanish like this in all our free Spanish-learning audios! We also highlight this type of phrase specifically in the worksheets for each level (available in our store).

Mas feliz que un regaliz – Spanish Happiness Phrases

Happiness Phrases

The following phrases can all be used in Spain (there may be variations in South/Latin America) to say that you, or someone else, are really happy:

Más feliz que un regaliz (literally, happier than liquorice)

Más feliz que una perdiz (literally, happier than a partridge)

Más contento que un niño con zapatos nuevos (happier than a child with new shoes)

e.g. ¿Cómo estás? … ¡Estoy más feliz que un regaliz!

Another favourite of ours:

Está como un pez en el agua – She’s really having a great time, she’s in her element, (literally ‘like a fish in water’. It’s strange that in English we say ‘like a fish out of water’ to mean the exact opposite!)

And if you just want to keep things simple, there’s no easier phrase in the world than:

Estoy super contento/a 🙂

¡Que seáis muy felices! – May you all be very happy!

– Ben y Marina

Real Spanish Love Phrases, Audio, and a Song

Here’s a bit of ‘Love’ Spanish for you, our lovely listeners! We are pretty sure that, like us, you love learning Real Spanish!

El amor es lo único que crece cuando se reparte.
– Antoine Saint-Exupery

¡Te quiero! – Spanish love phrases

I (Ben) remember how odd it was to walk around the streets of Madrid in my first months in Spain many years ago, hearing young couples say to each other ‘Te quiero’… literally meaning ‘I want you!’ This sounded a little strange to be saying to each other in the street all day long, until I discoved that in Spain it simply means, ‘I love you’, and is used (here, at least) much more frequently than ‘te amo’.

Here are a few more Spanish love phrases we like:

Amor a primera vista – Love at first sight

… or more commonly used:

“Lo nuestro fue un flechazo” – For us it was love at first sight

Encontrar pareja – To find a partner

Or much more poetic and romantic:

Encontrar tu media naranja – To find your perfect other half.

Our Love Audios

This is a great week to listen to our love-related audios again!

Notes in Spanish Gold Season 1 – Ep.12 – Amor y La Galaxia – Ben’s sister finds love, despite it being more likely to find aliens in our galaxy, and online dating flourishes in Spain.

Advanced Spanish Podcast 65 – San Valentin – ¿Cuál es la manera más común de celebrar el dí­a de los enamorados en tu paí­s?

Intermediate Spanish Podcast 20 – Amor – ¿Que es lo que hace la gente de tu pais la primera vez que queda con alguien?

Once Again, Our Favourite Spanish Love Song

Here’s Y Sin Embargo – from the most Madrileño Joaquin Sabina – with the stunning intro from Olga Roman – with such classic, love filled stanzas as:

Te quiero más que a mis ojos,
te quiero más que a mi vida,
más que al aire que respiro
y más que a la madre mía.

Here’s the video:

(Lyrics for the main song with Sabina, here, and the opening section here.)

Happy Spanish Learning! Ben y Marina

Find the worksheets, with full conversation transcripts, for the above Notes in Spanish audios in our store.

Quitameriendas, Spanish Compound Nouns, and call for help from Spanish teachers.


This beautiful flower, springing up all over the sierras north of Madrid recently as the summer weather gives way to autumn, is called a quitameriendas, because it appears at this time of year, when the cold weather is going to quitar (take away) our meriendas (snacks, or in this case, outdoor eating). It’s a flower which says, “the cold weather is on its way!”

I love these compound nouns – like rascacielos (meaning skyscraper, from rascar – to scratch or scrape and cielos, skies), girasoles (meaning sunflowers, beacuase they turn – girar – as they follow the sol – sun).

There are plenty moresacacorchos (corkscrew), abrelatas (tin opener), apagavelas (candle snuffer), but my favourite is:

Aguafiestas – a party pooper, spoilsport or wet blanket – someone who literally throws water on your party!

Update: Check out all the wonderful compound nouns listeners have added in the comments on this post!

Call for help from Spanish Teachers

We are delighted that our Spanish audios and worksheets are used in classrooms all over the world. We recently had a request from a teacher in the States for information about how teachers use our materials in their classes – but we don’t know exactly, so we thought we’d ask!

Update: The full teachers report is now ready here!

Asking for Help In Spanish

Here are some useful phrases for when you need a hand in Spanish!

