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Mexican Proverbs

A Buen Hambre No Hay Pan Duro.

Literal Meaning: When you’re hungry there’s no bread too hard.

Analogous Saying: Hunger is the best gravy.

A Caballo Dado No Se Le Ve El Colmillo.

Literal Meaning: Don't examine the teeth of a horse that was given to you.

Analogous Saying: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

A Cada Guajolote Le Llega Su Nochebuena.

Literal Meaning: Christmas Eve comes for every turkey.

Analogous Saying: Every dog has its day.

A Cada Pájaro Le Gusta Su Nido.

Literal Meaning: Each bird likes its own nest.

Analogous Saying: To each his own.

A Grandes Males, Grandes Remedios.

Literal Meaning: Great big problems require great big solutions.

Analogous Saying: Desperate times call for desperate measures.

A Palabras Necias, Oídos Sordos.

Literal Meaning: for stupid words, deaf ears

Meaning: I don’t respond to nonsense.

Pablo: Si no hagas lo que yo digo, vete a Siberia. Juanis: A palabras necias, oídos sordos. (Pablo: If you don’t do what I say, you can go to Siberia. Juanis: That makes no sense. I’m not listening to you.)

A Quién Madruga, Dios Lo Ayuda.

Meaning: God helps those who get up early.

A Todo Se Acostumbra El Hombre, Menos A No Comer.

Meaning: Man can adjust to anything except not eating.

Agua Pasada No Mueve Molino.

Literal Meaning: Water that has passed doesn’t move the water wheel.

Meaning: That's water under the bridge.

Agua Que No Has De Beber, Déjala Correr.

Literal Meaning: Water that you don’t need to drink, let it flow.

Meaning: Mind your own business.

Ahogado El Niño, Tapan El Pozo.

Literal Meaning: Having drowned the child, they cover the well.

Analogous Saying: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Simón siempre dice que arreglará las escaleras rotas pero nunca cumple. Yo le digo que lo haga antes de que pase algún accidente. Ahogado el niño, tapan el pozo. (Simon always says he will fix the broken stairs but he never does. I tell him to do it before some accident occurs. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.)

Al Bien Buscarlo, Al Mal Esperarlo.

Literal Meaning: Look for the good, expect the bad.

Analogous Saying: Expect the best but prepare for the worst.

Al Gusto Y A La Tristeza, No Hay Que Darles Rienda Suelta.

Meaning: To pleasure and to pain, give neither free rein.

Al Mal Tiempo, Buena Cara.

Meaning: Put a good face on a bad situation.

Al Nopal Sólo Lo Van A Ver Cuando Hay Tunas.

Literal Meaning: People only go to see the nopal cactus when it has fruit.

Meaning: Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them.

En el primer siglo A.C., Publilius Syrus escribió un proverbio (en latín) que es lo mismo que “Al nopal sólo lo van a ver cuando hay tunas”. Es decir, cuando tienes qué ofrecer, se te acercan muchas personas pero cuando no tienes nada ves quienes son tus verdaderos amigos. (In the first century B.C., Publilius Syrus wrote a proverb in Latin that translates as “Prosperity makes friends, adversity tries them.” In other words, when you have a lot to offer, you are surrounded by people but when you have nothing, you see who your real friends are.)

Al Pan, Pan Y Al Vino Vino

Literal Meaning: [call] bread, bread and wine, wine

Meaning: Calling a spade a spade

Al Que No Le Sobre Pan, Que No Piense En Criar Can.

Literal Meaning: He who doesn’t have extra bread should not consider getting a dog.

Meaning: Don’t make commitments that are beyond your means.

Yo quería invitarles a todas mis amigas a cenar para festejar mi cumple, pero mi abue me dijo, “Al que no le sobre pan, que no piense en criar can”. (I wanted to invite all my friends to dinner to celebrate my birthday, but my grandma told me, “Don’t make commitments that you can’t afford.”)

Allegador De La Ceniza Y Derramador De La Harina

Literal Meaning: One who gathers ashes and scatters flour

Analogous Saying: Penny wise and pound foolish.

Amigo Viejo, El Mejor Espejo.

Meaning: An old friend is the best mirror.

Amor De Lejos, Amor De Pendejos.

Meaning: Long-distance love affairs are for fools.

Amor No Correspondido Es Tiempo Perdido.

Meaning: Unrequited love is a waste of time.

Antes De Que Te Cases, Mira Lo Que Haces.

