“Cook” you will know. A cook is a person that works in a kitchen and “to cook” is the verb. So a cook (or chef) cooks a meal, or cooks vegetables, fish and meat.

There is also a phrasal verb, to “cook up”. A person can “cook up” (preparar) a dish or a meal, and a person can also “cook up” (inventar) something. You can “cook up” (tramar) a plan and an excuse. For example:

  • Mr. Sanchez is cooking up reasons why the Spanish economy is slowing down.

“Cook” also has some other uses. Examine these:

  • Mr. Sanchez wants to “cook the books”.

This means that he wants to falsify (falsificar) or manipulate (amañar las cuentas) the accounts. The “books” is another term for the accounts for a company (las cuentas, la contabilidad).

  • What is cooking?

This is figurative, and a way of asking “what is happening?” or “what is going on?” Perhaps in Spanish you say “¿qué se guisa”? or “¿que pasa?

  • Sometimes a person “cooks someone´s goose”. To “cook somebody`s goose” is an idiom that means that somebody´s plan has been spoilt or prevented.


“Heat” (calor) you may know. There is a phrasal verb “heat up”. One can heat up a dish (calentar, recalentar), and a debate can heat up (acalorarse) and become “heated” (acalorado).

Here our focus is on two idioms that use the word. Examine these:

  • Mr. Rivera has turned on the heat (ha empezado a ejercer presión a ….) on Mr. Sanchez.
  • The “heat is on” (ha llegado la hora de verdad) Mr. Sanchez with reference to his policies.

A “dead heat” is a draw (empate) in a game. A person can also “take the heat out of a situation”, meaning that he tries to reduce the tension. In Spanish you might say “reducir la tensión de una situación”.

What does it mean if someone says that Mr. Sanchez cannot “take the heat”? It means that he cannot cope with the rigours or pressures of the job of Prime Minister. We shall see!

A cup of tea ?

English people like to drink tea (té), and sometimes, in the afternoons for a special occasion, they will have “afternoon tea”, meaning tea and some fancy (elaborada) cakes.

Here our interest is with the idioms (modismos) that use the word tea. Examine the following.

  • Going to rock concerts is not my “cup of tea”. This means that I do not like doing such things. Perhaps in Spanish you might say “no es mi preferencia”.
  • Mr. Morales would not vote for Podemos “for all the tea in China” (por nada del mundo). This means that he would not vote for Podemos under any circumstances. Another similar expression is “not in a million years”.
  • Sometimes there are “storms in a teacup”, problems that are much exaggerated. Perhaps in Spanish you might say “una tormenta o una tempestad en una vaso de agua”.

Are you a layman?

Are you a layman?

Probably. “Layman” has two meanings. It can refer to a person who is not qualified or experienced in a subject, or someone (un lego) who only has general knowledge about something. The plural is laymen. Some examples:

  • In the context of economics I am a layman (…soy un lego).
  • The book was written for a layman and not for an expert (…fue escrito para un lego, no para un experto).
  • Speaking in layman´s terms (hablando en términos sencillos…), the issue

Often a person might say “in this context I am a layman”. The person may just want to be modest, or they may only know a little about a subject.

The other meaning of layman (seglar, laico) refers to a person who is involved in the Christian church but is not a member of the clergy (clero) or a monk (monje). Here is an example: the layman asked the priest for advice (el lego pedía al sacerdote para obtener su consejo).

So, are you a layman?


“Sheep” (oveja) you may well know. It is single and plural. For example, there is a sheep in the field, and there are 10 sheep in the other field (prado). Someone can also look “sheepish” meaning “avergonzado””. However, the interest in this article is the use of sheep in idioms (modismos).

Sometimes we have to “separate the sheep from the goats”, to separate some issues for clarity. Perhaps in Spanish you might say “separar el grano de la paja”.

A family member could be described as “the black sheep of the family” (ser la oveja negra de la familia), meaning that the person is very different from the family and is viewed negatively.

A boy could “make sheep´s eyes at a girl” (…con ojos de cordero…), meaning that he looks at her in an amorous and perhaps foolish way.




