The Spanish verb echar can be used in many different ways and appears in a host of different Spanish idiomatic expressions. Let's explore the many meanings and uses of the Spanish verb echar.
While the first definition of echar in dictionaries is typically "to throw," it can refer to any literal or figurative movement from one point to another and can thus be translated in many fashions depending upon the context. Let's take a look at several of its most common meanings with examples from our Yabla Spanish library.
Although the Spanish verb echar can literally mean "to throw," "toss," or "hurl" something, it is probably more common to hear verbs like tirar, lanzar, or arrojar used with this meaning. That said, let's take a look at an example where echar means to physically throw something:
y le echas harina y se lo pones en el pelo y... ¡Chwak!
and you throw flour on her and you put it in her hair and... Bam!
Caption 17, Club 10 Capítulo 1 - Part 1Play Caption
The Spanish verb echar can also be used in the way we use the verbs "to throw" something "out" or "away," whether literally or figuratively. Let's look at an example of each:
Por lo general, tenemos cuatro contenedores: el azul, donde echamos el papel, cartón, revistas,
Generally, we have four trash bins: the blue one, where we throw away paper, cardboard, magazines,
Captions 3-4, Rosa ReciclarPlay Caption
Todo estaba tranquilo y lo echaste a la basura
Everything was calm and you threw it in the garbage
Caption 3, Sondulo Que te vaya malPlay Caption
The verb echar in Spanish often appears in recipes and other contexts when talking about "adding" or "putting in" some ingredient, etc. Let's take a look:
Le voy a echar un poco de nata...
I'm going to add a bit of cream to it...
Caption 47, Cómetelo Crema de brócoli - Part 9Play Caption
Bueno, también le podemos echar diferentes clases de condimentos.
Well, we can also put in different kinds of seasoning.
Caption 24, Cocinando con Miguelito Pollo sudado - Part 2Play Caption
Along these same lines, echar can also be used to mean to pour something into something else:
Solo falta echarla en el molde
We just need to pour it into the mold
Caption 38, Cleer y Lía El día de la madrePlay Caption
The verb echar in Spanish may also refer to getting rid of someone in the sense of throwing or kicking them out, temporarily or permanently:
No sé qué hace este señor todavía acá, lo eché esta misma tarde.
I don't know what this gentleman is still doing here. I threw him out this very afternoon.
Caption 33, Muñeca Brava 3 Nueva Casa - Part 4Play Caption
Se mueren por saber por qué echó a la chirusa.
They're dying to know why she fired the vulgar girl.
Caption 42, Carlos y Cyndy Comentario sobre Muñeca BravaPlay Caption
And speaking of "expelling" and "fire," the verb echar in Spanish can also mean to "expel," "emit," "give off," or "spew" fire or smoke, for example:
Pero eso no lo iba a entender un dragón al que solo le interesaba rugir y echar fuego por la boca.
But a dragon who was only interested in roaring and spewing fire from his mouth wasn't going to get it.
Caption 49, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 1 - Part 7Play Caption
And, to conclude with our more standard uses of the Spanish verb echar, the formula echar + infinitive means "to start" [doing something]:
y ven la batidora, echan a correr.
and they see the blender, they start to run.
Caption 31, Cómetelo Crema de brócoli - Part 8Play Caption
This meaning might also be seen with the reflexive version of the verb, echarse.
Pero ya las lágrimas se echaban a correr
But the tears were starting to fall
Caption 8, Jeremías Uno y uno igual a tresPlay Caption
Let's take a look at some additional uses of the reflexive verb echarse.
The reflexive verb echarse can be used to talk about "lying down" as in Me voy a echar en la cama (I'm going to lie down in bed) or generally "throwing oneself" or "getting down":
Los hombres que cuando se les dicen de echarse al suelo es que no quieren ninguno.
When men are told to get down on the ground, the thing is that no one wants to.
Captions 52-53, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 8Play Caption
The reflexive verb echarse can additionally have the connotation of moving from one place to another, as in the first example, and is therefore heard often in songs, as in the second, with various translations to tell people how they should move.
donde el pueblo se echa a la calle junto a miles de visitantes
where the town goes out onto the street along with thousands of visitors
Caption 57, Viajando con Fermín Frigiliana, MálagaPlay Caption
Échate pa' un lado
Caption 8, Javier García EPK - Part 2Play Caption
Now, let's look at several Spanish idioms that involve the Spanish verbs echar or echarse with examples in context:
¡Y me echó la culpa de todo!