Meaning: Before you marry, better be wary.

Aprendiz De Mucho, Maestro De Nada

Meaning: Jack of all trades, master of none

Aquí Se Rompió Una Taza Y Cada Quien Para Su Casa.

Literal Meaning: A mug was broken and everyone to his or her home.

Meaning: It’s time for everyone to go home.

¡Qué fiesta más a todo dar! Empezamos a las nueve de la noche y hemos bailado, comido, tragado y platicado hasta las cuatro de la madrugada. Aquí se rompió una taza y cada quien para su casa. (What a fabulous party! We started at nine at night and we’ve danced, eaten, drunk and talked until four in the morning. But it’s time for everyone to go home.)

Arbol Que Crece Torcido Jamás Su Rama Endereza.

Literal Meaning: A tree that grows crooked never straightens its branch.

Meaning: A leopard never changes its spots.

Gabriela es egoísta y tacaña. Pensaba que con los años mejorara su carácter pero árbol que crece torcido jamás su rama endereza. (Gabriela is selfish and stingy. I thought as the years went by her character would improve but a leopard never changes its spots.)

Arriba Ya Del Caballo, Hay Que Aguantar Los Respingos.

Literal Meaning: Once you’re mounted on the horse, you must hang on when he bucks.

Meaning: You’ve got to take the bull by the horns.

Aunque La Jaula Sea De Oro, No Deja De Ser Prisión.

Meaning: Even a golden cage is still a prison.

Aunque La Mona Se Viste De Seda, Mona Se Queda.

Literal Meaning: Even if a monkey dresses in silks, it's still a monkey.

Meaning: You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Enrique es de buena familia. Le mostró a su padre la foto de su novia. Ella es de un ranchito y muy inocente. Se vestía en ropa de ciudad pero no le quedaba bien. Su padre le dijo, “Enrique, aunque la mona se viste de seda, mona se queda”. (Enrique is from a good [i.e., wealthy] family. He showed his father a picture of his girlfriend. She is from a small place in the country, and very innocent. She was dressed in city clothes but they didn’t suit her. His father said, “Enrique, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”)

Aunque Sean Del Mismo Barro, No Es Lo Mismo La Olla Que El Jarro.

Literal Meaning: Although made of the same clay, a pot is not a pitcher.

Meaning: We may be all made of the same clay but not cut of the same cloth.

Tomás piensa que puede hacer el trabajo de Jaime mientras el contador está en el hospital, pero como le dije a Mariana, “Aunque sean del mismo barro, no es lo mismo la olla que el jarro”. (Tomás thinks he can do Jaime’s job while the accountant is in the hospital, but as I said to Mariana, “We may be all made of the same clay but we are not cut of the same cloth.”)

Baraja, Vino Y Mujer Echan Al Hombre A Perder.

Meaning: Cards, wine and women will lead a man to perdition.

Cada Día Se Aprende Algo Nuevo.

Meaning: You learn something new every day.

Cada Maestrito Con Su Librito.

Literal Meaning: Each little teacher with his own little book.

Analogous Saying: There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Cada Oveja Con Su Pareja.

Literal Meaning: Every sheep with its mate.

Meaning: Every Raggedy Ann has a Raggedy Andy.

Yo pensaba que mi prima Tita nunca encontraría un novio. Pero al parecer, cada oveja con su pareja. Ya encontró Tita un hombre que la ama tal como es. (I didn’t think my cousin Tita could ever find a boyfriend. But, apparently, every Raggedy Ann has a Raggedy Andy. Tita has found a man who loves her just as she is.)

Cada Quien Es Dueño De Su Miedo.

Meaning: Everyone is master of
his own fear.

Camarón Que Se Duerme Se Lo Lleva La Corriente.

Literal Meaning: The sleeping shrimp gets swept away by the current.

Analogous Saying: You snooze, you lose!

Casarás Y Amansarás.

Meaning: Marry and you will become tamed/domesticated.

Con Amor Y Aguardiente, Nada Se Siente.

Meaning: With [enough] love and liquor, all else is forgotten.

Con Dinero Baila El Perro.

Literal Meaning: With money, the dog dances.

Meaning: Money makes the world go 'round.

Cuando En Duda, Consúltalo Con Tu Almohada.

Meaning: When in doubt of what is right, consult your pillow overnight.

Cuando Joven, De Ilusiones; Cuando Viejo, De Recuerdos.