“Nut” has two meanings: tuerca, nuez. You may know these. People eat various types of nuts, and sometimes we have to fix something using a bolt (tornillo) and a nut. The focus here is on some idioms (modismos) and expressions that use the word “nut”.


Sometimes we talk about the “nuts and bolts” of a scheme or plan (los aspectos prácticos de un proyecto). So the “nuts and bolts” of a house extension could include the specific materials and specifications.

Something can be a “hard nut to crack” (es un hueso duro de roer), meaning that it is a difficult problem. Getting Brexit right for the British government is a “hard nut to crack” given the obduracy (obstinación) of the EU and Mr. Barnier.

Somebody could be a “tough nut” (tipo duro), meaning that he is strong-minded or obstinate or both. It could be negative or positive depending on your point of view or the context.

Some mortals say that “someone is nuts” (chiflado) or crazy. Or something is “nuts”, meaning rubbish or nonsense (¡narices!). Someone might “go nuts”, that is, go crazy when, for example, they hear some news, or silly Government policy or action. Sometimes people say that someone is a “nutcase”, that he is a crazy person.

So you eat nuts, go nuts sometimes, fix something with a nut, and you have to get to grips (enfrentarse con) with the nuts and bolts of a project or plan.

A piece of cake

Cake” (tarta, pastel) you may know. Here the focus is on the idioms that use the word cake.

If something is a piece of cake, it is something that is easy, “es pan comido”. For example, if the Cambridge First exam was easy, you could say “it was a piece of cake”.

If a product sells very quickly, then it is “selling like hot cakes” (vendiéndose como pan caliente).

Sometimes a person or an organisation likes to “have his cake and eat it” (nadar y guardar la ropa). That person wants everything and more. That is not possible.

Sometimes we say that something “is the icing on the cake” (la guinda que corona la torta), something extra that is special and appreciated.

In politics, there is often a discussion about how “the cake is divided up” (la forma que está repartida la tarta). This could be how taxpayer’s money is spent on the various important areas, such as defence, health services and education.


Related articles: 

That is no concern of yours

“Concern” is a noun and a verb. Let´s start with its use as a noun. A concern could a be a “asunto” a “preocupación o “un interés” or a business (negocio). Here are some examples as a noun.

  • It is no concern of yours (no es asunto tuyo).
  • May´s health is giving cause for concern (la salud de Señora May está dando motivo de preocupación).
  • I would like to express my concern about the EU economy (quisiera expresar preocupación por la economía en EU).
  • My main concern is the welfare of my daughter (mi interés principal es el bienestar de mi hija).
  • It is a family business (es un negocio familiar).

Now as a verb. The similar verb in Spanish is “concernir” or “afectar”. Review these examples.

  • This matter does not concern you (este asunto no te concierne).
  • The matter concerns me directly (me afecta directamente).
  • As far as I am concerned (en lo que a me se refiere).
  • To whom it may concern (a quien corresponda).
  • My question concerns money (mi pregunta hace referencia al dinero).

The adjective is “concerned”. You can be “concerned about” something (estar preocupado por algo), or you can be concerned about somebody (preocupado por algo).

Don’t forget to read our last article: Are you «on the level?»


People or persons?

People or persons?

Which of these is correct to refer to the plural? Both. Person has two plurals: people, persons. Both are grammatically correct.

For many “people” is the de facto plural of person. However, “people” is used more often and therefore some people say that “persons” is not correct. Those mortals (mortales) are wrong. They also say that using “persons” is aloof or sounds aloof (suena distante). That is rubbish (estupidez).

You can use both these words. In reality, the word “persons” is used in more formal contexts (legal documents, government documents). It is also used when the number of mortals is exact. For example:

  • There are two persons waiting to talk to Mr. Rajoy.
  • I would like to book a table for two persons. An easier option for this would be to say: I would like to book a table for two.
  • Which persons are responsible for the Brexit negotiations? Here we have a reference to an exact number of mortals.



Hello stranger!

