The verb tocar in Spanish, according to the Dictionary of Royal Spanish Academy, it is defined as “to exercise the sense of touch”. That is, the action by which we perceive external sensations through the skin, mainly with the hands.

However, tocar has many more meanings in our language, which can cause confusion to speakers of other languages. In today’s article, we are going to explore these meanings and learn some idioms.

Before we begin, let us recommend a post from our blog in In that article, we showed you months ago some expressions with the five senses in Spanish: tact, hearing, sight, taste and touch.

Expressions with the five senses in Spanish

We can differentiate four main meanings in the verb tocar in Spanish; however, they are really an evolution of the original meaning we saw before.

Tocar a Thing or a Person

Here we have the original meaning of this verb. It is the action of putting in contact a part of the body with a thing or with another person. Thanks to this sense, we can differentiate cold and heat or softness and hardness. It is a transitive verb, so we need a direct object. We remind you that, if the direct object is a person, we need to introduce it with the preposition a. Let’s see some examples:

No toques a tu hermano si has tocado la mesa. ¡Está muy sucia!

The Verb Tocar in Spanish: Tocar un Instrumento

When we talk about playing music with an instrument, we do not use the verb jugar as we do in English with the verb to play. Instead, we use the verb tocar in Spanish. We can tocar el violín as well as tocar una canción. Thus, in the famous movie Casablanca you should hear:

Tócala, Sam (play it Sam)”. Y así Sam, empezó a tocar el piano.


Tocarle la Lotería a Alguien

This is, perhaps, our favorite meaning. The verb tocar in Spanish can express that a person has received a prize, or has managed to win money in the lottery. Let’s think of luck as a goddess; if she touches us with her magic hand, we are sure to achieve everything we set our minds to.

Después de muchos años, me ha tocado la lotería. Nunca me había tocado nada en toda mi vida.

The Verb Tocar in Spanish: Tocarle el Turno a una Persona

Let’s look at one of the most popular uses of this verb. When le toca to a person, we indicate that it is his or her turn to do something. Let’s imagine a candidate who wants to pass the DELE exam, waiting his or her turn for the oral part:

Prepárate, después del próximo candidato, te toca.

By the way, if you are interested in obtaining any of the levels of the Institute Cervantes’ DELE exam, our teachers have the necessary certification to prepare you. Here you have all the information about our DELE exam preparation course.


Idioms with The Verb Tocar

In addition to the above meanings, the verb tocar in Spanish is used in a multitude of idiomatic expressions. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • Tocarle las narices a alguien: to provoke someone else’s anger, deliberately and repeatedly: ¿Otra vez hablando de política? ¡No me toques las narices!
  • Tocar todos los palos: to be very versatile and polyvalent. Its origin is in flamenco. The palos are different styles of flamenco: Mi profesor de español escribe poemas, toca la guitarra y juega al fútbol. La verdad es que toca todos los palos.
  • Toque lo que toque: expression that we use when we are going to do something regardless of the consequences of our actions: Tenemos que seguir adelante, toque lo que toque.

If you want to learn more meanings or idioms with the verb tocar in Spanish, don’t hesitate to reserve a Skype lesson with us¡ya toca aprender español!