Business Spanish Idioms: 10 Phrases to Wow Your Spanish-Speaking Co-Workers

Have you ever overheard a conversation between teenagers and wondered whether they were even speaking in the same language? We totally get you. Although the English language is only one, there are as many varieties of it as speakers in the world.

When it comes to Spanish, it’s the same thing. There is the Spanish that old people speak, the Spanish that millennials use on social media… And then, there is Business Spanish.

If you want to succeed in the business world in countries such as Chile or Spain, you will need to put down your old textbook and learn some business jargon with our list of Spanish idioms.


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Business Spanish Idioms and Their English Meaning

Do you want to learn Spanish? Then make it count! Memorize the phrases below and gain your colleagues’ trust and respect. In the list below, you will find the most useful Spanish idioms to use at the office and all you need to know about their English meaning.

1. Poner las manos a la obra – Get to work

Let’s start our list of Spanish idioms with a phrase that will make you sound proactive and passionate about your job. “Poner las manos a la obra”, which literally means “make your hands work” is an expression that you can use when you think enough talk has been done and it’s time to get some work done.

Buena, idea, Julio. Ahora, ¿qué tal si ponemos las manos a la obra?” (Good idea, Julio. Now let’s get to work, shall we?)

2. Mantenerse a la cabeza – Stay ahead

As it happens in English, some Spanish idioms might sound weird if you take them literally. For example, Cabeza means head, but being a la cabeza has nothing to do with actual heads. Its English meaning is similar to “staying ahead”, so you can use it to encourage your team to give their best.

Si queremos estar a la cabeza, tenemos que conocer los puntos débiles de la competencia.” (If we want to stay ahead, we need to know what our competitors’ weakness is.)

3. Volver a foja cero – Back to square one

If you want to learn Spanish idioms to improve your professional communications, make sure you memorize this expression.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we’ve worked on a project, you can see that something’s off and you need to stop, see what you did wrong, and start over.

Why not save time and be the one to say it?

Equipo, creo que nos equivocamos desde el principio. Mejor volvamos a foja cero.” (Team, I think we got this all wrong from the beginning. Let’s go back to square one.)

4. Al pie de la letra – To the letter

Wait, doesn’t “pie” mean foot? What do feet have to do with letters?

Don’t worry. This expression has nothing to do with feet. Like we said before, most Spanish idioms can’t be taken literally. Doing something al pie de la letra just means that you want to do it strictly according to the rules.

No creo que debamos ponernos creativos con el informe. Sigamos al pie de la letra las intrucciones que nos dieron.” (I don’t think we should get creative with the report. Let’s just follow to the letter the instructions we were given.)

Do you see how, although they’re phrased differently, the English meaning of Spanish idioms is completely familiar?

5. Plan de juego – Game plan

Foto de mentatdgt en Pexels

Finally! A Spanish idiom that is totally recognizable for English speakers. Like in English, un plan de juego refers to a strategy worked out in advance to achieve success. For example, your reading our list of Spanish idioms is part of a game plan to learn Spanish for business and get better job opportunities.

¿Y si diseñamos un gran plan de juego para sacar a nuestros competidores del mercado?” (Let’s come up with a great game plan to put our competitors out of business.)

6. Echarse a perder – Go down the drain

Depending on the context, this phrase might be translated as “spoiling” (as in “to spoil the fun”), “being off” (as in “those beans are off”), and a few others. But in the context of a business conversation, its English meaning is something like “let our efforts go to waste”.

Es una gran idea, pero sin una buena campaña de marketing todos nuestros esfuerzos se echarán a perder.” (It’s a great idea, but without a solid marketing campaign all our effort will go down the drain.)

7. Tener las piernas cortadas – English meaning: To lack the power or ability to do something correctly or well

This is the only expression in our list of Spanish idioms that doesn’t have a one-to-one English equivalent.

Diego Maradona pronounced this phrase during the 1994 World Cup after being suspended due to his use of drugs. When asked how he felt about it, he said that it was as if they had cut off his legs.

Nowadays, this phrase is used in Argentina and Uruguay to mean that you feel powerless or defeated. As you can see, when you learn Spanish idioms you’re also learning about the culture of the people who speak it.

¿Cómo que no se puede grabar la reunión? Me estás cortando las piernas.” (What do you mean we can’t record the meeting? You’re killing me.)

8. Darse la cabeza contra la pared – Hit your head against the wall

Have you ever made a mistake so big that it was as if you’ve hit your head against an invisible wall?

Well, if that happens to you while working in a Spanish-speaking country, at least now you’ll know how to say how you feel!

No es una buena fecha para lanzar el producto. Nos vamos a dar la cabeza contra la pared de nuevo, chicos.” (It’s not a good moment to lunch this product. We’ll hit our head against the wall again, guys.)

As most Spanish idioms in this list, you can use this one in other contexts too. For example, to talk about a fruitless and hopeless attempt to win back your ex-partner.

9. En la misma página – On the same page

“Learn Spanish!”, they said. “It’s so easy”, they said. Well, sometimes it is.

This is one of those rare occasions in which Spanish and English meanings, both literal and figurative, are exactly the same. If two or more people are en la misma página, they are focusing on the same thing or they are in agreement about something.


—Estaba pensando: ¿Y si aumentamos la publicidad en redes sociales?
—Yo estaba pensando lo mismo.
—Me alegra que estemos en la misma página.


—I was thinking… shouldn’t we use more social media ads?
—I was thinking the same thing.
—I’m glad we’re on the same page.

10. Jugárselo todo a una carta – Put all one’s eggs in one basket

Do you like playing card games? If you do, you know that it’s not advisable to rely on one card only.

The expression “to bet it all on one card” is generally used as a warning not to concentrate all efforts and resources in one area as you can lose everything you’ve worked hard to achieve.

¿Este producto es lo único que tenemos para mostrar en la feria anual? Me preocupa que estemos jugándolo todo a una carta.” (This is the only product we’ll take to the annual exhibition? I’m afraid we’re putting all our eggs in one basket.)

We hope you’ve found our little list of Business Spanish idioms useful. Meanwhile, if you’re travelling to Spain soon and you need to learn Spanish fast, make sure you check our list of phrases for travellers.

Are you travelling to Colombia? Then read our post on Colombian idioms and their English meaning.

And if you’d really like to wow your colleagues and ace your job interviews, you’ll need more than just idioms! We can pair you up with a qualified native Spanish teacher that suits your learning style and needs (even if you need to learn a specific variety of the language) to take your Spanish skills to a whole new level.

With our tailored curricula and flexible schedules, you’re sure to have a fantastic time in your classes and improve your language skills in bounds and leaps. Try us out with our free online trial lessons! Contact us to get started.


Learn Spanish in your city or online with our qualified native tutors and take your career to the next level!