Expressions natives use

Expressions natives use

Everybody wants to talk like a native, right?

Part of that is achieved through pronunciation and fluency speaking, part through grammar knowledge and part through using the right vocabulary and expressions, that are relevant and common at the moment in time, not lost in past textbooks.

Let's help a bit with that last part. I think it's very important to teach students the words and phrases we natives use daily, otherwise old fashioned Spanish will be a huge give away!

Warning: Lots of these are pronominal/reflexive verbs so I'll highlight that.


  • Llevar bien/mal/genial... + [insert situation]

To deal with something well/bad/great

¿Cómo llevas el cambio? - How are you dealing with the change?
Lo llevo bien - I'm dealing with it well

  • Tener que ver con - To have to do with

¿Qué tiene que ver mi hermana con esto? - What does my sister have to do with this?

Eso no tiene nada que ver con lo que estamos hablando - That doesn't have anything to do with what we're talking about.

  • Hacerse con
    To get yourself something /buy for yourself

Me hice con una aspiradora nueva - I got myself a new vacuum cleaner.

  • Tener ilusión (de)
    To have excitement /to be excited (about)

Tengo mucha ilusión de ir de vacaciones - I'm very excited to go on holidays.

  • Tener ganas (de)
    To feel like doing something

Laura tiene tantas ganas de dormir - Laura feels like sleeping so much.

  • Ir + gerund (-ando/iendo)
    To gradually do something

Voy estudiando cada día - I study each day (gradually, bit by bit).

  • Estar + gerund (-ando/iendo)
    To be doing something

He estado preparando una fiesta - I have been preparing a party.

This last two structures can mean the same in perfect tense:

He ido preparando una fiesta - I have been preparing a party.

And they're also similar to the following one:

  • Llevar tiempo + gerund (-ando/iendo)
    To be doing something for some time

Lleváis tiempo evitando la visita - You guys have been avoiding the visit.

  • Animar a + someone
    To cheer someone up

  • Animarse
    To cheer up (yourself)

¡Anímate! - Cheer up!

Tenemos que hacer algo para animar a Pablo - We have to do something to cheer Pablo up.

  • Permitirse
    To afford

No puedes permitirte tener una casa grande/No te puedes permitir tener una casa grande - You can't afford having a big house.

  • Quedar bien/mal
    To look good/mal on (piece of clothing) /or socially

¡Ese abrigo te queda muy bien! - This coat looks very good on you!

Si no traes un regalo, quedarás mal - If you don't bring a present, you'll look bad.

  • Venir bien a + someone
    To be good for /to suit you

Nos vendría muy bien descansar - It would be very good for us to rest.

No me viene bien quedar a las 7 - It doesn't suit me to meet at 7.

  • Deshacerse de
    To get rid of

Me deshice de viejos libros de texto - I got rid of old textbooks.

  • Estropearse
    To deteriorate (objects) /to go bad (food) /to break down (machines).

Note: Deteriorarse is the formal form.

La lavadora se estropeó - The washing machine broke down.
Los tomates se estropearon - The tomatoes went bad.
La pintura se estropea al aire libre - The paint deteriorate in the open air.

  • Encargarse de + infinitive
    To take charge/ take care of doing something

Me encargué de contratar un nuevo traductor - I took care /I took charge of hiring a new translator.

  • Ni
    Not even

Ni vinieron - The didn't even come.

  • Aun así
    Even then/ even so

Es un capullo, sí, pero aun así no creo que debamos ser injustos con él - He's a jerk, yes, but even so I don't think we should be unfair with him.

  • Al final
    Eventually/in the end

Al final, los malos acabaron en la carcel - In the end/eventually, the bad ones ended up in prison.

  • Por si
    In case + something happens

Dejé un trozo de tarta en la nevera por si cenas aquí - I left a bit of cake in the fridge in case you have dinner here.

  • Por si acaso
    Just in case

Llevo un jersey por si acaso - I bring a jumper just in case.

  • Presumir de
    To brag about /to show off

Presume de coche todo el tiempo - He brags about his car all the time.

  • A la vez
    At the same time

No puedo hacer mis deberes y ver la tele a la vez - I can't do my homework and watch tv at the same time.

  • De fondo
    In the background

Sin embargo, puedo trabajar con música de fondo - However, I can work with music in the background.


  • Pasta - money
  • Pastón - a fortune

No tengo mucha pasta - I don't have a lot of money.

Javier se gastó un pastón en unas gafas de realidad virtual - Javier spent a fortune in some virtual reality glasses.

  • Pesado/a
    Someone who is tiresome, irritant,annoying.

  • ¡Dios mío, qué pesado eres! - Oh my god, you're so annoying!

Note: Remember that if you use "ser" you'll be talking about someone being a tiresome/irritant/annoying person all the time, but if you use "estar" it'll mean that the person is acting that way temporarily!

  • "Más te vale"+ infinitive
    You better do something

¡Más te vale ordenar tu habitación ahora mismo! - You better tidy your room right now!

  • "Más te vale que" + something happens (subjunctive)
    You better hope + something happens

Más te vale que esto funcione - You better hope this works.

Note: Obviousy, these two can be directed to other people than "you":

Más me vale acabar esto pronto - I better finish this soon.

Más le vale que la ropa esté lista - He better hopes the clothes are ready.

  • Te va!
    It suits you!

Este bolso te va - This handbag suits you.

  • Es tan tú!
    It's so you!

¡Esa música es tan tú! - That music is so you!

  • Pasarse
    To go too far

Yo dije cosas feas, pero él se pasó - I said ugly things but he went too far.

  • Hacer como que
    To pretend

Hacía como que sabía la respuesta pero no era verdad - She pretended she knew the answer but it wasn't true.


  • Bueno, - Well,+pause

Bueno, vamos a ir paso a paso - Well, we're going to go step by step.

  • Pues... - Well...(before giving an answer)

¿Vas a venir a mi cumpleaños? - Are you going to come to my birthday? estoy segura - Well...I'm not sure.

  • O sea - ok, so...(that means that...)

A - Va a llover, está un tiempo horrible.
B- O sea, que no vamos, ¿no?

A - It's going to rain, the weather is horrible
B - Ok, so (that means that) we don't go, right?

  • Vale - Ok

  • Es que... - It's just that... /What happens is that...

¿Puedes cerrar la ventana? Es que me olvidé la chaqueta - Can you close the window? It's just that I forgot the jacket.

  • Que... - Emphasis / because

¿Puedes salir del baño, que llevas una hora ahí? - Can you leave the bathroom, that/because you've been an hour in there?

Well, these are all I have written down in the past months, specially in lessons when these would come up.

I was happy with the final list, and I think it's really all you need, so I thought I'd better stop there or this post would be even longer than it is!! haha

If you have any question about the meaning or the use of any of these, leave a comment below.

¡Hasta luego! :D