As we mentioned in our previous post, learning expressions is an integral part of mastering the Spanish language. In many cases, such sayings may seem strange — or even humorous, as we discussed in our most recent entry. Funny or not though, expressions are often used to express concepts that are familiar and common knowledge, or conversely to say something in a more delicate manner. In this post we are going to talk about four common sayings in Spanish that you’ll certainly want to know — two of which are articulated often in English and two which are not!

A quien madruga dios le ayuda

What happens to the early worm?

Absolutely everyone has heard the famous saying “The early bird gets the worm.” As none of us are actually birds, however, this is somewhat difficult to conceptualize, but we can imagine that these words are merely admonishing us not to spend the day in bed, for it would be rather unproductive. The same expression exists in Spanish, but is articulated in a different fashion: A quien madruga, dios le ayuda. This translates literally to “He who gets up early, God helps.” Although not said in the same way, the concept is similar. Of course in English it’s not unlikely to hear the sarcastic reply “…but the early worm gets eaten”. We’d say to take your sarcasm elsewhere, but there is also a similar reply in Spanish, as well: Un costal encontró el que madrugó; pero más madrugó el que lo perdió (lit. A potato sack found the one who got up early, but the one who lost it got up even earlier).


April showers…

We all remember out kindergarten teacher trying to explain the seasons too us as children, for which we’ve definitely heard the expression “April showers bring May flowers.” Although Madrid is not known for having four distinct seasons, the same saying exists here — and even adds March to the equation! In Spain people say Marzo ventoso y abril lluvioso sacan a mayo florido y hermoso, meaning “A windy March and rainy April bring a flowery and beautiful May.” Perhaps you’ve always thought this was merely a nursery rhyme, in which case, you’ll have to come to Madrid and weigh it up for yourself!


In a hurry? Don’t rush!

Despite the existence of an English-language equivalent, I think most Americans are well used to being in a hurry almost all the time. Thus, the idea of going slowly is not much of a concept in general. Perhaps your grandmother had a saying for this, but Spaniards say Vísteme despacio, que tengo prisa. Literally, this expression translates to “Dress me slowly because I’m in a hurry.” The concept here is that when we rush in doing something, we often make mistakes or do whatever we’re doing sloppily. Try it next time you’re running out the door and see if you don’t forget anything this time.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again

One nail drives out another?

Perhaps you’ve never heard this saying in English, but it does exist, albeit more of a translation from Romance languages. The Spanish — and very common — equivalent is Un clavo saca otro clavo. This phrase is uttered regularly all around the kingdom and applies primarily to love, dating, and relationships. The meaning, as one can imagine, is that the best way to forget somebody is to start seeing someone else. Although not everyone would agree with this, any American would see the logic in a very common saying we have in the States: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. I suppose the concept isn’t so different after all.


More to Follow

Learning sayings in Spanish is by far one of the funniest aspects of the language, particularly when the imagery is comical. There are many more to learn, but hopefully these last two posts will get you started.