This is a phrase we use when we have not seen someone for some time, or in Spanish you might say: ¡Cuanto tiempo sin vernos! It is not negative, just a humorous (gracioso) way to greet someone you have not seen for some time.

Let´s review the word “stranger”. Contemplate this example:

  • Every year 5 million strangers visit Tenerife.

Right or wrong? The numbers perhaps. The grammar no. “Stranger” means “forastero o desconocido”. It does not mean (no significa) “extranjero” that we translate as “foreigner”.

So the correct sentence would be.

  • Every year 5 million foreigners visit Tenerife.

Let´s examine some correct examples.

  • Mr.Morales happily chats to strangers (el señor Morales se pone a charla tranquilamente con cualquier extraño).
  • The level of Spanish taxes discourages foreign investment (el nivel de los impuestos en España no ofrece alicientes al inversor extranjero).
  • Many foreign influences have been assimilated in Canarian culture (la cultura Canaria ha asimilado muchas influencias extranjeras).


“Seem” & “appear”

In English we use seem (parecer) and appear to give information about something that may be true. There are two sentence structures you can use:

  1. It + seem/appear + that. Here are some examples:
  • It seems that the British people will vote in favour of “Brexit” (parece que la gente de Gran Bretaña votará a favor de Brexit). You could also use appear in the same sentence with the same meaning.
  • It appears/seems that the British people will vote in favour of “Brexit.
  • It certainly seems that way (así parece).
  • It seems/appears that I have made a mistake (parece que he cometido un error).
  • It seems a good idea to vote for Brexit (parece una buena idea votar a Brexit).
  • It seems that it is going to rain (parece que va a llover).


  1. Subject + seem/appear + to infinitive, or subject + seem/appear + adjective. Here are some examples:
  • Cameron seemed to be absorbed in the difficulties with Brexit (Señor Cameron parecía estar absorto en las dificultades de Brexit).
  • Cameron seems upset by the Brexit opinion poll (Señor Cameron parece afectado por las encuestas de Brexit).
  • Cameron does not seem to have noticed that he is going to lose the referendum. (Señor Cameron no parece haberse dado cuenta de que va a perder el referéndum).
  • Boris Johnson seems capable (Mr. Johnson parece capaz). The word appear has the same meaning: Mr. Boris Johnson appears capable.


There is another option using the word would. This makes the statement even more tentative (todavía más provisional). Here are two examples:

  • It would appear/seem that the British people will vote in favour of Brexit (parecería que la gente de Gran Bretaña votará a favor de Brexit).
  • It would seem that it is going to rain (parecería que va a llover).

First & Firstly

First is an adjective and “firstly” is an adverb (and the same can be said for “secondly”, etc.).

Adverbs say something about a verb. Here is an example: Mr. Rajoy quickly ran into the bar.

That is easy. What about these sentences?

  • Firstly, Mr. Rajoy drank a beer.
  • Secondly, he drank a glass of red wine.

Where are the verbs that are attached to the adverbs (for example, firstly)? There are none. An error. The correct form should be:

  • First, Mr. Rajoy drank a beer. Second, he drank a glass of wine.

Words such as “first” are adjectives, in this case adjectives with elliptical (elíptico) nouns. The text could read: Mr. Rajoy´s first action was that he drank a beer. Here we have a sentence of ten words, compared to six words (First, Mr. Rajoy drank a beer).

On the basis that six words are better than ten words, we know which option to choose.


Candle” (vela, bujía, and candela) has uses as an idiom (modismo).

If something “is not worth the candle”, it is not worth doing (no merece or vale la pena). So, for example, going to vote on the 26th of June is not worth the candle as the result is going to be the same. Or perhaps you have a dim view (ver algo con malos ojos) of the value of such an election.

Some people “burn the candle at both ends” (hacer de la noche día). During the election period some politicians burn the candle at both ends meaning that they work during the night too. Students sometimes work through the night just before exams, so they are “burning the candle at both ends”.

Governments sometimes make “candle-end economies, that is, paltry (ínfimo) savings that only annoy people and have very little effect.