Meaning: For the young, dreams; for the old, memories.

De La Muerte Y De La Suerte, No Hay Quien Se Escape.

Meaning: There’s no escaping from death and fate.

De Médico, Poeta, Músico Y Loco Todos Tenemos Un Poco.

Meaning: Each of us is a little bit doctor, poet, musician and madman.

De Veneno, Basta Una Sola Gota.

Meaning: With poison, one drop is enough.

Del Dicho Al Hecho Hay Mucho Trecho.

Literal Meaning: Between

Meaning: Easier said than done.

Desconfía De Tu Mejor Amigo Como De Tu Peor Enemigo.

Meaning: Distrust your best friend as you would your worst enemy.

Dicho Sin Hecho No Trae Provecho.

Meaning: Actions speak louder than words.

Dios Les Da Dinero A Los Ricos Porque Si No Lo Tuvieran, Se Morirían De Hambre.

Meaning: God gives money to the rich because if they didn’t have it, they would die of hunger.

Divide Y Ganarás.

Literal Meaning: Divide and you will win.

Meaning: Divide and conquer.

Dos Son Compañía Y Tres Son Multitud.

Meaning: Two's company, three's a crowd.

No nos mosqueen a mi novia y a mi. Dos son compañía y tres son multitud. (Don’t bother my girlfriend and me. Two’s company, three’s a crowd.)

El Carnicero De Hoy Es La Res De Mañana.

Literal Meaning: Today's butcher is tomorrow's beef.

Meaning: Flash in the pan.

El Comal Le Dijo A La Olla, “Mira Que Tiznada Estás”.

Literal Meaning: The griddle said to the pot, “Look how sooty you are.”

Meaning: That’s like the pot calling the kettle black.

La mamá de José le comentaba a su hermana como había escuchado a María regañar a su hijo por flojo. Su hermana respondió: El comal le dijo a la olla “Mira que tiznada estás”. (José’s mother told her sister how she had heard María scold her son for being lazy. Her sister replied: “That’s like the pot calling the kettle black.”)

El Consejo No Es Bien Recibido Donde No Es Pedido.

Literal Meaning: Advice isn’t well received when it isn’t asked for.

Analogous Saying: Offer advice only when asked.

El Corazón No Envejece; Es El Cuero Que Se Arruga.

Meaning: The heart doesn’t age; it’s the skin that wrinkles.

El Delito Acusa.

Meaning: The crime itself accuses.

El Marido Que No Da Y El Cuchillo Que No Corta, Que Se Pierdan, No Importa!

Meaning: The husband who does not contribute and the knife that doesn’t cut, if they are lost, it’s no great loss!

El Mejor Torero Es él De La Barrera.

Analogous Saying: He’s a Monday morning quarterback.

Meaning: The best bullfighter is the one sitting in a box seat [i.e., watching the event].

El Peor Enemigo Del Hombre No Es El Hombre Sino El Hambre.

Meaning: Man’s worst enemy is not man, but hunger.

El Perro Del Hortalero, Que Ni Come Ni Deja Comer

Literal Meaning: The orchard owner’s dog neither eats nor lets others eat.

Analogous Saying: He’s a dog in a manger.

El Que Anda Con Lobos, A Aullar Se Enseña.

Literal Meaning: He who walks with wolves learns to howl.

Analogous Saying: If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

Meaning: You are the company you keep.

Antonio es de una familia importante pero todos sus amigos son mala onda; son mentirosos y estafadores. Como siempre dice mi abuela, “El que anda con lobos, a aullar se enseña”. (Antonio is from an important family but all his friends are bad news; they are liars and cheats. As my grandmother says, “He who lies down with dogs, ends up with fleas.”)

El Que Bien Te Ama, Te Hará Sufrir.

Meaning: He who really loves you will make you suffer.

El Que Demonios Da, Diablos Recibe.

Literal Meaning: He who gives demons, gets devils.

Analogous Saying: What goes around, comes around.

Meaning: He who sends people to the devil gets the same in return.

El Que Es Buen Gallo Dondequiera Canta.

Meaning: A good cock can crow anywhere.

El Que Es Perico, Dondequiera Es Verde.

Literal Meaning: A parrot is green no matter where it is.

Meaning: A leopard never changes its spots.

El Que Hambre Tiene, En Pan Piensa.

Literal Meaning: He who is hungry thinks about bread.

