Spanish idioms involving time

Hispanic Community January 2023 PREMIUM
Time is something that cannot be denied or escaped.

It cannot be seen but can be felt. In the wake of a new year, we become more conscious of this, and January can be perfect for reflecting on time and setting new goals, planning, and putting the machinery of life into motion. In Spanish, there is a proverb that conveys such a notion: Año nuevo, Vida nueva! -new year, new life- meaning that this time of the year can be the perfect opportunity to start anew.

Some other proverbs and idioms involving time and conveying optimism and encouragement when faced with unfavorable situations are:

1.  Al mal tiempo, buena cara – when things do not seem all right, stay calm and in a good mood.

Literal Translation:  In bad times, put on a good face.

Similarity to English: If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

2.  No hay mal que dure 100 años – there is no possibility that something sad or awful lasts a lifetime.

Literal translation: There is no evil that lasts a hundred years.

Similarity to English: No evil lasts forever.

3.  Tiempo al tiempo – be patient, as things may take time to change.

Literal translation: Time to time.

Similarity to English: Everything in due time/ for everything there is a season

4.  El tiempo todo lo cura – one should not give up when faced with apparent endless suffering.

Literal Translation: Time heals everything.

Similarity to English: Time heals all wounds.

5.  Mañana será otro día – expresses hope and confidence for a better future.  Looking towards tomorrow lightens the burden until change happens.

Literal translation and similarity to English: Tomorrow is another day.

Time, as synonym of life, shows itself in the following proverbs and idioms that stress the importance of taking advantage of the moment, making the most of time and, consequently, of 'life':

6.  El tiempo vuela – time passes by very fast.

Literal translation: Time flies.

Similarity to English: Time is short.

7.  El tiempo es oro – time is taken as a valuable resource.

Literal Translation: Time is gold.

Similarity to English: Time is more precious than gold.

8.  Al que madruga, Dios lo ayuda – time is so precious that every minute counts to profit from it.

Literal Translation: Those who get up early are helped by God.

Similarity to English: The early bird catches the worm.

9.  No dejes para mañana lo que puedes hacer hoy – take advantage of the moment now and not later on.

Literal translation: Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

Similarity to English: Better now than later.

10.  Ocasión que se pasó, pájaro que voló – highlights the importance of grabbing the chance when it presents itself.

Literal translation: The opportunity that was lost, is like the bird that flew away.

Similarity to English: Opportunity seldom knocks twice.

However, sometimes it is wiser not to rush and let life take the lead, allowing a natural course of events to take place, as expressed by these idioms:

11. No por mucho madrugar, amanece más temprano – things not always need to be done promptly. Taking the time to make final decisions may be wiser on certain occasions.

Literal translation: No matter how early one gets up, it will not dawn earlier.

12. Nunca es tarde si la dicha es buena – more important than timing is enjoying oneself.

Literal translation: It is never too late to enjoy oneself.

Similarity to English: Never too late.

13. Más vale tarde que nunca – it is better to do something late than not do it at all.

Literal translation and similarity to English: Better late than never.

14. El tiempo es el mejor maestro – experience gained with time is the best teacher.

Literal translation and similarity to English: Time is the best teacher.

15. Más vale paso que dure y no trote que canse – persistence, without thinking of the time something takes, is better than rushing into things to finish fast.

Literal translation: A pace that lasts is better than trotting which tires you out.

Similarity to English: Steady pace wins the race.

In Latin American countries, Tuesday is generally loaded with bad luck. This dates back to Roman times when Mars, the war god, protected warriors but not the rest of the people. So, making commercial transactions or embarking on a sea voyage was not advisable; in those times, marriage was also part of commercial transactions. That is why:

16. En martes, no te cases ni te embarques

Literal translation: On a Tuesday, do not get married or aboard a ship.

And, as an extension, every

17. Martes 13 – Tuesday 13- brings bad luck.

Similarity to English: Friday 13 is an unlucky day.

Finally, there are several proverbs and sayings that refer to our relationship with the past:

18. Todo tiempo pasado fue mejor – when in retrospect, we tend to forget negative or hurtful experiences, thus creating more positive memories in the present.

      Literal Translation: All past time was better.

    Similarity to English: The good old times.

19. Recordar es volver a vivir – by remembering, we re-live past moments in a vivid way.

Literal translation: remembering is re-living

Similarity to English: keeping our memories alive

20. Si miras mucho atrás, a ninguna parte llegarás – this saying admonishes us not to dwell too much on the past, which can keep us from moving forward.

Literal translation: If you look back too much, you will get nowhere.

Similarity to English: The past is past/ leave the past in the past.

Which Spanish idiom will accompany you this year? At H.O., we wish you an Año nuevo, vida nueva!

Share with:

Product information

Post a Job

Post a job in higher education?

Place your job ad in our classified page on the HO print & digital Edition