And she blamed everything on me!Play Caption
El marido se echó a reír al ver la cara de sorpresa de su esposa.
The husband burst out laughing when he saw his wife's surprised face.
Caption 32, Cleer El espejo de MatsuyamaPlay Caption
Después de haberse marchado todos, estaba sola en casa y se echó a llorar.
After everyone had left, she was alone in the house and burst out crying.
Captions 29-30, Cuentos de hadas Cenicienta - Part 1Play Caption
Después de comer, solemos echar la siesta
After eating, we usually take a nap
Caption 20, El Aula Azul Actividades DiariasPlay Caption
Ahora cerramos la puerta, echamos la llave
Now we close the door, we lock it,Play Caption
De España echo mucho de menos el clima,
From Spain, I really miss the weather,
Caption 39, Álvaro Arquitecto Español en LondresPlay Caption
para que nos eche una mano y les vamos a dar
so that he can lend us a hand and we are going to give them
Caption 50, Club de las ideas BioparcPlay Caption
De acuerdo, deje que eche un vistazo.
OK, let me take a look.
Caption 63, Negocios Empezar en un nuevo trabajo - Part 2Play Caption
Así es y pues aquí mira, trabajando, echándole ganas y...
It's so, and well, [we] are here, [you] see, working, giving it my all and...Play Caption
No puedo, negrita, ya eché a perder como diez laburo'.
I can't, honey. I already messed up like ten jobs.
Caption 3, Muñeca Brava 3 Nueva Casa - Part 5Play Caption
¡Callate, Rufino! No eches más leña al fuego, ¿querés?
Shut up, Rufino! Don't put more wood into the fire [don't add fuel to the fire], will you?
Caption 23, Yago 8 Descubrimiento - Part 2Play Caption
Todavía no ha jugado el partido de fútbol y ya está "echando las campanas al vuelo",
He hasn't played the soccer match yet, and he's already "throwing the bells in the air,"
Captions 45-46, Aprendiendo con Silvia Campanas - Part 2Play Caption
Although the literal meaning is totally different, this Spanish expression is comparable to the English idiom about "counting one's chickens before they are hatched." For more such examples, check out this lesson on Spanish idioms and their (very different) English equivalents.
As there are so many standard and idiomatic ways to use the Spanish verb echar that it would be impossible to name them all, we've provided just a smattering! Don't hesitate to write to us with any more you come across, or with any ideas for future lessons. ¡Hasta la próxima!
Let's talk about cumpleaños (birthdays) in Spanish!
To kick off our lesson on birthdays in Spanish, let's first recall that the way to say that you are a certain edad (age) in Spanish is tener años (literally "to have years"). So, if you wanted to ask someone how old they were in Spanish, you could say:
¿Cuántos años tienes?
How old are you?
Caption 11, El Aula Azul Los tutti fruttiPlay Caption
(or ¿Cuántos años tiene? when addressing someone as the more formal usted). And if someone asks you how old you are, you could say tengo (insert a number) años, as we see here:
Tengo dieciséis años.
I'm sixteen years old.
Caption 7, Cleer Entrevista a LilaPlay Caption
Like in English, if you wanted to say just "I'm sixteen" without the "years old," you could omit the word años and say simply, "Tengo dieciséis." And, as you could say, "What's your age?" in English, in Spanish, you could say:
¿Tú qué edad tienes? ¿Yo? Veinticuatro.
How old are you? Me? Twenty-four.
Captions 6-7, 75 minutos Del campo a la mesa - Part 8Play Caption
(This question could be translated as "How old are you?" as well). If you need a refresher on the numbers in Spanish, we invite you to read this lesson on The Numbers from One to One Hundred in Spanish.
Finally, if you wish to speak more generally about age in Spanish, you might use adjectives like jóven (young), viejo/a (old),
adolescente (teenage/adolescent), de edad media (middle-aged), or anciano/a (elderly), although you shouldn't forget that la edad es solo un número (age is just a number)!
The Spanish word for birthday, (el) cumpleaños, comes from the verb cumplir años, which means "to have a birthday." Its literal meaning is something like "to complete" or "accomplish years," which makes sense since getting to the next age sometimes feels like an accomplishment! So, to ask someone when his or her birthday is, you might say:
¿Cuándo cumple(s) (años)?
When's your birthday?
