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Uses of the verb echar in Spanish

Updated: Jan 23

Here at the Instituto Cultural Oaxaca, we hope you'll learn how much fun Spanish can be.

"Echar" is a chameleon in the Spanish language, adapting to countless contexts and meanings.

Maybe you know that "echar" means to throw or add.  Here are other uses of the verb echar in Spanish

14 uses of the verb "echar" in Spanish so that Spanish students enhance their vocabulary.

  1. To Throw or Toss: This is one of the most common meanings. It's used to indicate the action of throwing something.

  • Echarle algo (a alguien)  means   to pass an object (to someone)

  • In English, you can ask someone to throw something at you.  “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 is considered a barbarity of the highest order.)

Chico echando un vaso al aire - Verbo echar
Echar el vaso al aire
  1. To Pour or Add: When referring to liquids or substances being added to something.

  • echarle algo (a algo)  means to put something (in something else) or to add something (to something else)

  • If you take our Cooking workshop, you'll always hear this one.  If your food is bland, échale un poco de sal, add some salt. "¿Quieres echarle salsa a tu carne?" means, "Do you want to add salsa to your meat?"

  • Example: "Echar agua al vaso" (To pour water into a glass).

To Kick Out or Expel: Used in a metaphorical sense.

  • Example: "Echar a alguien de casa" (To kick someone out of the house).

To Start or Begin: In some contexts, it can mean to start an action.

  • Example: "Echar a correr" (To start running).

To Fire (from a job): It's used informally in some countries.

  • Example: "Echar del trabajo" (To fire from a job)

To Give Off or Emit: Referring to the emission of smells, smoke, etc.

Example: "Echar humo" (To emit smoke).

To Cast (a shadow): Referring to the projection of shadows.

Example: "El árbol echa una sombra larga" (The tree casts a long shadow).

To Sprout or Grow: In the context of plants or hair or someone in living in a new place or a new position.

  • Example: "Echar raíces" (To sprout roots). This phrase is commonly used when someone is moving to a new place and is referring to settling down.

  • El se mudó a Los angeles y despúes de tener novia ya echo raíces.

To Send or Dispatch: Used for sending items or people.

  • Example: "Echar una carta al buzón o echar una carta en el correo" (To mail a letter).

To Put On (clothes or accessories): This usage is common in some Spanish-speaking areas.

  • Example: "Echarse una bufanda" (To put on a scarf).

To Estimate or Guess: It means making a rough estimate in some contexts.

  • Example: "Echar un cálculo" (To make an estimate).

  • in Mexico: "Me eche un cálculo chicharronero.

To Miss (someone or something): Used in a colloquial way.

  • Example: "Echar de menos a alguien" (To miss someone).

To Lay Down or Lie Down: Especially with "echarse".

  • Example: "Echarse a dormir" (To lie down to sleep).

To Fix or Repair: In some regions, it can mean to fix something.

  • Example: "Echar a andar una máquina" (To get a machine running)

In Mexican Spanish the verb echar is also used in dozens of more figurative speaking ways.

  1. Echarle la mano (a alguien)  means to help (someone)

  2. Echarle un ojo (a algo) means to watch (something) or to look out for something

  3. Echarle una llamada / un correo / un sms (a alguien)    to call/email / text (someone).

  4. Echar los perros a alguien  means  to flirt with someone

  5. Echarle mucha crema a los tacos means to show off, to be conceited

  6. Echar(le) ganas means to make an effort to achieve something

  7. Echar pata is a vulgarism that means to get laid.

  8. Echar un volado means to toss a coin .

  9. Echarse un voladito means to have one time affair.

  10. "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.

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