Meaning: One becomes fixated on what he needs (or wants).

Puesto que Quique no tiene dinero para comprar utensilios de arte, sólo piensa en pintar. Pues el que hambre tiene, en pan piensa. (Because Quique doesn’t have money for art supplies, all he thinks about is painting. Well, he who is hungry thinks about bread.)

El Que Mucho Mal Padece, Con Poco Bien Se Conforma.

Meaning: He who suffers many ills is happy with just a little good fortune.

El Que Nada Debe, Nada Teme.

Meaning: He who owe nothing, fears nothing.

Quique es pobre pero contento. Tiene un ranchito en el campo donde vive con sus hijos y nietos. Dice a su mujer: “El que nada debe, nada teme.” (Quique is poor but happy. He has his own little place in the country where he lives with his kids and grandkids. He tells his wife: “He who owes nothing, fears nothing.”)

El Que No Habla, Dios No Lo Oye.

Literal Meaning: God doesn’t hear those who don’t speak.

Meaning: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

El Que No Llora, No Mama.

Literal Meaning: He who doesn’t cry, doesn’t suckle.

Analogous Saying: The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

El Que Parte Y Reparte, Se Queda Con La Mejor Parte.

Meaning: He who divides and shares is left with the best share.

El Sexo Débil Ni Tan Débil Y El Sexo Fuerte Ni Tan Sexo.

Meaning: The weaker sex isn’t so weak, and the stronger sex isn’t that sexy.

El Sol Es La Cobija Del Pobre.

Meaning: The sun is the blanket of the poor.

El Sueño Es Alimento De Los Pobres.

Meaning: Dreaming feeds the poor.

El Tiempo Cura Y Nos Mata.

Meaning: Time heals but also kills us.

El Tiempo Es Oro.

Literal Meaning: Time is gold.

Meaning: Time is money.

El Valiente Vive Hasta Que El Cobarde Quiere.

Meaning: The brave man lives as long as the coward allows.

El Zorro Pierde El Pelo Pero No Las Mañas.

Literal Meaning: The fox sheds its hair but not its sly tricks.

Meaning: A leopard never changes its spots.

Después de tantos años con las monjitas, Susana sigue su vida de locura. Pues, el zorro pierde el pelo pero no las mañas. (Even after all the years she’s spent with the nuns, Susana still continues her unruly lifestyle. Well, a leopard never changes its spots.)

En Boca Cerrada, No Entran Moscos.

Literal Meaning: Flies don’t enter a closed mouth.

Analogous Saying: Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies.

Meaning: Keep your mouth shut and you won’t stick your foot in your mouth.

En Cuestión De Puercos Todo Es Dinero, Y En Cuestión De Dinero Todos Son Puercos.

Meaning: Regarding pigs, it’s all [about the] money, and regarding money, all are pigs.

En El País De Los Ciegos, El Tuerto Es Rey.

Meaning: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed person is king. (We’ll let you figure this one out!)

En La Guerra Y En El Amor Todo Se Vale.

Meaning: All’s fair in love and war.

Explicación No Pedida, Acusación Manifiesta.

Literal Meaning: Methinks thou doth protest too much.

Meaning: Your over-explaining is making you look guilty.

Enrique dio muchas explicaciones acerca de donde andaba ayer en la noche hasta que su novia le dijo “Explicación no pedida, acusación manifiesta”. Entonces se cayó, muy apenado. (Enrique gave many explanations about where he was last night until his girfriend told him “Methinks thou doth protest too much.” Then, embarrassed, he shut up.)

Guarda Tu Ayuda Para Quien Te La Pida.

Meaning: Save your advice for those who ask for it.

Hay Más Tiempo Que Vida.

Meaning: Life is short; seize the moment.

Hay Que Aprender Perder Antes De Saber Jugar.

Meaning: You must learn to lose before you know how to play.

Hay Veces Que Nada El Pato, Y Hay Otras Que Ni Agua Bebe.

Literal Meaning: There are times when the duck swims, and others when he doesn’t even drink water.

Meaning: It's feast or famine.

Haz Bien Y No Mires A Quien.

Literal Meaning: Do good [things] and don’t look at others.

Hijo Del Maguey, Mecate.

Analogous Saying: The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.

La Ambición Nunca Se Llena.

Meaning: Ambition never has its fill.

La Amistad Sincera Es Un Alma Repartida En Dos Cuerpos.