¿Tienes un momentito (e.g. para ayudarme con la cena)? – Have you got a moment (e.g. to help me with dinner)?

¿Me puedes echar una mano (e.g. con mis deberes)? Can you lend me a hand (e.g. with my homework)?

Juan me echó un cable en la reunión cuando me quedé en blanco – Juan helped me out in the meeting when I went blank/couldn’t remember what I was going to say.

Si mi suegra se enrolla mucho, ¡échame un capote y dime que me necesitas! – If my mother in law starts going on and on, help me out and tell me that you need me!

(Note, echar un capote is a phrase that comes from the world of bullfighting, when the capote, or cape, was used by other bullfighters to distract a bull from further attacking an injured bullfighter on the ground – it’s a common phrase but does not mean that we condone bullfighting!)

Notice a few other great Real Spanish phrases from the above sentences:

Quedarse en blanco – to go blank / forget what you want to say

Enrollarse – to go and on

Not Spanish, But Great Anyway: Lending friends a hand!

I want to ‘echar un cable‘ to two great initiatives which, although they are not directly Spanish-learning related, you might like, or know someone who will.

First of all, my friend John and I have launched a site called Making Time To Live – it’s about getting out, away from the screen, and being more creative, and we’d love people all round the world to join in.

Check it out here:

Secondly, people often ask us if there is a ‘Notes in English’ – for Spanish friends or intercambios learning English – we don’t have one, but a great friend of mine has set up which works very much along Notes in Spanish lines, and is run by very talented people. Pass it on to your English learning Spanish friends!

Check it out here: (they also have a sale on at the moment, so it’s a good time to tell people about it!)

¡Buen fin de semana a todos!


Merienda time! Snacks and Food Vocabulary in Spanish

Spanish tapas


It’s revision/review time – Last year we emailed some of you about Spanish for snacks, and we wanted to make sure you all get this great Spanish language information:

It can often be confusing how the Spanish can have 3 different ways to say the same thing!

Having a between-meals snack is a classic example.

Spanish tapas

If I (Ben) am investigating the fridge for a snack Marina might say to me either of the following things:

Hmmm, hazme un piscolabis también…

A mi también me apetece un tentempié…

If it’s afternoon teatime, she’ll probably use ‘merienda’:

¿Vas a preparar la merienda?

So, piscolabis and tentempié are both wonderful sounding words used here in Spain for between-meal snacks and merienda is more for teatime, though it could be used for a morning snack in the context of what you send a child off to school with to keep her going until lunch.

Spanish tapas

The verb is often used too – voy a merendar algo, and the Spanish often talk about having an early merienda-cena, a ‘high-tea’ that fills you up enough to not need a proper supper later.

Spanish tapas

So snacking in Spain can sound like a complex business, but we like to make sure you are aware of all the variations!

Try using these in real life Spanish conversations!

Saludos desde Madrid,

Ben y Marina

Spanish Dark Humour, Useful Spanish Phrases and Video Revision!

Cool Spanish humour

The above statue was spotted near the Palacio Real by a friend as we walked around Madrid – some witty person has hung a sign around his neck:

Cool Spanish humour

‘No tengo ni pa’ ropa’ – with the ‘pa’ being short for ‘para’ to show it is mimicing coloquial speech.

No tengo ni para ropa – I can’t even afford clothes! (Which was clearly a bit of a dark joke in those times of financial crisis…)

More for you to sink your Spanish-learning teeth into…

First of all, 3 useful phrases we’ve come across in the last 24 hours and wanted to share:

¿Qué vamos a hacer para la cena esta tarde? ¿Comemos en casa o en un café? – What are we going to do for supper tonight – eat at home or in a cafe?
Pues, vamos a decidir sobre la marcha. – Well, let’s decide on the go/when the moment arrives.

Tengo un examen esta tarde – I’ve got an exam this afternoon.
Pues ya nos contarás que tal te ha ido – Well you can tell us later on how it went.

Lo que no mata engordaWhat doesn’t kill you will make you stronger (when Ben ate some bread with a bit of mould on the crust! This is a very typical Spanish phrase, literally meaning ‘what doesn’t kill you will make you fatter.)

Next up, time for some video revision!

Take a look at our Spanish table manners video again, very important to get this right if you ever eat in Spain!

If you like this video, there are more NIS videos here.

