Top 10 strange Spanish sayings every linguist should know

Last updated: Sep 7th, 2022

The Spanish language has its fair share of strange sayings and peculiar proverbs. Teaching your young linguists proverbs and idioms is an important part of learning, especially as they form a significant part of everyday language and can give an insight into culture and values.

We’ve handpicked some of the most memorable sayings that will have your language learners sounding like native speakers in no time… as well as giving them a giggle!

Spanish Saying

Literal translation

English Meaning

Vivieron felices y comieron perdices (y a mí no me dieron).

They lived happily and ate partridge (and didn’t give me any). And they lived happily ever after.

Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente.

The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current. You snooze, you lose.

A falta de pan, buenas son tortas.

 If there’s no pan, cakes will do. Beggars can’t be choosers.

El que quiera pescado que se moje el culo.

He who wants fish should get his bum wet. If you want something, get it yourself.

Poner las pilas

Put in your batteries. Put some effort into it.

Hablando del rey de Roma

Speaking of the king of Rome. Speak of the devil

Cuando el río suena, agua lleva.

When the river makes noise, it’s carrying water. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

El que madruga coge agua clara.

He who rises early gets clear water. Early bird gets the worm.

Quien fue a Sevilla perdió su silla.

He who went to Sevilla, lost his seat. Move your feet, lose your seat.

No hay mal que por bien no venga.

There’s no bad from which something good doesn’t come. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Find out more about immersing your students in Spanish culture and language on an international trip by visiting