Meaning: True friendship is one soul shared by two bodies.

La Cabra Siempre Tira Al Monte.

Literal Meaning: The goat always heads to the hills.

Analogous Saying: A leopard never changes its spots.

La Campana No Va A Misa, Pero Avisa.

Literal Meaning: The bell doesn’t go to Mass, but it advises [us to do so].

Meaning: Do as I say, not as I do.

La Esperanza Muere Al último.

Meaning: Hope is the last to die.

La Fruta Podrida Pudre A La Fruta Buena.

Meaning: One bad apple ruins the whole barrel.

Sampson es mala onda y mal representante de nuestro grupo. Por un lado pienso que hay que vivir y dejar vivir, pero por otro lado, su actitud negativa infecta a todo el equipo. La fruta podrida pudre a la fruta buena. (Sampson is a drag and a bad representative of our group. On the one hand, I think, “Live and let live,” but on the other, his negative attitude affects the whole team. One bad apple ruins the whole barrel.)

La Mejor Almohada Es Una Conciencia Sana.

Meaning: The most comfortable pillow is a clean conscience.

La Práctica Hace El Maestro.

Literal Meaning: Practice makes the master/teacher.

Meaning: Practice makes perfect.

La Verdad Padece Pero Nunca Perece.

Meaning: Truth suffers but never dies.

Lo Barato A Veces Sale Caro.

Literal Meaning: Cheap things
sometimes become expensive.

Analogous Saying: You get
what you pay for.

Lo Que Sabemos Es Una Gota De Agua; Lo Que Ignoramos Es El Océano.

Meaning: That which we know is a drop; what we don’t know is an ocean.

Los Lunes Ni Las Gallinas Ponen.

Literal Meaning: Not even the chickens lay eggs on Mondays.

Meaning: Nothing much gets done on a Monday.

Luz Apagada, Mujer Encendida.

Meaning: When the lights are turned off, the woman is turned on.

Mal Comienza La Semana Aquel Que Es Ahorcado En Lunes.

Meaning: It’s a bad start on the week for the man who is hanged on a Monday.

Más Vale Gotita Permanente Que Aguacero De Repente.

Literal Meaning: Better a steady drip than a sudden deluge.

Analogous Saying: Slow and steady wins the race.

Más Vale Morir Parado Que Vivir En Rodillas.

Meaning: Better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.

Más Vale Pájaro En Mano Que Cien Volando.

Literal Meaning: A bird in the hand is worth a hundred birds flying.

Meaning: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Mi pretendido, Javier, es feo pero me trata como reina y es muy bueno para el trabajo. Hay otros hombres más sexy pero yo voy a quedarme con él. Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando. (My fiancé, Javier, is ugly but he treats me like a queen and is a hard worker. There are more sexy men out there but I’m going to stay with him. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.)

Más Vale Pan Con Amor Y No Gallina Con Dolor.

Literal Meaning: Better to have bread with love than chicken with pain/heartache.

Meaning: Love is all you need.

Mas Vale Pase Que Dure Que Trote Que Canse

Literal Meaning: Better a long-lasting walk then a tiring trot.

Analogous Saying: Slow and steady wins the race.

Más Vale Ser Perro De Rico Que Santo De Pobre.

Meaning: Better to be a rich man’s dog than a poor man’s saint.

Más Vale Tarde Que Nunca.

Meaning: Better late than never.

Hace dos años le invité a Jorge a solicitar un trabajo en mi restaurant. La semana pasada llegó a hablar con el gerente. Pues, ¡más vale tarde que nunca! (Two years ago I invited Jorge to apply for a job at my restaurant. Last week he came in to talk to the manager. Well, better late than never!)

Más Vale Un Minuto Tarde Que Un Minuto De Silencio.

Meaning: Better a minute late than a minute of silence (as in, at your funeral).

Caray, mi chula, ¡anda más despacio! Más vale un minuto tarde que un minuto de silencio. (Shoot, pretty baby, slow down! Better a minute late than a minute of silence.)

Mejor Pan Duro Que Ninguno.

Meaning: Better to eat hard bread than none at all.

Mientras Hay Vida, Hay Esperanza.

Meaning: Where there’s life, there’s hope.

Pablo perdió su trabajo, su mujer lo abandonó y su casa su quemó en un incendio terrible. Pero aunque no lo creas, él sigue optimista. Dice: “Mientras hay vida, hay esperanza.” Yo admiro mucho su actitud positiva. (Pablo lost his job, his wife left him and his house burned down in a terrible fire. But believe it or not, he’s still optimistic. He says, “Where there’s life, there’s hope.” I really admire his positive attitude.)

