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Learning Spanish Using Sayings and Expressions!

Sayings and expressions can be reminders that people around the world have more similarities than differences. Although all cultures have their own singularity, we think, feel and experience similar things. Most expressions have equivalents in all languages. Sometimes they are literal translations. Sometimes we use different words, analogies, metaphors, which illustrate the same ideas. I often use sayings in my Spanish lessons. Students connect with them and we always have something to say about their vocabulary, grammar, or cultural attributes.

Let’s talk about one as an example. “Birds of a feather flock together” in Spanish is:

Dios los cría y ellos se juntan.

The literal translation for this is "God raises them and they get together". So how is this the

equivalent of “birds of a feather flock together”? Let’s break it down. Who are ellos? Literally

ellos are those who are alike and who are getting together (juntarse is a reflexive verb). I

suppose the getting together is done independent of God’s influence. However, God does

create them and they do what they do, flock together. Here we notice the religious influence,

which isn’t the case in the English version, although there are plenty of religious expressions in English.

Regarding grammar:

What is los? Los is them, a direct object pronoun that replaces ellos, in this case them are

people. Ellos refers to people who flock together, because they are alike (ellos se juntan). Los is a direct object pronoun because the transitive verb criar, to raise, requires an object. In other words, the subject, God in this case, needs to be raising someone: los, them. People are being raised “directly” by God.

Why do we say “se” before the verb juntan? Because the verb juntarse is reflexive, and since

we are using the pronoun ellos, we use the reflexive particle “se” before the verb. If it were the first person yo, we would say me junto. Now with other pronouns:

tú te juntas,

ella / él se junta,

nosotros nos juntamos,

ustedes se juntan,

vosotros os juntáis –in Spain.

All this in a single expression!

It’s not necessary to fully understand the grammar behind a phrase before using it –although it often helps in the learning process. Sometimes we use language before understanding it, and sometimes it is the opposite. In any case, using expressions can be useful and fun. Beginner and intermediate students get excited to be able to say a meaningful phrase in Spanish, and the most advanced students are happy to add another bit of culture to their repertoire.

Here are other sayings which can teach you a lot!

Better safe than sorry. Mejor prevenir que curar.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. El que mucho abarca poco aprieta.

Every cloud has a silver lining. No hay mal que por bien no venga.

The early bird catches the worm. Al que madruga, Dios le ayuda.

Don't judge a book by its cover. Las apariencias engañan.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. De tal palo, tal astilla.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando.

Better late than never. Mejor tarde que nunca.

A picture is worth a thousand words. Una imagen vale más que mil palabras.

Actions speak louder than words. Mejor que decir, es hacer.

Easy come, easy go. Lo que fácil viene, fácil se va.

Fortune favors the bold. El que no arriesga no gana.

The next two expressions are not very common in Spanish. So if I use them in Spanish with

friends, they think I’m clever. Another hidden gem of bilingualism I guess.

Hope for the best, expect the worst. Espera lo mejor, prepárate para lo peor.

The grass is always greener on the other side. El jardín del vecino siempre parece más verde.

~ If you enjoyed this article please share it with friends and give my page a like on Facebook! I’m a Spanish teacher based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Since 2007 I have been exclusively teaching Spanish to people from all over the world. Whether looking for an online Spanish tutor, or in person while visiting Buenos Aires, please reach out to me with any questions you might have!~
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