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.


Ganas doesn’t translate well to English.  It means desire, interest, or sometimes motivation.  Sometimes it’s singular, and sometimes it’s plural.  The simplest way to understand its meaning is to consider a number of idiomatic phrases.

tener ganas (de hacer algo)            to feel like doing something

Tengo ganas de cantar.  I feel like singing.  No tengo ganas de salir.  I don’t feel like going out.  Do you want to have dinner at my house?  No, es que no tengo ganas.  (No, I don’t feel like it.)  No tengo ganas de hacer nada.  I don’t feel like doing anything at all.  And so on and so forth.

dar(le) ganas (a alguien)            to make someone feel like something

Watching you eat me da ganas de un taco (makes me feel like a taco).  Sitting in class for eight hours a day me da ganas de gritar (makes me want to scream).  After all, ganas is something you have, so something can give them to you.

se me da la gana                I feel like it

I will go to the party si se me da la gana.  I will clean my room eventually, cuando se me dé la gana (when I get around to feeling like it).

de (buena / mala) gana            willingly / unwillingly

If you mop the kitchen floor and take out the trash, but only de mala gana, you’re doing it unwillingly.  If you do it de buena gana, you’ve got a smile on your face and might even be talking about how cleanliness is next to Godliness.

mantener las ganas                stay motivated
perder las ganas                lose interest
echar ganas                    put your heart into something

If you are working on a long project, it can be hard to mantener las ganas.  If you’ve worked hard all week, by the end of the weekend it’s possible that has perdido las ganas.  But échale ganas, put your heart into it.

quedarse con las ganas            to be unsatisfied

All week long, tenía ganas de un helado de chocolate (I wanted a chocolate ice cream).  But the store closed just as I got there, and me quedé con las ganas (I was unsatisfied because I couldn’t fulfill that need).  Every time I’ve tried to call my best friend, she hasn’t been home, and so me quedé con las ganas.  You know that feeling where you just haven’t quite satisfied a craving – usually because something got in your way – and you are exceedingly frustrated?  That is what it means to quedarse con las ganas.