Muerta Es La Abeja Que Daba La Miel Y La Cera.

Literal Meaning: The bee that gave honey and wax is dead

Analogous Saying: The goose that laid the golden eggs is dead.

Ni Bonita Que Todos Encante Ni Fea Que Todos Espante.

Meaning: There’s no girl so pretty that she charms everyone, nor any girl so unattractive that she scares everyone off.

No Da El Que Puede, Sino El Que Quiere.

Meaning: It’s not those who can that give, but those who want to.

No Es Lo Mismo Hablar De Toros Que Estar En El Redondel.

Analogous Saying: Talk is cheap.

Meaning: Talking about bullfighting isn’t the same as being in the arena [with the bull].

No Hay Mal Que Por Bien No Venga.

Literal Meaning: Out of every bad thing comes something good.

Analogous Saying: Every cloud has a silver lining.

Paco perdió su trabajo en el banco pero empezó a pintar y ahora está haciendo lo que siempre ha querido hacer, y ganando algo de dinero también. No hay mal que por bien no venga. (Paco lost his job at the bank, but he started painting and now he’s doing what he’s always want to do, and earning a little money. Every cloud has a silver lining.)

No Hay Peor Lucha Que La Que No Se Hace.

Meaning: There’s no worse struggle than one that’s not even done.

No Hay Que Andarse Por Las Ramas Estando Tan Grueso El Tronco

Literal Meaning: There’s no reason to walk on the branches when the trunk is so thick.

Analogous Saying: There’s no reason to go out on a limb.

No Hay Vida Más Cansada Que El Eterno
de No Hacer Nada.

Literal Meaning: No life is as tiring as the eternity of doing nothing.

Meaning: There’s nothing so boring as doing nothing.

No Le Pidas Peras Al Olmo.

Literal Meaning: Don’t ask the elm tree to give you pears.

Meaning: You can’t get blood out of a turnip.

Juan: Patricio me debe mil pesos desde hace dos años. Siempre se lo pido y no me hace el menor caso. (Patricio has owed me a thousand pesos for two years now. I keep asking him for it but he totally ignores me.) Pablo: Olvídalo. Ese tipo nunca tiene dinero y nunca lo tendrá. No le pidas peras al olmo. (Forget it. That guy never has any money and he never will. You can’t get blood out of a turnip.)

No Por Mucho Madrugar Amanece Más Temprano.

Literal Meaning: Dawn doesn’t come any sooner no matter how early you get up.

Meaning: A watched pot never boils.

Javier está tan emocionado porque mañana es el día de su cumple. Dice que no va a poder dormir en toda la noche pensando en la fiesta que le vamos a hacer en Disneylandia. Su papá le dijo: “No por mucho madrugar amanece más temprano.” (Javier is so excited about his birthday tomorrow. He says he’s not going to be able to sleep all night thinking about the party we’re giving him at Disneyland. His dad told him: “A watched pot never boils.”)

No Se Le Puede Pedir Peras Al Olmo.

Literal Meaning: You can't ask an elm tree for pears.

Meaning: You can't get blood out of a turnip.

Patricio me debe mil pesos desde hace dos años. Siempre se lo pido y no me hace caso. Ese tipo nunca tiene dinero y nunca lo tendrá. Mi mamá dice: No le pidas peras al olmo. (Patricio has owed me a thousand pesos for two years now. I keep asking him for it but he ignores me. That guy never has any money and he never will. My mom says: You can’t get blood out of a turnip.)

No Se Puede Chiflar Y Comer Pinole.

Literal Meaning: You can’t whistle and eat pinole at the same time.

Meaning: You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Pedro dice que ama a su esposa y quiere que sus seis hijos lo respeten. Pero él está enamorado también de Beatriz. Me preguntó qué es lo que debe hacer y le dije que no se puede chiflar y comer pinole. (Pedro says he loves his wife and wants his six children to respect him. But he’s also in love with Beatriz. He asked me what he should do and I told him he can’t have his cake and eat it too.)

No Sólo De Pan Vive El Hombre.

Meaning: Man does not live by bread alone.

