11 Spanish Phrases and Idioms About Ways of Doing Things

Barely, forcibly, frequently, very seldom, the hard way… Sometimes you need a short and simple way of expressing a certain way of doing things. Spanish language has lots of phrases and idioms of this kind, some of which may not be easily understood by a foreigner. Here are some of the most commonly used:

  1. A ciegas. Blindly. Él creyó a ciegas todo lo que ella dijo, he blindly believed all she said. Tengo una cita a ciegas este fin de semana, I have a blind date this weekend.
  2. A duras penas. Hardly, barely, with great difficulty. Estoy tan cansado que a duras penas puedo moverme, I’m so tired I can hardly move.
  3. A ojo. At a rough guess. Así, a ojo, yo diría que había unas doscientas personas, at a rough guess I’d say there were about two hundred people.
  4. De mala gana / a regañadientes / a regaña dientes. Reluctantly, grudgingly. De mala gana me mostró su tatuaje, he/she reluctantly showed me his tattoo. El Presidente admitió sólo a regañadientes haber mentido, the President only grudgingly admitted that he had lied.
  5. De repente. All of a sudden. Desapareció de repente, he/she suddenly disappeared. Note: in Venezuela and Uruguay de repentecan also informally mean “possibly”.

  6. De golpe. Suddenly, in one go. Perdí todo el dinero de golpe, I lost all the money in one go.
  7. Por si acaso. Just in case. Llévate el paraguas, por si acaso, take the umbrella, just in case. More colloquially, you could say por si las moscas, which, yes, literally means “in case of flies”.
  8. Como si nada / como si tal cosa. As if it weren’t important, or as if nothing had happened, impassive. Le dijeron que su país estaba siendo atacado, y él continuó como si tal cosa, they told him that his country was under attack, and he went on as if nothing had happened.
  9. Sin querer. Unintentionally, by accident. Lo siento muchísimo, fue sin querer, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it.
  10. A mi manera. My way. ¡Siempre tenemos que hacerlo todo a tu manera!, we have to do everything your way all the time!
  11. A fuerza de+[verb/noun]. By doing it insistently, or by using it abundantly, by dint of. A fuerza de insistir, acabé por convencerla, by dint of insistence, I ended up convincing her. Hey, look, bonus idiom here: acabar por+[infinitive] or acabar+[present participle] means “to end up”. So, in the sentence above, acabé por convencerla can be replaced by acabé convenciéndola.

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