Cumple is, of course, the usted (formal "you") form, while cumples is the less formal version with tú. And the word años (years) is in parentheses because including it is optional, as you will see in the following clip that includes both versions (notice that the second instance of cumplir is conjugated with vos, or the informal "you" in certain regions):
¡No lo puedo creer! -¡Yo cumplo mañana! ¿Mañana cumplís años? -¡Sí, mañana! -¡Llegué pa' la fiesta!
I can't believe it! -My birthday is tomorrow! Tomorrow is your birthday? -Yes, tomorrow! -I arrived [just in time] for the party!
Captions 89-90, Muñeca Brava 3 Nueva Casa - Part 8Play Caption
We also see the first person conjugation with yo (I), which will come in handy when you want to tell someone when your birthday is:
Cumplo el dos de abril.
My birthday is April second.
Note that when this verb is used with a certain number, it means "to turn (a certain number of) years old."
Yo hoy cumplo treinta y seis años;
Today I turn thirty-six;
Caption 46, Clase Aula Azul Pedir deseos - Part 1Play Caption
And to say you "just turned" a certain age, you might say:
Tengo nueve años recién cumplidos. [Paula y Ester]
I just turned nine years old. [Paula and Ester]
Caption 3, Paula y Ester Los objetos de PaulaPlay Caption
To conclude this section, let's take a look at slightly more literal options for asking someone when his or her birthday is and saying when yours is, noting that tu and su are the less and more formal ways to say "your," respectively:
¿Cuándo es tu/su cumpleaños? -Mi cumpleaños es el dos de abril
When is your birthday? -My birthday is April second.
Or, you could use the more colloquial, abbreviated form and say merely: "¿Cuándo es tu/su cumple?"
Another, more formal way to ask someone when they "were born" is with the verb nacer, with a question like: "¿Cuándo naciste (tú)?" or "¿Cuándo nació (usted)?" Now, let's see how to say "I was born":
Nací el catorce de enero de mil novecientos ochenta y siete.
I was born on January fourteenth, nineteen eighty-seven.
Caption 18, Raquel Poner una denunciaPlay Caption
As this question might evoke a more detailed response involving your birth month/year, if you need to review how to say these things in Spanish, check out these lessons on How to Write and Say the Months in Spanish and Saying Years in Spanish. And remember that, like in English, Spanish has a different word for "birthdate" (as opposed to "birthday"), which is fecha de nacimiento.
Now that you know how to talk about age and birthdays in Spanish, let's learn some vocabulary to festejar or celebrar (both mean "to celebrate") a feliz cumpleaños (happy birthday).
Perhaps you want to plan a fiesta de cumpleaños (birthday party). The verbs for having, or throwing a party in Spanish include hacer (to make/do), preparar (to prepare), or organizar (to organize) una fiesta (a party):
Karla, sabes, me gustaría hacer una fiesta
Karla, you know, I'd like to have a party
Caption 10, Karla e Isabel Preparar una fiestaPlay Caption
First, you'd better send out some invitaciones (invitations) to the lista de invitados (guest list).
Ya he enviado las invitaciones a todos mis amigos
I have already sent the invitations to all my friends
Caption 3, Marta Vocabulario de CumpleañosPlay Caption
When the guests arrive, they just might come bearing regalos (gifts). The verb for giving a gift is regalar. They might also give you a tarjeta de cumpleaños, which can also be called a tarjeta de felicitación (literally a "congratulations card"). In fact, in addition to telling you "Feliz cumpleaños" on your birthday, Spanish speakers might say "Felicitaciones" (Congratulations) or "Te/le felicito" (I congratulate you).
In terms of the decoraciones (decorations), you've got to have balloons! While globo is probably the most common word for "balloon" in Spanish, different countries have different words like balón, vejiga (which also means bladder!), chimbomba, or just bomba.
O una bomba de papel metalizado.
Or a silver paper balloon.
Caption 1, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 10 - Part 6Play Caption
And don't forget the cake! Words for "cake," which also vary from country to country, include la tarta, el pastel, la torta, and el bizcocho. Let's hear a couple of these in action:
Mirad, aquí está la tarta. Cumplo treinta y seis.
Look, here's the cake. I'm turning thirty-six.
