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How are your Mexican Spanish lessons coming along? Remember, “el que busca encuentra”.
What’s that, you might ask? Well, that phrase is actually a commonly used Mexican proverb. It basically reminds us that, if you have a dream, you need to work for it.
A proverb is a wise saying that is commonly used in everyday speech by a certain culture or social group. Proverbs are interesting to learn as they are beautiful examples of how native speakers construct sentences. They also provide insight into their mindset, values, and way of thinking.
Mexican proverbs are pithy and witty and talk about life, love, and other things that people of Mexican descent hold dear.
Learning Mexican proverbs can help you improve your vocabulary, learn some grammar rules, and sound more natural in your speech.
Here are a few particularly wise and beautiful ones that you should be able to hear or use in daily conversation.
Meaning: If you search you will find.
English equivalent: Follow your dreams.
This wise Mexican proverb reminds us that we need to move beyond just daydreaming, we need to get up and “search” or work towards our dreams. Don’t sit around waiting for what you want to come to you, go out and find it.
Meaning: To bad times, a good face.
English equivalent: Chin up.
This Mexican proverb is meant to encourage you to “think positive”. The idea is that, even when times seem hard, they can and will get better as long as you stay positive.
Meaning: Cheap is expensive
English equivalent: You get what you paid for.
Everyone loves a bargain, however, this Mexican proverb cautions people against being too eager to buy a cheaper item if it’s of lesser quality. The idea is that, if you spend more money to buy a higher quality item, you will spend less because it will last longer.
Meaning: He who runs with wolves will learn to howl.
English equivalent: If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas.
This is a Mexican proverb that is meant to tell you or warn you about who you associate with. The idea is that you will be influenced by the company that you keep.
Meaning: A bird in the hand is worth more than one hundred in flight.
English equivalent: A bird is worth two in the bush.
This proverb is commonly used to tell you to appreciate what you have, “the bird in hand”. It’s also used as a caution or reminder that you need to focus on the most important task at hand, because thinking about too many things or trying to do too much could end up with you doing a poor job.
Meaning: No flies enter a closed mouth
English equivalent: Hold your tongue
When you hear this, the Mexican speaker is admonishing you or someone else of the value of keeping quiet. The idea is you shouldn’t speak of something, either because it is not your business or because you do not know enough to comment.
Meaning: Shoemaker, to your shoes.
English equivalent: Mind your own business.
This is similar to the proverb above, but maybe a little nicer sounding. It’s a way to remind someone to mind their own business.
Meaning: The devil knows more because he is old rather than because he is a devil.
English equivalent: Wisdom comes with age.
Respect for those seniors to you, in both rank and age, are an important part of Mexican culture. This proverb reflects that idea.
It’s basically an admonishment or reminder that the elderly have wisdom that only comes from life experience.
Meaning: Little by little one goes far.
English equivalent: Slow and steady wins the race.
This Mexican proverb reminds us of the value of perseverance. It’s meant to remind us that, to make progress, one needs to keep moving forward – even if just a little at a time. Doing tasks diligently, step-by-step will eventually get you the result that you want.
Meaning: With money the dog dances.
English equivalent: Everybody has a price.
This Mexican proverb talks about money and the effect that it can have on people. It’s similar to the idea behind the English saying that “everybody has a price”.
The meaning of both these phrases is that, if you offer someone the right amount of money, they might agree to something they initially rejected or that they normally wouldn’t.
In Mexico, however, there’s also another meaning behind this phrase. It’s kind of used as life advice as well. The idea is, if you work hard and get paid well, then you will be happy. Maybe happy enough to dance.
Meaning: To give you soup.
Meaning: Hard work pays off
As we said, proverbs often contain some interesting tidbits about the culture or traditions of the native speakers. This Mexican proverb has an interesting reference to a certain type of Mexican food – mole de olla.
Mole de olla is a traditional Mexican soup made of a mix of vegetables and some meat. It’s a year-round nourishing and hearty dish that many people associate with the feeling of “home”.
Since mole de olla has a lot of ingredients, it’s a recipe that takes some time to pull together, but it’s worth it in the end. That’s basically what this proverb means, that a task may take some time and work to finish but, it will be worth it in the end.
Meaning: Shared misfortune, less felt.
English equivalent: Misery loves company.
This may sound like a sour piece of life advice, but in the Mexican culture where bonds between family and friends are important and considered a source of comfort, this is actually something someone might use to offer sympathy.
The idea is that by sharing one’s sorrows or burdens, they become easier to bear. So, a Mexican speaker might use this to encourage you to unburden yourself and let them share your troubles.
Meaning: When the river sounds, water is running.
English equivalent: Where there is smoke, there’s fire.
This wise Mexican proverb encourages you to “do your research” if you want to know the truth about something. And, the best way to do your research is to go to the source of the “water” or the “fire”.
Meaning: Lack of bread, tortillas.
English equivalent: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
This wise Mexican proverb reminds us that it’s important to make the best of things. Be creative, use what’s at hand and you will find a way to make something good.
Meaning: God helps he who rises early.
English equivalent: The early bird gets the worm.
This Mexican proverb is used to encourage people to be diligent and hardworking to achieve their goals. It also encourages people to get up early in the morning to get more done.
In this case, the religious beliefs of the Mexican people are on display here, so it’s also an example of the belief that “God helps those who help themselves”. So, you can’t just pray that God will make you a success, you have to do the work as well.
Aside from memorizing common words and phrases, some of the best ways to learn how to speak Mexican Spanish is to learn expressions and proverbs such as this.
When you study Mexican proverbs, you get a better feel about how native speakers put together words to form a complete sentence or thought. You can also pick up some new vocabulary words or even some Mexican slang.
To help you learn these Mexican proverbs, we’re including this downloadable PDF of the ones we’ve discussed here. Take it with you where ever you go and study them at your leisure.
We also suggest that you take this list and discuss it with an online native Mexican Spanish-speaking tutor. Your tutor can help you not only understand what these phrases mean but can also correct your pronunciation so you know that you can use them correctly in daily conversation.
There are more Mexican proverbs in use than the ones we’ve talked about here so, make sure that you also ask your tutor about others you should know about. Make it a point to ask what their favorite proverbs are. It’s sure to make for a fun and enlightening tutoring session!
1. El que busca encuentra. Meaning: If you search you will find. English equivalent: Follow your dreams. 2. Al mal tiempo, buena cara. Meaning: To bad times, a good face. English equivalent: Chin up. 3. Lo barato questa caro. Meaning: Cheap is expensive English equivalent: You get what you paid for. 4. El que con lobos anda, a aullar se enseña. Meaning: He who runs with wolves will learn to howl. English equivalent: If you lie down with dogs, you will get up with fleas. 6. En boca cerrada no entran moscas. Meaning: No flies enter a closed mouth English equivalent: Hold your tongue
1. There's no better mirror than an old friend. 2. It's not the fault of the Indian, but of he who makes of the Indian his friend.
1. Agua que no has de beber, déjala correr Meaning- Don’t get involved with something you can’t deal with it. 2. El que es perico, donde quiera es verde. Meaning- A person’s virtues always shine through no matter what.
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