¿Qué tal las vacaciones? Spanish Holiday Expressions

La Selva Negra

Un lago en la Selva Negra…

Here is a quick round up of our summer holidays incorporating some useful Spanish expressions (in bold):

¡Ya estamos de vuelta! – We are back!

Hemos recorrido 6,500 km en coche por todo europa – We’ve covered 6,500 km around europe in the car.

Es posible que nuestro pobre coche no vuelva a ser el mismo… – It’s possible our poor car will never be the same again… [Note the Subjunctive (vuelva, from volver) after ‘es posible que‘ – have you got our Super-Subjunctive report yet?!]

Pasamos por Francia, Inglaterra, y Alemania… – We went through France, England and Germany.

Lo que mas nos gustó fue la Selva Negra – What we liked most was the Black Forest.

La vuelta desde Alemania se nos hizo un poco larga – The return journey from Germany felt a bit long.

Aproveché la visita a Francia para recuperar mi francés – I made the most of our time in France to get my French going again.

He metido la pata en varias ocasiones intentando hablar en francés y alemán – I put my foot in it a few times trying to speak French and German!

[This last point reminded me how easy it is to meter la pata in Spanish – see our essential “Top Ten Dead-Giveaways That You’re a Foreigner Speaking Spanish, Even if You Speak Well …!” post for how to avoid common Spanish mistakes!]

Feel free to leave us a comment below about how your summer went, using some of the expressions in bold above if you like, and keep up with your great Spanish learning progress using our real Spanish audio conversations and worksheets!

Learning Spanish Expressions – Vaya Tela!

May 10, 2011

Here is a great email we got recently from a listener (when it was still cold here in Madrid!):

“Hola Ben, I’m a big fan of your website and podcasts. They definitely helped me make the leap and move to Madrid. I’ve been here for a year and am having a great time.

Some real Spanish for you that you might like to share with the other users. This morning, I left home at 7.30 and it was freezing cold. I saw my “portera” on the way out of my building and she said to me “¡Vaya mañana!”

I think this use of “vaya” is very common in Spain and can be translated as “What a morning!” in English. I don’t know if you’ve written about this already, if not it could be interesting. All the best, E.”

That is a great use of Vaya, we love it! You could also use ‘Vaya mañana’ (What a morning!) if it was pouring with rain, or incredibly hot, or just if you’d had a hard start to the day!

Vaya is also often used in response to bad news, to mean ‘oh dear’:

Enrique: Me han despedido – I’ve been fired
Ben: Vaya, lo siento mucho – Oh dear, I’m really sorry

Here is another typical use of Vaya, in this wonderful and common expression:

Vaya tela – What a nightmare

For example:

Vaya tela que tienes con tu trabajo, además de tener un jefe inaguantable te han asignado el cliente más complicado – What a nightmare you?ve got at work. As well as having an unbearable boss, they’ve given you the most difficult client!

Fill your life with more Real Spanish now! Listen to our Real Spanish Conversations and pick up one of the Real Spanish learning products in our store!

Common Spanish Expressions: Getting Up on The Wrong Side of The Bed!

We wanted to share one or our favourite expressions, and other related vocab, from one of the episodes in our Gold Two program:

Hoy me he levantado con el pie izquierdo – I got up on the wrong side of the bed / in a really funny mood today.

You can also say the following two phrases, to mean the same thing:

Hoy me he levantado del revés – I got up in a really strange mood today
Hoy me he levantado un poco torcido – I got up in a funny mood today

“Torcido” literally means crooked, or bent, for example:

Ese marco está torcido – That frame is not straight (on the wall).

Tengo la columna torcida – My spine / back is a bit bent.

Here in Spain it is commonly used in other phrases to say that things haven’t gone quite right:

Después de hablar con mi jefe se me ha torcido el día – After speaking to my boss my day has gone completely wrong.

Se me ha torcido el viaje con la huelga de pilotos – My trip has gone out of the window due to the pilot’s strike.

Gold Season Two is full of real-life, organic Spanish like this, for upper intermediate and advanced learners.

Finding Spanish in the Strangest Places!


Sometimes I’m truly amazed by the places you can find new Spanish phrases…

The other day I was washing my hands in a public lavatory in Madrid’s Retiro park, when an old man came and stood at the next wash basin.

In a small room behind, the lavatory attendant was watching one of the hundreds of ‘tele-basura‘ Oprah-style afternoon talk shoes that Spanish TV is currently plagued by, and it seems they were talking about some celebrity’s new shoes!