A Memo le encanta farrear y comprar cosas de calidad. A mí también me gusta pasarlo bien, pero yo medito cada mañana, estudio filosofía y a veces voy a la iglesia. No sólo de pan vive el hombre. Pero Memo se ríe de mi. (Memo loves to party and buy high-quality things. I also like to have a good time, but I meditate every morning, study philosophy, and I sometimes go to church. Man does not live by bread alone. But Memo laughs at me.)

No Te Cases Sin Verlo.

Literal Meaning: Don’t marry until you see it.

Meaning: Check out your partner’s package before you marry.

Lolita está muy enamorada de Pepe, pero ella es virgen. Su abuelita le aconsejó, “No te cases sin verlo”. (Lolita is very in love with Pepe, but she’s a virgin. Her grandmother advised her to see what she’s getting—and we’re talking about Pepe’s package here—before she marries.)

No Te Metas De Bruja Si No Sabes De Hierbas.

Literal Meaning: No te metas de bruja si no sabes de hierbas.

Meaning: Don’t try to do things you know nothing about.

No sabes ni sumar ni restar pero ¿quieres ser la contadora del club? Pues yo digo, no te metas de bruja si no sabes de hierbas. (You can’t add or subtract but you want to be the club’s accountant? Well I say, don’t try to do something you know nothing about.)

Ojos Que No Ven, Corazón Que No Siente.

Meaning: A favorite with unfaithful spouses, this proverb translates as “Eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel.”

Panza Llena, Corazón Contento.

Meaning: Full belly, happy heart.

Perro Que Ladra No Muerde

Literal Meaning: A barking dog doesn't bite

Meaning: His bark is worse than his bite.

Pobre Con Puro Es Ladrón, Seguro.

Meaning: A poor man with a cigar is a thief for sure.

Poco A Poco Entra Agua Al Coco.

Literal Meaning: Little by little the water gets into the coconut.

Analogous Saying: Slow but steady wins the race.

Por Las Hojas Se Conoce Al Tamal Que Es De Manteca.

Literal Meaning: You can tell a tamale made with lard by its leaves.

Meaning: You can tell something of quality by the way it looks.

A mi abuela le caen mal Alberto y algunos otros tipos que conozco de la uni. No le gusta como se portan ni como se visten. Ella dice que por las hojas se conoce al tamal que es de manteca. (My granny doesn’t care for Alberto and some of the other guys from the university I know. She doesn’t like the way they act or dress. “You can tell something of quality by the way it looks,” she says.)

Querer Es Poder.

Analogous Saying: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Meaning: “To want to” equals “to be able to.” It’s interesting that the word “poder” (“to be able to”) also means “power.”

Quien Con Niños Se Acueste, Cagado Se Amanece.

Literal Meaning: He who lies down with children wakes up covered in shit.

Analogous Saying: If you lie down with dogs, you’ll get up with fleas.

Quien De Los Suyos Se Aleja, Dios Lo Deja.

Meaning: He who leaves his family is forsaken by God.

Quien Juega Con Fuego, Se Quema Los Dedos.

Meaning: He who plays with fire gets burned.

Quien Mucho Abarca, Poco Aprieta.

Literal Meaning: He who takes on a lot, grasps little.

Analogous Saying: He bit off more than he could chew.

Quien Nace Para Tamal, Del Cielo Le Caen Las Hojas.

Literal Meaning: For the person that's born to be a tamale, the leaves will fall from the sky.

Meaning: Your destiny will find you.

Trinidad es buena artista. Desde niña ha dibujado y pintado. Le han dado varias becas para que estudie el arte. Como dice mi suegra, al que nace para tamal, del cielo le caen las hojas. (Trinidad is a good artist. Since she was a child she has drawn and painted. She’s gotten several scholarships to study art. As my mother-in-law says, destiny will find you.)

Quien Siembra Vientos Recoge Tempestades.

Literal Meaning: They who sow winds shall reap storms.

Meaning: You reap what you sow.

De la Biblia, este verso quiere decir que lo que siembras, recoges, o sea, tus acciones determinarán lo que te pasa después. (From the Bible, this verse means that you reap what you sow. In other words, your actions will determine what happens to you in the future.)

Quién Teme La Muerte, No Goza La Vida.

Meaning: He who fears death lives not.

Quien Todo Lo Quiere, Todo Lo Pierde.

Meaning: He who wants everything loses everything.

Si Al Hablar No Puede Agradar Es Mejor Callar.

Meaning: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

Si De Novio Tan Mezquino, ¿cómo Será Cuando Marido?

