Idioms and idiomatic expressions: Are you pulling my leg?

Idioms are great.

Native speakers of any language are using idioms all the time and they can be very disconcerting for learners of  a new language.

Native English speakers use many idioms and idiomatic expressions every day, perhaps even without realising it, as these expressions are so common in our everyday speech, the meaning is understood immediately by other native speakers.

The word idiom derives from Greek, meaning “one’s own” and therefore idiom in linguistic terms transfers to  “a peculiarity, something special, or a special feature”

The Spanish word for ‘language‘ is IDIOMA,  with the sense of the language peculiar or special to a certain people (as native languages are) 



Idioms and idiomatic expressions are defined as expressions which, when each word is translated separately,  make no sense, especially to a learner of that language. 

An example of an idiomatic expression in English is: “to hang out with somebody”.

“Hi James, it’s Susan here.  I thought we could hang out this weekend!”

Imagine a non-English speaker hearing this for the first time and who went to the (on-line) dictionary to find the meaning of  “to hang” and then “out” .

They would get very confused trying to work out what plan Susan had for James this weekend. They would maybe get “the wrong end of the stick”!

More examples of idiomatic expressions used frequently by native English speakers

  • “to take someone to the cleaner’s” (to ‘clean’ them out of all their assets, render them penniless)
Photo Credit
  • “to pull someone’s leg” (to tease or joke with someone, usually saying something untrue, in a light-hearted manner)
You’ve got a sprained ankle!… No! I’m just pulling your leg!
  • “to be a couch potato”  (to not be a very active person, with a sense that the person prefers to sit on a sofa rather than do physical activity) 
couch potato
Couch potato?

Each of these expressions, if analysed word by word, would make very little sense to a student beginning to study English.

All languages have their own idioms and idiomatic expressions and Spanish is no exception.

But imagine how cool you would sound if you could try out some idiomatic expressions on native speakers. They would be very impressed by your linguistic skills in their language.

Read on to some posts below, where we can consider some really interesting idioms and idiomatic expressions in Spanish.

We’ll “have a blast”!

  • Have you heard any interesting idioms or idiomatic expressions in Spanish you’d like to share and discuss?
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