I’m perfectly guilty of using these phrases as well, but when on the receiving end I almost always cringe upon hearing them. Here are 5 sentences that I hate hearing in Spanish:
1. “Lo que pasa es…” Translation: The thing is…; What had happened is…
- This takes me back to my days as an English teacher in Ecuador when the students would always have a reason for showing up late or not doing the homework. This is an extremely common thing to hear, always kicking off an excuse or a reason why you’re not going to get a satisfactory result.
2. “Es así/Así es” Translation: That’s how it is; That’s the way it is.
- Anytime a conversation has reached the point where nothing else can be argued on or you one party realizes that their system is flawed but they have no solution, you will hear this uttered. Example (translated):
Person 1: Argentina’s really nice, but there’s a lot of corruption.
Person 2: That’s the way it is.
3. “El tema es…” Translation: The thing is; The problem is.
- Another set up for being denied something. Usually brought in with a point-counterpoint argument. On the one hand, but the other thing is…etc. Your good idea is about to be torn apart.
4. “Puede ser.” Translation: Could be; Maybe; Possibly.
- This is such a non-committal phrase and to me it just shows a lack of interest in really doing something. You ask a friend if they want to go grab dinner later and they say this, almost as if they’re really just holding out for something better and if nothing pops up, you’ll be a last ditch effort. On the other hand, it can be used in a way that’s like saying yes, but without coming right out and saying it, which is just confusing.
5. “Es lo que hay.” Translation: It is what it is.
- You know the phrase in English, and it’s the same in Spanish. Another phrase similar to “That’s the way it is,” covering up for a lousy situation that could or rather, should be fixed, yet isn’t. This is our system and there’s nothing we can do about it. Example (translated):
Person 1: They don’t pay us enough to live comfortably here.
Person 2: It is what it is.
Keep an eye out for these phrases when coming to Latin America and I guarantee you that you’ll hear them soon enough.