25 Essential Ways to Use the Verb ‘Echar’ in Spanish
Languages are living creatures; always evolving, always on the move. And every language has verbs that are used for many different purposes, such as echar in Spanish.
Yes, echar means “to throw,” and in a moment, we’ll see exactly what the dictionary says about it. But in reality, we are talking about a verb that’s completely alive, adaptable, and always at hand for just about any use Spanish speakers want to give it. Why echar? And, which of its many uses and idioms should be included in the dictionary as part of its meaning?
Keep reading to explore the meanings and idioms of the Spanish verb echar and 25 of the most common ways to use it.
Echar Meaning and Idioms
According to the Spanish Royal Academy, echar is a transitive verb that comes from the Latin iactare. Its first definition says that echar means “to make something to go somewhere, boosting it.” Then, of course, it offers another 47 definitions, which is why we are here to guide you through the 25 most common.
It’s important to mention that echar is a regular verb, which means that it follows the most common conjugation pattern in Spanish. Also, many of the ways to use echar we’re about to study qualify as idioms, meaning echar is just part of an expression and the meaning of the verb may not translate exactly to its dictionary definition (all 48 of them).
25 Essential Ways to Use Echar in Spanish
1. To Throw
“To throw” is the most common translation of echar. You can echar something to the trash can or a ball to your friend. Synonyms in Spanish are lanzar and tirar.
Eché tu camisa en el bote de la ropa sucia. – I threw your shirt in the laundry tub.
¡Te eché el balón y no lo atrapaste! – I threw you the ball and you didn’t catch it!
2. To Pour
If you think about it, pouring a drink is like throwing it into a glass. Hence this use of the verb echar in Spanish.
Échame un poco más de vino. – Pour me a little bit more of wine.
3. To Add (to a dish)
In English, you add BBQ sauce to your steak or salt to your soup. In Spanish, you simply le echas a little bit of this or that.
Le eché cilantro a mis tacos. – I added coriander to my tacos.
4. To Send (in a mailbox)
When you send a letter by mail, the verb in Spanish is enviar. However, when you put the letter in the mailbox, the verb we use is echar. It makes sense, as you’re “throwing” the letter inside the mailbox.
¿Ya echaste la carta en el correo? – Have you sent the letter in the mail?
5. To Fire (someone)
In Spanish, when someone gets fired you can use two verbs: despedir and echar. In this case, despedir is a more formal term.
Me echaron de mi trabajo. – They fired me.
6. To Release Smoke
When something (like a chimney or a car) is releasing smoke, you can say that it’s echando humo. As if the chimney were “throwing” the smoke away.
Tu coche echa mucho humo. – Your car releases a lot of smoke.
7. To Throw Out, To Kick Out
Echar can also mean to throw someone out or kick someone out of a place.
Nos echaron de la biblioteca por hacer mucho ruido. – We were kicked out from the library for being too noisy.
8. To Ruin, To Rot
This is the first of several idioms we’ll see today. Echar a perder means to ruin something. You can use it to say something is broken, but food can also echarse a perder if it goes bad.
¡Echaste a perder mi teléfono! – You ruined my phone!
Olvidé congelar la carne y se echó a perder. – I forgot to put the meat in the freezer and it rotted.
9. To Take a Look
Echar un vistazo or echar un ojo are expressions that mean essentially the same thing: to take a look. Vistazo means “a glance” or “a look,” while ojo literally means “eye.”
Échale un vistazo a tu hermana y asegúrate que está bien. – Take a look at your sister and make sure she’s okay.
Le eché un ojo a tu pintura y te está quedando muy bien. – I took a look at your painting and is coming along really well.
10. To Lock, To Shut Down
Echar la llave or echar el candado means “to shut the lock.” Llave translates as key, while candado means lock. The idea behind this expression is to make sure that the door or the house has been properly shut down.
Échale la llave y vámonos. – Lock the door and let’s get out of here.
11. To Miss (someone or something)
In some countries like Mexico, when you miss someone you use the verb extrañar. In other countries, Spain for example, they express this idea with an idiom: echar de menos.
Todavía no te vas y ya te echo de menos. – You haven’t left yet and I’m already missing you.