Meaning: If he’s this cheap as a boyfriend, what will he be like as a husband?

Si Estás Colérico, Cuenta Hasta Diez Antes De Hablar; Si Muy Colérico, Hasta Cien.

If angry, count to 10 before speaking; if very angry, to 100.

Si Hubiera Sido Animal, Te Pica.

Literal Meaning: If it had of been an animal, it would have bitten you

Analogous Saying: If it had of been a snake, it would have bitten you.

Meaning: It’s right there in front of your face!

Si Quieres Ser Bien Servido, Sírvete A Ti Mismo.

Meaning: If you would be well served, serve yourself.

Sobre Gustos No Hay Nada Escrito.

Literal Meaning: As for tastes, nothing's been written.

Analogous Saying: There’s no accounting for taste.

Sólo Lo Barato Se Compra Con El Dinero.

Meaning: Money buys only what is cheap.

También De Dolor Se Canta Cuando Llorar No Se Puede.

Meaning: Sorrow also sings, when it
runs too deep to cry.

Todo El Rato Que Está Enojado, Pierde De Estar Contento.

Meaning: All time spent angry is time lost being happy.

Todos Estamos Hechos Del Mismo Barro, Pero No Del Mismo Molde.

Literal Meaning: We’re all made of the same clay, but not from the same mold.

Meaning: We’re all made of the same clay, but not cut of the same cloth.

Un Hombre Sin Alegría No Es Bueno O No Está Bueno.

Meaning: A man without happiness is either not good or not well. (This is a good example of the use of the verbs “ser” and “estar.”)

Un Idiota Habla Porque Tiene Que Decir Algo; Una Persona Sabia Habla Porque Tiene Algo Que Decir.

Meaning: An idiot speaks because he has to say something; a wise person speaks because s/he has something to say.

Un Ojo Al Gato Y Otro Al Garabato

Literal Meaning: Keep one eye on the cat and the other on the meat hook.

Meaning: Keep an eye on the situation.

Mi mamá me dijo que mi esposo está portándose raro cuando no estoy, y que no llega a la casa hasta muy noche. Ella me aconsejó: Un ojo al gato y otro al garabato. (My mom told me that my husband is acting strangely when I’m away, and he doesn’t get home until late at night. She advised me to keep an eye on the situation.)

Una Onza De Alegría Vale Más Que Una Onza De Oro.

Analogous Saying: You can’t buy happiness.

Meaning: An ounce of happiness is worth more than an ounce of gold.

Una Vez Al Año No Hace Daño.

Meaning: Once a year does no harm.

Sí, hubo fiesta y mucho ruido toda la noche pero era cumpleaños de Carlitos una vez al año no hace daño. (Yes there was a noisy, all-night party but it was Carlitos’ birthday once a year is not a problem.)

Uno Propone Y Dios Dispone, Viene La Mujer Y Todo Descompone.

Meaning: Man proposes, God obliges, along comes a woman and everything falls apart.

Vale Más Un Grito A Tiempo Que Hablar A Cada Momento.

Analogous Saying: The boy who cried wolf.

Meaning: Better one timely squawk than
constant talk.

Vale Más Una Buena Amistad Que Un Mal Romance.

Meaning: A good friendship is better than a bad romance.

Viejo El Viento Y Todavia Sopla.

Literal Meaning: The wind may be old, but it still blows.

Analogous Saying: He may be old but he’s still kicking.

Pepe: Tu papa siempre planta maíz? (Does your dad still plant corn?) Juanito: Sí, viejo el viento y todavia sopla. (Yes, he may be old but he’s still kicking.)

Viejo Y Horno Por La Boca Se Calientan.

Literal Meaning: The old person and the stove are heated through the mouth.

Meaning: Old people are easily upset.

No le hagas caso a mi abuelito Pepe. Viejo y horno por la boca se calientan. (Don’t pay any attention to my grandpa Pepe. Old people are easily riled.)

Vino, Mujer Y Tabaco, Dejan Al Hombre Muy Flaco.

Meaning: Wine, women and tabacco make a man too thin.

Ya No Quiero Queso, Lo Que Quiero Es Salir De La Ratonera.

Meaning: I don’t want any more cheese, what I want is to escape from this mousetrap!

Zapatero, A Tus Zapatos.

Literal Meaning: Shoemaker, to your shoes

Meaning: Do what you know.