8 Spanish expressions that do not make sense in English Spanish expressions are weird, we know that, but weird does not mean that we can’t have fun learning them, sometimes weird means fun, which is good. If you keep reading you will see.

I think humour is important, very important, always, yes!Even in the Spanish language. When you laugh you enjoy, and when you enjoy you create an attachement to that moment, and that in the learning process means you will remember it easier, if you make a connection when you learn you will learn it.

That is why today I am trying to make you laugh, or at least smile with these 8 Spanish expressions that do not make sense in English, they are typical sentences that we Spaniards use and we are so used to them, but the rest of the world find them weird…

As usual, when you try to learn expressions forget about what they say and think about what they want to say, the meaning.




8 Spanish expressions that do not make sense in English


1-Ponerse las pilas in Spanish, translate into English “Put in your batteries”

Actual meaning- to take action, in English you would say something like “to get fired up”, “let’s crack on”


Example- If you need to finish a project by the end of the week at work, or an essay at uni, and you have been delaying it, you will need to say to yourself

-“Más vale que me ponga las pilas, si quiero terminar esto a tiempo”

I better crack on if I want to have this done on time

2-Tirar la casa por la ventana in Spanish, translate into English “To throw the house through the window”

Actual meaning- let’s do it besides the cost of it, something like to spare no expenses or to pull out all the stops.


Example-If your friend is throwing a huge party for Halloween you can comment with your other friends

-“¿Has oído que en la fiesta de Carmen va a haber un dj? !Va a ser una gran fiesta, está tirando la casa por la ventana!”

-Have you heard that Carmen is having a dj at her party? It is going to be a huge party, she is sparing no expenses

3- No saber ni papa de algo in Spanish, in English “not to know even a potato about something”

Actual meaning- not have a idea about something, it is common to heard in English not have a clue.


Example-If you have  a friend that recently has found a job in something not relate at all with their previous job or studies you could think

-“Me pregunto como Óscar ha conseguido el trabajo en informática, pensaba que no sabía ni papa de ordenadores…”

-I wonder how Óscar got that IT job, I thought he did not have a clue about computers..


#note-sometimes we use the verb “tener”-to have instead of “saber” with the same meaning, it is just a variation.


#note2– normally “ni papa” means nothing


no entiendo ni papa de españolI don’t understand a word in Spanish

-cuando le pregunté no dijo ni papawhen I asked him, he didn’t say a word/nothing

-no escuché ni papaI did not listen nothing


4-Cazar moscas in Spanish, in English you say “to hunt flies”

Actual meaning-to be distracted, I do not think you have an English equivalent of this one, just to not pay attention might be the closer.


Example-When I am on a lesson and some of my students gets distract I will get his/her attention back saying

-“¿Has cazado muchas moscas?”

Have you caught a lot of lies?


#note-we can say someone is on the moon-“estar en la luna” to say they are distracted too.


5- Buena onda in Spanish means “good wave” in English

The actual meaning is a simple good! We use it when someone o something is good and you like it, you probably would say good vibes in English.


Example-you have met the new girlfriend of a friend and your other girlfriend ask you if you liked her (typical!) if you do you could say

-“Sí, parece muy buena chica, me dio buena onda.”

Yes, she seems like a really good vibe, she gave me a good vibe.

6-Disfrutar como un enano in Spanish is “to enjoy yourself as a dwarf” in English

Actual meaning, to have a great time and it would be something like to have a whale of a time in English or to have a blast


Example-Do you remember Vanesa’ s Halloween party from example 2, the one who throw the houses through the window to host a great party, well you probably have fun so you could say

-“Me alegro de haber ido a casa de Vanesa para la fiesta, me lo disfruté  como los enanos”

I am glad I went to Vanesa’s party, I had a blast

7-Tirar los tejos in Spanish,translated into English “Throw disks to someone”

The actual meaning of this sentences is not other than to flirt, or in common language to hit on someone


Example-If you always go to a coffee shop with a friend and he always get better tricks than you do, like and extra chocolate from the waitress, you could joke with him saying

-“Creo que la camarera te está tirando los tejos, siempre te sonríe, siempre te da más chocolate…”

-I think the waitress is trying to hit on you, she always smiles at you, she always give you more chocolates…

8-Tener más cara que espalda in Spanish is “to have more face than back”

Actual meaning is to be cheeky, or in other words…to have a lot of cheek


Example- If you have  cheeky friend that always gets away with thing because he is not shy you can say

-“No sé como lo hace Alfonso pero siempre sale airoso de cualquier situación, !tiene más cara que espalda!”

I do not know what Alfonso does, but he always gets away in any situacion,  he is so cheeky!


#note-tener más cara que espalda has several variations “tener mucho morro, ser un caradura or ser un jeta” are some of them.

#note 2– as many other times depending on the relationship among the speakers and the tone of the voice it can have an affectionate meaning or a bad connotation.


Well my friends that is all for today, I hope you enjoyed them, because they are more to come 🙂

And as I told you at the beginning my main purpose with this blog was to draw a smile on your face with the Spanish language, I hope I got that too.


Now…it is your turn, let me know in the comments below if you have heard any of these sentences before, or if you have any other Spanish sentences you find particular crazy or that don’t make any sense at all, or at least they didn’t at the beginning, share the fun of learning Spanish! I am looking forward to reading all your comments.


Homework as usual, I want to leave you with an actionable one, so if you have time I want you to think in one situation where you can use one of the above sentences, feel free to leave a comment with it below and I will have a look and let you know if you got it right.

Feliz día, hablamos pronto-!Happy day! We speak soon 🙂


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8 Responses to “8 Spanish expressions that do not make sense in English”

  1. Harris

    Me encantan estas frases, Blanca. Gracias por compartirlas. Había oído “cazar moscas” anteriormente. La usaría para describir a una persona que mira a su móvil durante una peli. “No la escuches. Ella no sabe nada de esa película porques cazaba moscas mientras la veía.”

    ¿Conoces “Más linda que nalga de monja?”

  2. Natalia

    Conozco una expresion muy similar “no entiendo ni papa”. Recuerdo tambien una expresion que es muy divertida y literalmente no tiene sentido en ingles “estar para parar un tren”. Homework: Cuando ves una persona que esta para parar un tren no puedes cazar moscas.

    • blancadt

      Jaja Natalia, !perfecto! La frase es genial, dos expresiones en 1 🙂 a eso llamamos “matar dos pájaros de un tiro” 🙂 y “no entender ni papa”, lo mismo “no entender nada” 🙂

  3. Silvia

    Estoy feliz como lombriz

  4. Silvia

    mangas por hombr

  5. Silvia

    mangas por hombro

  6. Sentences made in Spain | Spanish Connection

    […] why? Because it means the same, if you can’t remember or you did not read the blog, have a read here http://spanishconnectionedinburgh.co.uk/8-spanish-expressions-that-do-not-make-sense-in-english/ and […]

  7. Elliott

    Enjoyed your sayings ! There is an English expression for ” cazar moscas” it’s
    ” away with the fairies ” As in ” you were away with the fairies then David ! “


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