Madre mía‘, said the old guy next to me, ‘sacan punta a cualquier cosa…

Sacar punta‘ literally means to sharpen your pencil, but it’s also used like this to mean ‘they squeeze a topic of conversation out of practically anything!’

If you’ve heard a useful/interesting Spanish phrase ‘out in the wild’ recently, please do leave a comment and let us know what it is!

Un saludo,


P.S. If you enjoy these ‘straight from real life’ phrases, then you’ll enjoy an audio I made a while ago, a special ‘Real Spanish Hunting’ mp3 with 20 more great phrases like these and details of just how I ‘found’ them – it’s available as an extra ‘secret’ bonus on the download page after you purchase anything from our store:

Spanish Conversation Starters, People Phrases, And News!

Junio 2, 2010

Spanish conversation
Find out how to talk to this lot in today’s downloads!

UNO: Super-Useful PDF’s!

¡Hola! We’ve been going through our personal archives this week, and have found a couple of great pdf’s that we realise we may not have given to everyone yet. Please download these now and add them to your collection if you haven’t got them yet!

Download 1: 11 Cool People Phrases in Spanish PDF
Real Street Spanish from Spain, to fit in with (or be rude about) the locals!

Download 2: Conversation Starters PDF
How NOT To Sound Like A Total Tourist In Spain!!

To download these special reports, click on the links above or right-click on the links, and select “save link/target as” to save the pdf’s to your desktop.

DOS: NIS Charities Update

Every year Notes in Spanish gives away up to 5% of profits from our Store to charity. We’ve recently updated our contributions, and want to thank YOU very much for helping us help these great causes. With your help, we’ve recently added donations for:

720 euros to Fapas to plant 120 more trees in Asturias (this is our second tree-planting donation, see a video about the first Fapas ‘NIS Forest’ here).
400 Euros to Maitreya Fonds, which supports charitable projects in Vietnam.
510 dollars to Care and Share, which sets up schools for orphans in India, amongst other projects.

We have contacts working with all of these charities, so we know they are trustworthy and doing great work!

TRES: Coming Soon!

Keep an eye on your email next week for new Notes in Spanish Videos, plus the best free gift we’ve ever given away… ever! All to celebrate the upcoming launch of a very, very special Notes in Spanish pack on June 14th. More news about that, and more great free Spanish learning content next week!

Uses of The Spanish Verb Dar! Free PDF Report!

¡Hola! We’ve got a great new free Spanish report for you, all about uses of the verb ‘Dar’.

In fact, we’ve come up with a total of 34 excellent ‘Dar’ phrases and expressions that are commonly used by Spanish speakers every day, and will help you to sound more Spanish than ever!

Download the special report here:

34 Uses of Dar! PDF

Let us know what you think! – Ben y Marina

P.S. We give stuff like this away to our newsletter subscribers all the time, make sure you are signed up via the form on the right >>>

Spanish illness and doctor phrases and vocabulary

[Download MP3]

In today’s special audio, part of our mission to help you have your best Spanish learning year ever, Ben and Marina look at useful Spanish vocabulary and phrases connected with going to the doctor and describing illness and symptoms.

Many thanks to Sarah for helping out with this great list! If you have any useful phrases to add, please do so in the comments!

Here’s the list of phrases we discuss in the audio:

encontrarse bien – to feel well
no encontrarse muy bien – to feel unwell
encontrarse fatal – to feel terrible
encontrarse fenomenal – to feel great

estar malo – to be ill
ser malo – to be a bad person

estar enfermo – to be ill (temporary)
ser enfermo / ser un enfermo – to be permanently ill, or mentally ill

estar pachucho/a – to be ill (slang from Spain)

estar ñoño/a – to be in a funny mood/clingy when kids are ill (slang from Spain)

“No estoy muy católico/a” – I’m feeling rotten (slang from Spain)

me duele la cabeza – I’ve got a headache
me duele la garganta – I’ve got a sore throat
me duele la espalda – I’ve got backache

tengo gripe – I’ve got the flu
tengo fiebre – I’ve got a fever
tengo una tos muy fea – I’ve got a horrible cough

Get hours more great Spanish in our free Spanish audio, and accompanying worksheets.

Pleasantries in Spanish – Keeping in with the Neighbours!

