To help you talk about el invierno (the winter), here are some useful words and phrases to get you started

Right now here in Madrid hace mucho frío (it’s very cold). But how can that be? Well, contrary to popular belief, no siempre hace calor y sol (it’s not always hot and sunny) in Spain! De hecho (in fact), Spain has a very varied climate – ranging from colder and wetter in the north, to hotter and drier in the south. In las islas canarias (the Canary Islands), you’ll find that the temperature (temperature) is more stable all year at somewhere between 16 and 27 grados (degrees) centigrade. 

However, as you’re thinking about coming to Madrid to study Spanish, let’s talk a bit more about things in the capital. Right now, en enero (in January), it’s very usual to have temperatures bajo cero (below zero) at night and also, nieva (it snows). A few years ago we had the worst snowstorm in 50 years which was great fun as you could see people esquiando (skiing) down the main roads! The Madrid region has lots of montañas (mountains) in the north and you can go skiing there several months of the year. Try it when you come here to take a Spanish course!

Spanish English
El invierno Winter
noviembre November
diciembre December
enero January
Hace (mucho) frío It’s very cold
Hace viento It’s windy
Una tormenta A storm
Llover To rain
Está chispeando It’s drizzling
Nevar To snow
Llevar To wear
Un abrigo A coat
Una bufanda A scarf
Unos guantes Gloves
Unas botas Boots
Un paraguas An umbrella
Esquiar To ski
Hacer senderismo Go hiking
Un muñeco de nieve A snowman

Apart from all that wintery vocab, let’s take a look at some frases hechas (set phrases) and refranes (idioms) to do with el tiempo (the weather) and see what they mean.

Llover a cántaros – It’s raining buckets/jugs

I suppose you can already adivinar (guess) what this one means from the literal translation, right? You guessed it – this phrase suggests that it’s raining really heavily. We might say it’s similar to the phrase “it’s chucking it down”. Ejemplo – Ayer estaba lloviendo a cántaros y se inundó parte de la carretera (Yesterday it was chucking it down and part of the main road flooded).

Hacer un frío de perros – It’s dog cold

Another phrase which you can work out from the bad English version. Yes, this one means that it’s bitterly cold or it’s freezing. Often, in Spanish, we add de perros to something which is not very pleasant (poor dogs!). So we can also say hace un tiempo de perros (The weather is really bad) or Juan tenía un humor de perros (Juan was in a terrible mood). Curious, verdad (right)? Ejemplo – Cuando fui a hacer senderismo, hizo un frío de perros y volví a casa después de un par de horas (When I went hiking it was freezing and so I went back home after a couple of hours).

Hasta el 40 de mayo, no te quites el sayo – Don’t take off your jumper until the 40th of May (meaning the 9th of June!)

What a weird little phrase! This is something very madrileño (from Madrid) and so something you’ll hear a lot when you come here to learn Spanish. Nobody literally means you should keep a jumper on until the 9th of June, but it’s referring to the fact that weather here in the capital can be a bit variable (fickle/changeable) right into late primavera (Spring). It’s true that we often get días lluviosos (rainy days) during May and early June, normally it’s also a bit chilly when that happens as well. Ejemplo – Salí de casa en manga corta pero luego empezó a llover y hacer un poco de frío. Bueno, debería haberme acordado del dicho de hasta el 40 de mayo, no te quites el sayo (I left my house in short sleeves but then it started getting a bit cold and rainy. Well, I should have remembered the saying that I shouldn’t take off my jumper until the 40th of May).

Plan de sofá, peli y manta – Sofa, film and blanket time

This one isn’t exactly an idiomatic phrase, but it is something you’ll hear a lot at this time of year when you come to study Spanish here in Madrid. Clearly, as the weather isn’t great, there’ll be lots of days when it’s too cold, rainy etc to bother going out. It is true that, at least in the parts of Spain where the weather is more often good than bad, people have a bit of a tendency to cancelar planes (cancel plans) when there’s rain or other poor weather forecast. This doesn’t generally apply to the north, however, which has a much wetter climate than the rest of the country. So, what do we do on such days? Well, as the phrase suggests, it’s plan de sofa, peli y manta! Get a blanket out, find a good film, and stay on the sofa – ¡ya está! (that’s it!). Ejemplo – El domingo va a llover todo el día así que es tiempo de plan de sofá, peli y manta (It’s going to rain all day on Sunday so it’s just going to be a sofa day with a film and sitting under my blanket).

Ok, so there we’ve given you a few useful tiempo related phrases to use when you’re discussing the weather both with your friends and your classmates in your Spanish lessons. You’ll come across many more such phrases as you learn more of the language, and we’d suggest keeping a note of them so you can remember and use them yourself!

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