Albert Einstein was a man ahead of his time… or maybe “behind of his time”. Not for nothing, he said: “El tiempo es relativo (time is relative)”. Actually, he was not a brilliant boy at school, according to his teachers. However, he became the most recognized scientist in the 20th century.

As a result of his famous quote about time, this has been used by everybody to make excuses for a delay: lo siento, papá, no he llegado tarde; el tiempo es relativo (sorry dad, I’m not late; time is relative). Of course, time is a very important variable in linguistics. Therefore, in Spanish we have plenty of forms to express it (adverbs, verbs and phrases). Keep Reading to learn some idioms and phrases related to time.

Today we’ll offer our students on some colloquial expressions sorted into two different meanings: rápidamente (quickly) and de vez en cuando (once in a while).

Firstly, let’s see some of them which describe an action that happened in a brief period of time:

  • En un abrir y cerrar de ojos (in the blink of an eye): Tom Brady remontó el resultado de la Superbawl en un abrir y cerrar de ojos (Tom Brady got the comeback to win the Superbowl in the blink of an eye). It was as quick as unexpected.
  • En un suspiro (in a heartbeat – literally, “in a sigh”): No te preocupes, cogeré un taxi y llegaré a casa en un suspiro (Don’t worry, I’ll catch a taxi and I’ll get home in a heartbeat). Well, we’ll depend on the taxi driver’s skill to keep that promise.
  • En menos que canta un gallo (in two shakes of a lamb’s tail – literally, “in less than a rooster sings”): Le pedí ayuda y en menos que canta un gallo estaba aquí (I asked him for help and he was here in two shakes of a lamb). It might sound funny, a rooster singing at dawn, but it’s not if you are its neighbour.
  • En un santiamén (in a flash). Hoy la reunión ha terminado en un santiamén, debe de ser porque hay partido de fútbol (today the meeting finished in a flash; maybe it was due to the football game). Santiamén is a curious word. It has a religious origin: the prayers used to be finished with the Latin words “Spiritus Sancti, Amen(of the Holy Spirit, Amen).

Finally, we’ll finish with phrases that mean “low frequency”:

  • De higos a brevas (from time to time – Literally, “from ripe figs to green ones”). En la Edad Media, la gente se lavaba de higos a brevas (In the Middle-Ages, people used to wash up from time to time). In Spanish we have these two words for the same fruit: breva is a premature fig (reaped around May or June) and higo is the last stage of it (July or August). So if we do something in July and we don’t do it again until May, it’s almost a year.
  • De Pascuas a Ramos (Once in a blue moon – Literally, “from Easter to Palm Sunday”). Veo a mis primos de Pascuas a Ramos; en bodas y funerales (I meet my cousins once in a blue moon, at weddings and funerals). It’s similar to the previous one. Pascuas is celebrated after el Domingo de Ramos, so, almost a year will pass between both festivities.
  • Cada Corpus y San Juan (from time to time – literally, every Corpus Christi’s Day and St. John’s Day). Este tío trabaja cada Corpus y San Juan (this guy works from time to time). The festivity of Corpus Christi is movable; it’s depending on the first full moon after vernal equinox. St. John’s Day is always the 24th of June. So, it’s hardly difficult that both dates coincide the same day (last time was in 1943).

To sum up, if you are a student of ours on, we wish you reserve classes not de Pascuas a Ramos. On the other hand, if you want to start studying Spanish via Skype, don’t hesitate, reserve a free trial class here. We’ll contact you en menos que canta un gallo.