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Proverbs and Refrains

Proverbs and sayings are common sentences that express a warning or a moral lesson and are used by tradition.  For example:

  • Más vale lo viejo conocido que lo nuevo por conocer.  (It’s better to have an old acquaintance than a new acquaintance to get to know.)
  • No es rico el que tiene mucho dinero, sino el que vivecontento.  (He who has money is not rich, but he who lives happily is rich.)

Common Spanish proverbs and refrains are:

Spanish

English

A caballo regalado no se le mira el colmillo

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

A gato viejo, ratón tierno

Old cat, young mouse.

Agua que no has de beber, déjala correr

That which you don't need, leave for others.

A la fuerza, ni la comida es buena

The food is no good when it is force-fed.

A la ley de cristo cada quien con su pisto

Dutch treat

Al mal tiempo, buena cara

Smile in the face of adversity.

Al que madruga, Dios lo ayuda

The early bird catches the worm.

Candil de la calle, oscuridad de su casa

Angel in the street, devil in the house.

A palabras necias, oídos sordos

To foolish words, turn a deaf ear.

Amor con amor se paga

You get what you give.

Árbol que crece torcido, nunca su rama endereza

Old habits die hard.

A todo coche se le llega su sábado

What goes around comes around.

Barriga llena, corazón contento

A full stomach means a happy heart.

Cada cabeza es un mundo

To each his own.

Cada oveja busca su pareja

Birds of a feather flock together.

Camarón que se duerme, se lo lleva la corriente

You snooze, you lose.

Caras vemos y corazones no sabemos

You can't judge a book by its cover.

Claro como el agua

Crystal clear

Con la vara que midas, serás medido

You get what you give.

Cuando dios da, da de junto

When it rains, it pours.

Cuando el gato se va, los ratones hacen su fiesta

When the cat's away, the mice will play.

Cuando el río truena, es porque piedras lleva

Every rumor has a little bit of truth.

Cuando tu ibas, yo venía

I was fishing when you were still a twinkle in your father's eye.

Del dicho al hecho, hay mucho trecho

Saying and doing are two different things.

De tal palo tal astilla

The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres

Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are.

Donde come uno, comen dos

There's always room for one more.

Donde hubo fuego, cenizas quedan

Where there was fire, ashes remain.

Donde manda capitán, no manda marinero

There's only one captain to a ship.

Donde cabe uno, caben dos

There's always room for one more.

El comal le dijo a la olla, “qué tiznada estás”

The pot calling the kettle black.

El padre predica pero no se convierte

Do as I say, not as I do.

El lunes ni las gallinas ponen

On Mondays not even chickens lay eggs.

El pez grande se come al chico

The big fish eats the little fish.

El que busca encuentra

He who seeks shall find.

El que más tiene, más quiere

The more you have, the more you want.

El que no arriesga, no gana

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

El que no llora, no mama

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

El que no oye consejos, no llega a viejo

He who doesn't listen to good advice won't live to be old.

El que siembra vientos, cosecha tempestades

You reap what you sow.

El que se va a Sevilla, pierde su silla

Finderskeepers, losers weepers.

El tiempo lo dirá

Time will tell.

El tiempo perdido hasta los santos lo lloran

Time is money.

El tiempo vuela

Time flies.

En boca cerrada no entran moscas

Loose lips sink ships.

En el peligro se conoce al amigo

A friend in need is a friend in deed.

Enfermo que come, no se muere 

A sick person that eats doesn't die.

Entre menos bulto, más claridad

Two's company, three's a crowd.

Errar es de humanos

To err is human.

Fruta podrida, contagia a las demás

One bad apple spoils the whole bunch.

Gallina que come huevo, ni aunque le quemen el pico

Old habits are hard to break.

Hablando del rey de Roma y él que se asoma

Speak of the devil.

Hablando se entiende la gente

By talking, people come to understand one another.

Hasta no ver no creer

Seeing is believing.

Hay más tiempo que vida

There is always enough time.

Haz el bien y no mires a quién

Do good and don't consider to whom or how it will benefit you.

Hierba mala, nunca muere

You can't kill the devil.

Hombre casado, ni frito ni asado

Married men, not fried or grilled.

Hombre prevenido, vale por dos

To be prepared is half the battle.

Hoy por ti, mañana por mí

You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

Justos pagan por pecadores

The innocent often pay for the sins of others.

La curiosidad mató al gato

Curiosity killed the cat.

La educación no pelea con nadie

The educated do not fight with anyone.

La práctica hace al maestro

Practice makes perfect.

Las apariencias engañan

Can't judge a book by its cover.

La unión hace la fuerza

Two heads are better than one.

Lo barato sale caro

You get what you pay for.

Del cielo a la tierra no hay nada oculto

That which is done at night appears in the day.

Peor es nada

Anything is better than nothing.

Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

Más vale prevenir que lamentar

Better safe than sorry.

Más vale que sobre y no que falte

Better too much than too little.

Más vale solo que mal acompañado

Better to be alone than in bad company.

Más vale tarde que nunca

Better late than never.

Mientras haya vida, habrá esperanza

When there's life, there's hope.

Músico pagado no toca bien

Music paid for doesn't sound good.

Nadie da algo sin pedir nada a cambio

There's no such thing as a free lunch.

Nadie nace sabiendo

No one is born knowing.

No dejes para mañana, lo que puedas hacer hoy

Don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

No hagas a otros lo que no quieres que te hagan

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

No hay mal que dure cien años

No ill lasts a hundred years and no one can endure it so long.

No hay mal que por bien no venga

Every cloud has a silver lining.

No hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver

No one is more blind than he who doesn't want to see.

Nunca digas: nunca

Never say never.

No todo lo que brilla es oro

All that glitters is not gold.

Ojo por ojo y diente por diente

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Ojos que no ven, corazón que no siente

What you don't know can't hurt you.

Para saber hablar hay que saber escuchar

To know how to speak, you have to know how to listen.

Perro que ladra, no muerde

His bark is worse than his bite.

Preguntando se llega a Roma

By asking you'll get to Rome.

Querer es poder

Where there's a will, there's a way.

Todo tiene solución, menos la muerte

Only death has no solution.

Zapatero a tus zapatos

Stick with what you know.

Los niños y los bolos, dicen la verdad.

Children and crazies (drunks) tell the truth.

No puede el buen árbol tener malos frutos

Good trees cannot have bad fruit.

Por el fruto se conoce el árbol

By the fruit, one knows the tree.

Cada uno sabe dónde le aprieta el zapato

Each person knows his weakness.

Acércate a los pobres y te acercarás a Dios

Be near the poor and you'll be near God.

Corazón sin amores, jardín sin flores

A heart without love is like a garden without flowers.

Por el canto se conoce al pájaro

By the song, one knows the bird.

Por su propio boca muere el pez

To put one's foot in one's mouth.

Cuando una puerta se cierra, otra se abre

When one door closes, another door opens.

Cada uno quiere llevar agua a su molino y dejar seco el del vecino.

Each person who wants to carry water to his kitchen leaves the neighbor dry.

Las paredes tienen oídos

The walls have ears.

No hay rosas sin espinas

There are no roses without thorns.

Quien tiene un buen libro, tiene un buen amigo

He who has a good book has a good friend.

Juez limpio de manos, no acepta regalos

A judge with clean hands doesn't accept gifts.

Palabras sin obras, guitarras sin cuerdas

Words without works are like guitars without cords.