Spanish Idiomatic Verbal Phrases: Expressions with dar, estar, hacer, tener


September 23, 2020

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It's all well and good knowing how to conjugate verbs, but where's the fun if you can't use them in idiomatic expressions?! We've compiled a list of idiomatic verbal phrases that use three of Spanish's most common verbs: 'dar,' 'estar,' and 'hacer.' 

It can be pretty amusing to see how idioms literally translate, so we've provided you with a more literal translation next to each one, before telling you how to use it properly.

Idiomatic Verbal Phrases

'Dar' - 'to give'

Here's how to conjugate 'dar' in the present tense:

Dar Give Flowers

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Here are some cool phrases that use it!

  • Dar a conocer - to give to know
Dar a conocerTo make known
Paco dio a conocer sus intenciones.Paco made his intentions known.
  • Dar a luz - to give to light
Dar a luzTo give birth
Rachel dio a luz un par de gemelos.Rachel gave birth to a set of twins.
  • Dar calabazas - to give pumpkins
Dar calabazasTo brush someone off
Pedí el número de Nancy pero me dio calabazas.I asked for Nancy's number but she brushed me off.
  • Dar con la puerta en las narices  - to give with the door on the noses
Dar con la puerta en las naricesTo slam the door in somebody's face
Fui a la casa de mi madre pero me dio con la puerta en las narices.I went to my mother's house but she shut the door in my face.
  • Dar gato por liebre - to give a cat for a hare
Dar gato por liebreTo swindle
Los vendedores me dieron gato por liebre.The salespeople swindled me.
  • Dar la cara - to give face
Dar la caraTo face the music
Has cometido un error. Ahora toca dar la cara.You've made a mistake. Now it's time to face the music.
  • Dar lugar  - to give place
Dar lugarTo take place
El evento da lugar en el mismo pueblo cada año.The event takes place in the same town each year.
  • Dar por + adjective - to give for + adjective
Dar por ...To take for ...
Doy por sentado que mis amigos me quieren.I take for granted/I assume my friends love me.
  • Darle vueltas a algo - to give turns to something
Darle vueltas a algoTo mull something over
Pasé mucho tiempo dándole vueltas a la relación.I spent a lot of time mulling the relationship over.
  • Dar gusto - to give taste
Dar gustoTo please
El verano me da gusto.Summer pleases me.
  • Dar igual/Dar lo mismo - to give the same
Dar igual/dar lo mismoTo not matter
—¿Cuándo quieres salir?
—Me da igual/me da lo mismo.
"When do you want to go out?"
"I don't mind/care."
  • Darse cuenta de - to give account to oneself of
Darse cuenta deTo realize
¿Cuándo vas a darte cuenta de que mereces mejor que ella?When are you going to realize that you deserve better than her?
  • Darse por vencido - to give oneself for defeated
Darse por vencidoTo give up
No puedo resolver el acertijo. ¡Me doy por vencido!I can't solve the riddle. I give up!
  • Qué más da - what more does it give?
Qué más daWhat difference does it make?/What does it matter?
¿Qué más da quién lo hizo? What does it matter who did it?
  • ¡Dale! - give it!

This one is heard in lots of famous reggaetón songs.

¡Dale!Hit it!/Let's go!/Do it!
¡Dale, canta!Hit it, sing!
  • Dale - give it

In some countries, such as Colombia and Argentina, 'dale' is used as a stand-in for 'vale.' (Interestingly, some Mexicans use 'sale.' We're all about the rhymes!)

—¿Me puedes ayudar?
"Can you help me?"
"Okay, go for it."

'Estar' - 'to be'

'Estar' is one of two verbs meaning 'to be' (the other one is 'ser'). Here's how to conjugate 'estar' in the present tense.


And here are some idiomatic phrases!

  • Estar - to be
EstarTo be here
Abre. Estoy.Open up. I'm here. (On the phone)
  • Estar a dos velas - to be at two candles
Estar a dos velasTo be broke/penniless
Mi esposo me dejó y ahora estoy a dos velas.My husband left me and now I'm penniless.
Dos Velas Two Candles

Image Via

  • Estar al caer - to be at falling
Estar al caerTo be about to happen/arrive
La segunda temporada está al caer.The second season is about to come out/drop.
  • Estar al corriente - to be at the current
Estar al corrienteTo be up to date/in the loop
Estoy al corriente de los eventos de anoche.I'm up to date on the events of last night.
  • Estar como agua para chocolate - to be like water for chocolate (used in Mexico and some other Latin American countries)
Estar como agua para chocolateTo be furious/to be at boiling point
Daniel le engañó a su novia. Ella está como agua para chocolate.Daniel cheated on his girlfriend. She's absolutely furious.
  • Estar como pez en el agua - to be like fish in water
Estar como pez en el aguaTo be in one's element
Cuando estoy en la cocina, estoy como pez en el agua.When I'm in the kitchen, I'm in my element.
  • Estar en la luna/Estar en las nubes - To be on the moon/To be in the clouds
Estar en la luna/Estar en las nubesTo have one's head in the clouds
No creo que Gertrude me haya escuchado. La chica siempre está en la luna.I don't think Gertrude listened to me. The girl has always got her head in the clouds.
  • Estar fuera de sí - to be outside of oneself
Estar fuera de síTo be beside oneself (with emotion)
John acaba de saber que su padre ha fallecido. Está fuera de sí.John just found out that his father has passed away. He's beside himself.
  • Estar hasta las narices de ... - to be up to the noses of ...
Estar hasta las narices de ...To be fed up of ...
Estoy hasta las narices de tus mentiras.I'm fed up of your lies.

