Common uses and expressions of the verb echar
Some verbs in Spanish have a lot of meanings. Like the verb echar. The Real Academia Española sites 48 definitions of this verb. Today, we’ll be looking at 10 common uses and expressions that you can use every day.
1. Echar – to put something/let something fall in a specific place
The most common meaning of echar is simply to let something fall or to place something in a certain spot.
Cuando la cebolla está blanda échale ajo.
When the onion is soft add the garlic.
Tengo manía a la gente que echa basura a la calle.
People who throw garbage on the street (litter) drive me crazy.
2. Echar – to kick someone out of a place
Used in this context, to echar implies that the person is physically taken out of a place, usually violently and to be punished. This basically means being “kicked out”.
- ¿Qué tal tu cumple en Shoko?
- How was your birthday at Shoko?
- Muy mal, tío. Echaron a Juan y Miguel porque se emborracharon demasiado.
- Really bad, man. They kicked out Juan and Miguel because they got too drunk.
3. Echar de menos – to miss someone/something
This is just an expression you’ll have to memorize when you want to talk about something or someone that you miss. Just don’t forget to use the personal A (a personal) when you’re referring to people.
Echo de menos a mi abuela. Hace 2 años que murió.
I miss my grandma. It’s been 2 years since she passed away.
Hablé con Ursula el otro día. Me dijo que echa de menos Barcelona.
I talked to Ursula the other day. She says she missed Barcelona.
4. Echar – to give out or distribute
Imagine you’re at a big Spanish dinner where there are a variety of dishes spread over the table. A friend or family member might direct you to give out some canelones to everyone. This is another way you would use echar.
¿Puedes echar paella a todos? ¡Gracias!
Can you give everyone some paella? Thanks!
Me puedes echar más agua porfa?
Can you give me more water please?
5. Echar – invest or spend time on something
Instead of saying pasar tiempo, this is an informal way to talk about spending time doing something.
Cuanto echáis en hacer ejercicio cada semana?
How much time do you spend on exercise every week?
Desde que empezó la pandemia, Lore echa muchas horas viendo la tele.
Since the pandemic started, Lore spends many hours watching TV.
6. Echar + noun – to do…
This expression is an informal one, the verb echar taking place of any verb one would usually use. You can echar: un cafe/un cigarro/una siesta.
Qué día más largo – me voy a echar una siesta.
What a long day – I’m going to take a nap.
Ya me he echado 3 cafés hoy. Creo que ya es suficiente.
I’ve already drunk 3 coffees today. I think that’s enough.
Can you think of any more examples?
7. Echarse a hacer algo – to begin doing something quickly/all of a sudden
When something or someone begins doing something very quickly (usually prompted by some other action) we can use echar a hacer.
El momento que empezaron los fuegos artificiales, mi perro se echo a esconder en el baño. Tenía mucho miedo, pobrecito.
The moment the fireworks started, my dog went to hide in the bathroom. He was really scared, poor thing.
Mi tele antigua se echaba a fallar cada vez que mi madre ponía la lavadora.
My old TV used to malfunction every time my mom started the washing machine.
8. Echarse a perder – deteriorate, ruin or spoil
Although this is mostly used with food that goes bad, we can also say that people deteriorate or “go off the rails” and companies can go into ruin.
Tenemos que preparar el pollo ésta semana. Si no, se va a echar a perder.
We have to make the chicken this week. If not, it will go bad.
Si continuamos así, echaremos a perder la empresa.
If we go on like this, we’ll ruin the company.
9. Echar la llave – to lock/close with a key
This one comes in handy and it’s probably something you practice every day, especially if you live in Barcelona. Echar la llave simply means to lock or close the door with a key.
Echaste la llave? ¡No quiero que ladrones entren en mi casa!
Did you lock the door? I don’t want thieves to break into my house!
10. Echar un vistazo – to have a look at (something)
This is another common informal expression that means to look at something quickly. You could also use echar un ojo.
¿Puedes echar un vistazo al arroz a ver si ya está listo?
Can you go check on the rice to see if it’s ready yet?
Échale un ojo a las plantas mientras estoy fuera.
Keep an eye on my plants while I’m away.