In this blog, we thought we’d take a look at some more frases idiomáticas (idiomatic phrases) and refranes (idioms) related to the world of animals

As in any language, Spanish has a rich range of colloquial vocabulary that you should try to learn and use when speaking Spanish to help you sound more natural. Obviously, we don’t mean that you should throw an idiom into every sentence, otherwise you’ll sound a bit raro (weird)! However, as in your lengua materna (native language), using them when appropriate is a good thing to do. As you learn more Spanish you’ll come across lots of these sorts of phrases so it’s best to apuntarlos (write them down) so you remember them later. To get you started, let’s recap a few basic animals (animals).

Nombres de animales en español

Español Inglés
Bear (un) oso
Bull (un) toro
Cat (un) gato
Chicken (un) pollo
Cow (una) vaca
Dolphin (un) delfín
Dog (un) perro
Donkey (un) burro
Goat (una) cabra
Horse (un) caballo
Mouse (un) ratón
Octopus (un) pulpo
Pig (un) cerdo
Rabbit (un) conejo
Shark (un) tiburón
Sheep (una) oveja
Turkey (un) pavo

So there you have some of the most common animals in Spanish. Let’s now take a look at some idiomatic language which includes a few of the animals from our list!

Coger el toro por los cuernos – Take the bull by the horns

If you’re an English speaker, you’ll probably already know this phrase as it’s exactly the same in both languages. It means that, when faced with a difficult task or situation, you need to tackle it with courage and deal with the issue instead of being afraid. Por ejemplo, Paula no quiere romper son su novio, pero debe coger el toro por los cuernos y hacerlo porque está muy infeliz y estaría mejor sin él en su vida. (Paula doesn’t want to break up with her boyfriend, but she should just take the bull by the horns and do it as she’s really unhappy and would be better off without him in her life). You see here the usage is exactly the same too, so take advantage of phrases like this when learning Spanish and incorporate them into your own speech!

Llevarse como el perro y el gato – To get on like the dog and the cat

How well do cats and dogs get on? Well, we don’t know about your pets, but in Spanish they don’t get on at all! This phrase means when people have a very poor relationship and don’t like each other. Por ejemplo, Juan y su hermano Pablo se llevan como el perro y el gato. Siempre se están peleando, nunca quieren compartir sus juguetes y me están volviendo loco. (Juan and his brother Pablo really don’t get on well at all. They’re always fighting, never want to share their toys and they’re driving me mad).  

Estar en la edad de pavo – To be in the turkey age

You’re probably thinking, what does “the turkey age” mean? It’s that awkward time when children start to become teenagers, or even a bit earlier, as they hit puberty and all the hormones rush in to make them be a bit rebellious and irritable. We’ve all gone through this phase, and some people take a bit longer to come out of it than others (I’m sure you know someone who still acts like this as an adult!). Here’s an example of how to use it in context. Mi hija se ha puesto muy rebelde y casi nunca me escucha. Supongo que está en la edad de pavo aunque es muy difícil tener paciencia con ella últimamente. (My daughter has become really rebellious and hardly ever listens to me. I guess she’s at an awkward age but it’s really difficult to be patient with her recently).

A caballo regalado, no le mires el diente – Never look a gift horse in the mouth

Here’s another useful refrán (idiom) which will be recognisable to English-speaking readers. This one, if you don’t know, means that you should always accept gifts graciously and not complain or be negative about the fact that someone has given you a present, even if you don’t like or want it. Let’s see how we can use it. Mi madre me compró unos pantalones verdes, que normalmente nunca me pondría. Pero luego pensé a caballo regalado, no le mires el diente y simplemente le dije “gracias”. (My mum bought me some green trousers, which I’d never normally wear. But then I thought to myself “Never look a gift horse in the mouth” and I just said “thanks” to her.)

Estar como una cabra – To be like a goat

Ok, what is a goat like? To a Spanish speaker a goat acts a bit weirdly, is a bit eccentric or might even be totally crazy. This expression, therefore, can be thought of as similar to “to be a bit odd” at one end of the spectrum, right up to “to be off your rocker” at the other extreme end of the crazy scale. It’s not the most polite of expressions, as you might imagine, so you need to be careful when using it! Please don’t start saying this about your boss, your partner or someone’s mum! Anyway, here’s un ejemplo (an example) of it in use in a conversation:

Persona A: ¡Mira a Mario! Está bailando encima de la mesa y gritando. ¿Qué le pasa?

Persona B: Seguro que está borracho. Ha bebido un montón.

Persona A: Vaya, ¡está como una cabra! ¡A ver qué dice su hermana cuando llegue!

(Person A: Look at Mario! He’s dancing on the table and shouting. What’s wrong with him?

Person B: He must be drunk. He’s drunk loads.

Person A: Wow, he’s off his rocker! Let’s see what his sister says when she gets here!)

So, that’s five animal-related phrases for you to start using when you’re speaking Spanish. In your Spanish classes at Hablamos, we’ll have you using all of these and more in natural, authentic conversations in no time. Why not take a look at our courses, both face-to-face and online, and improve your level of Spanish, starting today?