There are loads of fun variations of this one. They all refer to being sick and tired of something! Take your pick from these:

  • Estar hasta el moño - to be up to the bun (hairstyle)
  • Estar hasta el gorro - to be up to the hat
  • Estar hasta la coronilla - to be up to the crown (of the head)
  • Estar hasta los cojones - to be up to the balls

Okay, I've had it up to here with the 'up to' phrases. Back to our main list:

  • Estar hecho polvo - to be made dust
Estar hecho polvoTo be exhausted
Corrí un maratón esta mañana. ¡Estoy hecho polvo!I ran a marathon this morning. I'm exhausted!
  • Estar hecho una fiera - to be made a beast
Estar hecho una fieraTo be furious
Dos estudiantes se burlaron del profesor delante de la clase entera. Está hecho una fiera.Two students mocked the teacher in front of the entire class. He's absolutely furious.
  • Estar hecho una sopa - to be made a soup
Estar hecho una sopaTo be soaking wet
La tormenta está terrible. ¡Estoy hecho una sopa!The storm is terrible. I'm soaked!
  • Estar sin blanca - to be without a blanca (Spanish coin from the olden days)
Estar sin blancaTo be broke
No puedo ir a la fiesta. Estoy sin blanca este mes.I can't go to the party. I'm flat broke this month.

'Hacer' - 'to do'/'to make'

'Hacer' has to be one of the most common verbs in Spanish, and has heaps of uses. Here's its present tense conjugation.


And here's a load of neat ways to use it idiomatically.

  • Hace + period of time - does + period of time
Hace + period of time - does + period of timePeriod of time + ago
Hace un mes que me mudé.A month ago I moved here.
Vi a Keziah hace poco.I saw Keziah a short while ago.
  • Hacer (buenas) migas - to make (good) crumbs
Hacer (buenas) migasTo hit it off
Graham hizo buenas migas con Trevor.Graham hit it off with Trevor.
  • Hacer caso - to make fact
Hacer caso de + thingTo pay attention to + thing
Hacer caso a + personTo pay attention to/obey + person
Siempre hago caso de las noticias.I always pay attention to the news.
¡Hazme caso!Obey me!/Do as you're told!
  • Hacer de tripas corazón - to make heart from innards
Hacer de tripas corazónTo bite the bullet
No quiero ir pero haré de tripas corazón.I don't want to go, but I'll bite the bullet.
  • Hacer frente a - to make front to
Hacer frente aTo face up to
Tengo que hacer frente a mi fobia.I have to confront my phobia.
  • Hacer la vista gorda - to make the fat view
Hacer la vista gordaTo turn a blind eye
La verdad es que muchos hacemos la vista gorda cuando vemos a las personas sin hogar.The truth is that many of us turn a blind eye when we see homeless people.
  • Hacer su agosto* (en julio) - to make one's August (in July)
Hacer su agostoTo make a killing/To make a fortune
Ana decidió vender paraguas en Inglaterra. Está haciendo su agosto.Ana decided to sell umbrellas in England. She's making a killing.

*Top tip: in Spanish, you don't have to use capital letters for days of the week or months of the year!

  • Hacerse el sueco - to make like the Swede
Hacerse el suecoTo play dumb
Sé que fuiste tú quien me robó el teléfono. No te hagas el sueco.I know it was you who stole my phone. Don't play dumb.
  • Hacerse el tonto - to make like the idiot
Hacerse el tontoTo play dumb
Cuando la policía le interrogó, se hizo el tonto.When the police interrogated him, he played dumb.
  • Trato hecho - deal done
Trato hechoIt's a deal
—Si me das uno de esos chocolates, te doy un pedazo de pastel.
—¡Trato hecho!
"If you give me one of those chocolates, I'll give you a piece of cake."
"It's a deal!"
  • A lo hecho, pecho - to what's done, chest
A lo hecho, pechoYou've made your bed, now lie in it/You do the crime, you do the time/What’s done is done/No use crying over spilt milk; face up to it
—He borrado todos los datos por accidente. No quiero hacer frente a mi jefe.
—A lo hecho, pecho.
"I've accidentally deleted all the data. I don't want to face my boss."
"What’s done is done; face him!"
  • De hecho - of fact
De hechoIn fact
Me encanta la comida española. De hecho, trabajo en un bar de tapas.I love Spanish food. In fact, I work in a tapas bar.

Estás al corriente...

Great job, you're now up to date on idioms using three of Spanish's most common verbs: dar, estar, and hacer. Practice them often to start sounding like a native!

About the author 

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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