My 5 Favorite Argentine Phrases

May 15, 2017 2:30:00 PM / by Julie Ritz

CAPAStudyAbroad_BuenosAires_Spring2017_Elizabeth Withers - Copy (2).jpgElizabeth Withers is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2017, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A double major in English literature and history & philosophy of science at the University of Pittsburgh, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.

In this week's post, Elizabeth tells us her favorite Argentian Spanish phrases she's learned, and how to use them.


I came to Argentina knowing very little Spanish (okay, fine, you got me… virtually none at all).  This semester has been my first Spanish class and first serious language class, unless you count a second grade course where we mostly watched movies and I think all I learned was colors. I’ve learned that there are many differences between Argentine Spanish, Spanish in Spain, and the rest of Latin America, most notably the accent and the ‘vos’ form.  Instead of ‘tu’ people use ‘vos’ and pronounce ‘ll’ like ‘j’.  My vocabulary is still pretty limited, but with the help of friends and my host family I’ve managed to pick up a few phrases specific to Argentina.

These are ones I like the most:

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Photo: here’s my host sister, Sofia, humoring me for a picture for the blog

1. Chanta

This one is my favorite, and I’m pleased to say I’ve already used it, and it went over pretty well.  It comes from the verb ‘flatter’, and it’s used to describe a real ladies’ man or player-type who flatters excessively.  It’s pretty insulting, so if you feel the need to tell someone off using this word, it’s better to say ‘Eres un poco chanta’ than to flat out accuse him (or her) of being a chanta.  This is just one of many useful phrases and tips my host has given me.

2. (El/ella es) mejor que comer pollo con los manos

(He/she is better than eating chicken with the hands): In short, guapo.  This one I learned from my host sister.  The logic behind it is essentially, eating chicken with your hands is really, really nice, and anybody more attractive than the thought of eating chicken with your hands must really be attractive.  And I have to say, after living in Buenos Aires, where table manners are generally much better and taken more seriously than in the US, I’ve become more appreciative of how fun it is to eat with my hands.

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Photo: here’s a view of the river from Puerto Madero


3. No, por favor

In my experience at shops and in the streets, this is the most common way to say ‘you’re welcome’. I’ve also heard ‘por nada’ a few times, but ‘no, please’ (usually in a serious tone) seems to be customary.

4. Cuando el rio suena es porque agua trae

(When you hear the river sounds, it’s water being brought): The direct translation I put is probably not quite right, but it’s the jist.  This one I learned from my host, during a conversation about government cover-ups and corruption. It’s similar to “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

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Photo: I haven’t put many pictures up of the city itself, so here’s a view of some of the skyscrapers downtown

5. Yo no como vidrio

(I don’t eat glass):  This one I’ve decided to start saying in English when I get home, I want it to catch on.  The most fitting translation would be “I wasn’t born yesterday,” but I think this expression has more of an edge to it.  So far, no one has tried to fool me (luckily), so I haven’t been able to use it.  At Least I’m ready.

I hope I can add to this list as I listen and learn more, but for now, this is all I’ve got.  Thanks for reading!

Thanks Elizabeth!

Elizabeth's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned!

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Topics: Buenos Aires, Argentina, Language