Here at ICO, we hope that you’ll learn just how much fun Spanish can be.  Like any language, Spanish is full of colorful slang expressions.  On Fridays, we’ll be teaching you a combination of useful everyday words and fun common colloquialisms.


Maybe you know that echar means to throw.  But did you know all of the following ways you can use it?

echar has some fairly literal uses.  For example:

echarle algo (a alguien)        to pass an object (to someone)

Just like in English, you can ask someone to throw you something.  “Hace frío, por favor, échame el suéter que está en esa silla.” means “It’s cold, please toss me the sweater that’s on that chair.”  (Unlike in many English-speaking countries, you should never actually toss the object, whatever it is.  In most Spanish-speaking countries this considered a barbarity of the highest order.)

echarle algo (a algo)            to put something (in something else)
                                               to add something (to something else)

If you take a cooking class, you’ll hear this one all the time.  If your food is bland, échale un poco de sal, add some salt. “¿Quieres echarle salsa a tu carne?” means, “Do you want to put salsa on your meat?”

The verb echar is also used in dozens of more figurative ways of speaking.

echarle la mano (a alguien)        to help (someone)

In English, you lend a hand.  In Spanish, you toss one.  If I’m having a hard time in school, I might ask a friend to echarme la mano.

echarle un ojo (a algo)        to watch (something)

In English, you keep an eye on something.  In Spanish, you toss one.  (You can also echar un vistazo, a glance.)  Both phrases can mean either to watch something (“échale un ojo al bebe”) or to look something over (“échale un ojo a mi tarea, por favor?”)

echarle una llamada / un correo / un sms (a alguien)    to call / email / text (someone)

These are extremely common ways of saying that you’d like someone to be in touch with you.  Instead of saying márcame or llámame, you can also say, échame una llamada.

echar los perros a alguien        to flirt with someone

To echarle los perros (a alguien) is the same as to tirarle la onda.  It means to flirt with or try to seduce someone.  (The image of sending dogs after someone probably comes from hunting.)

echarle mucha crema a los tacos    to show off, to be conceited

Someone who le echa mucha crema a sus tacos doesn’t just like a lot of cream on their tacos.  They’re a showoff, a braggart, a conceited prig.  Just like cream disguises soggy tacos, this person is trying to make him- or herself look better than she really is.

echar(le) ganas            to be motivated

ganas is a totally untranslatable Spanish word – and the likely star of a future viernes de vocabulario post – meaning something like desire, interest, or motivation in various phrases.  To echar ganas means to put your heart into something.  Are you having trouble in school? Échale ganas.  Don’t want to clean your room?  Échale ganas.  As for your Spanish studies, ¡échale ganas, pues!