12. To Add Fuel to the Fire
Echar leña al fuego is a beautiful idiom where the verb echar is actually using its original meaning. It means “adding fuel to the fire,” to make a bad situation worse. But leña means firewood, so you could see yourself “throwing” firewood on a fire.
Déjalo así; no le eches leña al fuego. – Let it go; don’t add fuel to the fire.
13. To Put Effort into Something
Echarle ganas a algo means to put effort into something. You can echarle ganas to your studies, your marriage, or your gym routine.
Échenle ganas chicos, es nuestro último partido del año. – Put some effort into it guys, it’s our last game of the year.
14. To Settle Down
Echar raíces refers to the moment when a person or family settles down in a place.
Carlos ya no va a volver; echó raíces en Argentina. – Carlos is not coming back; he settled down in Argentina.
15. To Help Out
Echar una mano is an idiom that means “to help out,” or as a similar idiom in English: “to give a hand.”
¿Me echas una mano con mi tarea? – Can you give me a hand with my homework?
16. To LOL
Sorry, I’ve always wanted to include LOL in my writing and be able to justify it. Echarse a reír a carcajadas means to laugh out loud. You can simply reírte, or laugh, but when you te echas a reír a carcajadas it’s because it’s something hilarious, like LOL.
Le conté nuestra idea y se echó a reír a carcajadas. – I told him about our idea and he started laughing out loud.
17. To Back Out
When you have given your word and committed to something, like getting married and suddenly back out, the Spanish expression for that is echarse para atrás.
Me diste tu palabra, no te puedes echar para atrás ahora. – You gave me your word, you can’t back out now.
18. To Reproach
Echar en cara is an expression used when you want to reproach or disapprove of someone.
Mi mamá siempre me echa en cara que no le ayudo en casa. – Mi mom always reproaches me that I don’t help her at home.
19. To Nap
In Spanish, you can dormir una siesta (literally: to sleep a nap) or echar una siesta (literally: to throw a nap).
Estoy demasiado cansado, voy a echar una siesta. – I’m too tired, I’m going to take a nap.
20. To Burst into Tears
Echar a llorar. Just like with laughing out loud, you can also burst into tears and use echar. The underlying idea is that people throw themselves to the floor, in this case, to cry.
Cuando mi padre se fue, me eché a llorar. – When my father left, I burst into tears.
21. To Become Independent, To Get Rid of Someone
When baby birds are ready to leave the nest they “throw” themselves into the sky and start flying. That’s the analogy behind the idiom, echar a volar. Volar means “to fly,” so when children are ready to become independent they start flying by themselves. Nowadays, the expression is much more prosaic, as people use it when they want to get rid of someone.
¿Cuándo vas a echar a volar a tu novia? – When are you going to get rid of your girlfriend?
22. To Blame
Echar la culpa means “to blame.” As if la culpa (blame) were something that you could throw to someone.
Yo no hice nada, pero mis hermanos me echaron la culpa. – I didn’t do anything wrong, but my brothers blamed me.
23. To Get Oneself a Boyfriend/Girlfriend
Echarse un novio(a) means to get oneself a romantic partner.
Ya es hora de que te eches una novia. – It’s time for you to get yourself a girlfriend.
24. To Celebrate
A long time ago, when there was a big celebration in a town, the local church would ring its bells to express happiness. In Spanish, that idea of celebration stayed in the idiom echar las campanas al vuelo, which means “to celebrate.” It’s typically used to express the idea of not celebrating with anticipation.
No echemos las campanas al vuelo hasta que no hayamos firmado el contrato. – Let’s not celebrate until the contract is signed.
25. To Throw Up One’s Hands
Echarse las manos a la cabeza or “to throw up one’s hands” is a descriptive image of someone surprised, upset, or horrified.
Cuando metí el autogol el entrenador se echó las manos a la cabeza. – When I scored that own goal the coach threw up his hands.
¡Échale Ganas a tu Español!
Put some effort into your Spanish! With all these ways to use the amazing verb echar, you now have even more tools to keep progressing in your Spanish. Keep practicing and try to throw some of these idioms into real-life conversations.
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