Spanish Idioms, Idiomatic Expressions and Sayings
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Idioms, or "modismos" as they are know in Spanish, are words or expression whose meaning cannot be completely understood solely from the words used. Attempting to translate a Spanish idiom word-for-word will result in complete confusion. Idioms are used in a figurative sense. For example, in the sentence "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me", there are no real bones breaking or sticks involved. The point being made is that words have no power if the victim does not give power to them. As opposed to a stick, or a baseball bat, which really can break human bones whether the victim wishes to give the stick power or not. We can use this idiom to describe any event that involves verbal bullying and threats.
You may not be aware of it, but while you are studying Spanish idioms, you will also be learning Spanish personal pronouns, Spanish reflexive pronouns, and Spanish direct object pronouns. It is simply impossible to construct some idioms without the use of pronouns!
Learning Spanish idioms is not a trivial task since idioms vary in every country where Spanish is spoken. However, idioms are necessary for day-to-day communication because all languages are full of idioms. Native speakers, regardless of the language they speak, use idioms spontaneously. Anyone learning a new language will find idioms almost impossible to understand. For example, if someone were to tell you that he wanted to "show you the ropes", and you are not familiar with this expression, you would have no idea that he offering to teach you how to perform a certain task. Of course, it would be useful if you knew that the expression was originally used on sailing ships, where an experienced seaman had to show a "greenhand" how to handle the ropes of the boat. Of course, if you do not understand the idiom "greenhand", then you may not understand my explanation. This strengthens my point!
Let's look at a Spanish idiom used in Mexico and Central America, "pan comido". The literal translation of “pan comido” is “bread eaten” - it simply means that something is very easy to do. In English, we would say, "piece of cake". For example: “Matemática es pan comido.” (Math is a piece of cake.)
"Tomar el pelo" is another Spanish idiom you will hear frequently. “Tomar el pelo” literally means “to take the hair”. You use this to say that someone is tricking or making fun of someone else in a good-natured way. So if a someone tells you that Hilary Clinton is honest, you would be correct to respond: “Me está tomando el pelo.” (You’re pulling my leg.)
I love this Spanish idiom which is used in Span, "pedir peras al olmo", or "to ask the elm tree for pears". This expression is used when discussing impossible tasks. You can say: "Querer que Salvador llegue a tiempo es pedir peras al olmo." (Wanting Salvador to be on time is asking for the impossible.)