[Download MP3]

We recently got an email from Phil, who lives in Andalusia, about a bit of a problem:

“…one of the problems I have with my Spanish neighbours is just exchanging pleasantries, especially showing appreciation for things without just repeating ‘muchas gracias’ over and over again – as the British are wont to do!

They are forever giving us little gifts, inviting us to join them for meals etc, and sometimes we do , and other times we can’t. But I’d love to have a few more ways to say: That’s very kind of you; What a nice thought; What a lovely idea!; Oh, that would be lovely; Oh thank you, but we can’t today etc etc.”

Hopefully the audio above gives you a few more phrases for your arsenal Phil!

Here are the phrases we discuss in the audio above:

Que detalle mas bonito – What a lovely thought

Gracias por haberos acordado de nosotros – Thanks for thinking of us

Que buena idea – What a great idea

Que buen plan – What a great sounding plan

Nos encantaría – We’d love to

Nos encantaría, pero no podemos porque ya hemos quedado – We’d love to but we can’t as we’ve already made other plans

Estamos muy agradecidos estaba todo riquísimo – Thanks so much, it was all delicious

Es que no puedo porque tengo que ir al dentista – I can’t as I have to go to the dentist

Es que no me viene bien – It’s not convenient

Useful links:

For more on making excuses and ‘Quedar’, Listen to:
Inspired Beginners 14 – “Quedar”

For more useful Q and A sessions like this, join Notes in Spanish Gold! Sign Up Here Now!

Learning Spanish from Taxi Drivers!

One of the biggest Spanish learning tips I can give anyone who is likely to be spending some time in a Spanish speaking country, is:

Talk to taxi drivers! Despite the fact that a few of them are unscrupulous and grumpy, most are incredibly friendly, and delighted to have an interesting chat with the foreigner (you and I) in the back seat.

I’ve learned so many interesting Spanish phrases from taxi drivers, and this weekend I got another, real classic.

I was chatting away to the driver about how well you can eat ‘on the cheap’ in Spain with a good old lunchtime ‘menu del dia’ (3 course set lunch).

But, he said (getting suddenly worked up), it wan’t the same in London, oh no, just about everywhere you eat lunch in London:

“¡Te fusilan! ¡Te fusilan!”

Fusilar = To shoot, execute by firing squad!

What a great way to say you get charged way too much!

He went on to describe all the ways in which you can also get fusilado, overcharged, here in Spain….

Eat ‘a la carte’ instead of a menu del dia? ¡Te fusilan!
Add an expensive bottle of wine to your meal? ¡Te fusilan!

So there we have it. Talk to taxi drivers! They have all the best words and phrases!

If you don’t think you’ll be traveling in a Spanish taxi soon, don’t worry! Just about every great Spanish expression I’ve every learned in the back of a Madrid cab is included (with full pronunciations from Marina) in our sound-super-authentic ‘Real Spanish Phrase Book and Audio Guide’: Click here to check it out and get more fluent now!

New! Our Real Spanish Phrase Book and Audio Guide!

When I started learning Spanish here in Spain over 10 years ago, one of the things that most motivated and inspired me was picking up and trying out the real Spanish phrases and expressions used by Spanish people in their everyday conversations. With Marina’s help I’ve been collecting these colloquial expressions for years, and at last we have finished a really exciting project that means we can share them with you.

Our Real Spanish Phrase Book and Audio Guide contains over 100 of these wonderful, typical Spanish phrases, with over 1 hour and 20 minutes of exclusive audio that won’t be released in any of the usual podcast feeds. We really think this is going to be tremendously useful and exciting for anyone learning Spanish, no matter what your level.

Check it out here for full details:

The Real Spanish Phrase Book and Audio Guide


1. Más terco que una mula. (literal translation – More stubborn than a mule)

Significado real: Expresión que se usa para referirse a alguien muy muy cabezota. Cabezota es aquella persona que cuando se le mete una idea en la cabeza no hay manera de hacerle cambiar de opinión.

Explicación: Supongo que las mulas son muy cabezotas;-)

Ejemplo 1:
Mi hijo pequeño es más terco que una mula. Ha dicho que no se va a poner traje para la boda de su hermano y no hay manera de hacerle cambiar de opinión.

2. Meter entre ceja y ceja. (literal translation – To insert between the eyebrows)

Significado real: Expresión que se usa para indicar que alguien tiene una idea o un deseo y que no va a parar hasta hacerlo realidad.