Caption 11, Clase Aula Azul Pedir deseos - Part 1Play Caption
Un rol protagónico lo tiene el pastel de la quinceañera
The birthday girl's cake plays a leading role
Caption 33, Venezuela La tradición de los quince añosPlay Caption
In the second example, quinceañera refers to the birthday girl at a special, coming-of-age celebration for girls' fifteenth birthday that is celebrated in many Latin American countries (this word can also refer to the party itself). The video La tradición de los quince elaborates on this custom.
And finally, let's talk about las velas (candles) that go on a birthday cake. The verb for "blowing" them (out) is soplar, during which the cumpleañero/a (birthday boy/girl) should pedir deseos (make wishes):
Y yo que soy la cumpleañera, pido un deseo y soplo las velas.
And I, as I'm the birthday girl, make a wish and blow out the candles.
Captions 13-14, Marta Vocabulario de CumpleañosPlay Caption
And we mustn't forget the "Happy Birthday" song, which shares the same tune in English and Spanish. Let's listen to a couple of different versions in Spanish:
Cumpleaños feliz Cumpleaños feliz Cumpleaños felices Te deseamos a ti
Happy Birthday Happy Birthday Happy Birthdays We wish to youPlay Caption
Que los cumplas feliz.
Happy birthday to you.
Caption 10, Marta Vocabulario de CumpleañosPlay Caption
That's all for today. To hear many of these Spanish birthday vocabulary words in action and learn some more, you might watch Marta- Vocabulario de cumpleaños. In the meantime, we hope you've enjoyed this lesson, and... don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments!
The use of the interrogative pronouns qué (what) and cuál (which) in Spanish can sometimes be confusing for English speakers. There are certain rules about the proper use of these words, but, as usual, sometimes grammar doesn't quite catch up with how things work in the real world.
Witht that being said, our best advice is always to listen more and practice more. So let's see some examples of how questions with qué (what) and cuál (which) are used in real context!
Generally speaking, we can say that cuál (which) is used to ask about the identity of a person or a thing in a group. Cuál is a question about choice. The pronoun qué is for questions about identity as well, but it's used in direct questions rather than in ones that involve making a choice. Here's an example where the question cuál (which) is used before a verb:
¿Pero cuál es el peor trabajo?
But which is the worst job?
Caption 40, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesaPlay Caption
It would be really odd to hear someone saying ¿Qué es el mejor trabajo? It's rare, but possible, because making this substitution alters the meaning of the question completely. It's easier to understand the distinction if we compare what kind of answer these two questions would likely get:
¿Pero cuál es el peor trabajo? / But which is the worst job?
- El peor trabajo es el de recogedor de basura. / The worst job is that of a garbage hauler.
¿Pero qué es el peor trabajo? / But what is the worst job?
-El peor trabajo es el menos deseable. / The worst job is the least desirable.
Now, let's check the following example. Here cuál is used before a noun:
¿Pero cuál juego les gusta más?
But which attraction do you like the most?Play Caption
This is a great example, because when used before a noun, cuál is equivalent to qué. So the following is also correct:
¿Pero qué juego les gusta más?
But which attraction do you like the most?
We believe it's actually better to see it the other way around: sometimes qué (what) is also used to ask about choices. It happens in English as well, right?
¿Qué color te gustaría?
What color would you like?
Caption 50, Raquel y Marisa - Agente del concesionarioPlay Caption
But most of the time it's just not right to use qué to ask about choices. Let's see an interesting phenomenon. In Spanish, you can use the preposition de (of) to introduce a group of things from which to pick a choice. And you can use cuál (which) before this preposition:
¿Cuál de esos países te gustó más?
Which one of those countries did you like most?
Caption 86, Cleer - HobbiesPlay Caption
You can also use qué (what) before de (of), but then you wouldn't be asking someone to pick a favorite country from a list of countries (the ones the other person visited), you would be asking something else:
¿Qué de esos países te gusto más?
What [aspect] of those countries did you like the most?
It's very useful to imagine possible answers to both questions:
¿Cuál de esos países te gustó más? / Which one of those countries did you like most?
- Italia y Francia. / Italy and France.
¿Qué de esos países te gustó más? / What aspect of those countries did you like most?
- Su rica cultura y deliciosa comida. / Their rich culture and delicious food.
But, if you place the preposition de (of) before and not after qué or cuál, you can again use them as equivalents! Why? Because now they are both right before a noun.
¿De qué sabor quieres? = ¿De cuál sabor quieres?
What flavor do you want? = Which flavor do you want?
We'll continue to explore the use of cuál (which) and qué (what) in future lessons.