Traducción: To get something into one’s head

Ejemplo 1:

A mi novio se le ha metido entre ceja y ceja que en verano nos vamos a ir de vacaciones al Caribe y no hay manera de hacerle cambiar de opinión. ¡Con el miedo que me dan a mi los aviones!

¿Se os ocurre alguna otra frase relativa a los cabezotas?


1. De pascuas a ramos. (literal translation – From easter to bunches)

Significado real: Expresión que se usa para indicar que algo no ocurre muy a menudo.

Explicación: El periodo de la Semana Santa va desde el domingo de Ramos, dí­a en que comienza la Semana Santa, al Domingo de Pascua o Resurrección, una semana más tarde.

Ejemplo 1:
– Ana le pregunta a Lola – ¿Has visto a Juan últimamente?
– Lola le contesta – No. Desde que tiene novia nos vemos de pascuas a ramos.

2. De higos a brevas (literal translation – From fig to… fig)

Significado real: Tiene exactamente el mismo significado que la frase anterior.

Explicación: En la zona del Mediterráneo la higuera tiene dos cosechas: una que coincide con la entrada del verano, y que produce un fruto de mayor tamaño llamado breva, y una segunda cosecha que produce un fruto llamado higo. La palabra inglesa para ambos frutos es “fig”. Si algo pasa de higos a brevas es que pasa cada muchos meses.

Ejemplo 1:

– Pepe le dice a Carlos- ¿Vas a ir a ver el partido este domingo?
– Carlos contesta – No, desde que cambié de trabajo voy al fútbol de higos a brevas. Ahora trabajo por turnos y casi siempre me toca trabajar los fines de semana.

¿Se os ocurre alguna otra frase de este estilo?

Hay que aprender a decir que NO

1. Ni viva, ni muerta. (literal translation – Neither alive nor dead!)

Significado real: Expresión informal que se usa para indicar que no quieres hacer algo, que no lo harí­as viva ni tampoco muerta.

Ejemplo 1:
– Marina le dice a una amiga por teléfono – Esta noche he quedado a tomar sushi con unas amigas. ¿Te quieres venir?
– Su amiga le contesta – No gracias. Yo no tomo pescado crudo ni viva ni muerta.

2. Me niego en redondo (literal translation – I refuse in round)

Significado real: Expresión que se puede utilizar en situaciones tanto formales como informales y que expresa una negación rotunda.

Ejemplo 1:

– El jefe de Juan le dice- El jueves que viene te tienes que ir a Paris durante 5 dí­as a ver a un cliente.
– Juan le contesta- Me niego en redondo, ya te dije que ese fin de semana no podí­a viajar, además he estado en cinco sitios distintos en las tres últimas semanas ¿No puede ir uno de mis compañeros?

¿Conocéis alguna otra frase para decir que NO?

Toothy phrases

1. ¡A caballo regalado no le mires el diente! (literal translation – To a given horse don’t look its teeth)

Significado real: La boca del caballo nos permite conocer con bastante exactitud la edad del animal, por eso es un de los puntos clave para saber el valor que tiene. Lo que dice este dicho es que si alguien te regala un caballo, o cualquier otra cosa, que no critiques o pongas pegas a la calidad o las caracterí­sticas del regalo.

Ejemplo 1:
– Laura le dice a su amiga Irene – ¡Mira el bolso que me ha regalado mi madre!… lo único que es marrón y yo lo hubiera preferido negro.
– Irene le contesta a Laura – ¡A caballo regalado no le mires el diente!

2. Poner los dientes largos (literal translation – Put the teeth longer)

Significado real: Presumir de algo o hacer que una persona desee lo que otra tiene.

Ejemplo 1:

– Ben le dice a un amigo- Te voy a poner los dientes largos con el super portátil que me acabo de comprar… ahora mismo te lo enseño.

Ejemplo 2:

– Juan le dice a Álvaro – Estoy muy contento porque la semana que viene me marcho de viaje a recorrer Argentina durante tres semanas

– Álvaro le contesta – ¡No me pongas los dientes largos! ¡Qué me acabo de cambiar de trabajo y no voy a poder cogerme unas vacaciones tan largas hasta por lo menos dentro de un año!

¿Conocéis alguna otra expresión que hagan referencia a alguna parte del cuerpo?