The verb Meter in Spanish

 5 expressions that every Spanish student should know. 

The verb meter, like the verb llevar (check out this other post) is a polysemic verb in Spanish; that means that it has different meanings depending on the context in which we are using it. Also, it can be combined with other words to create different lexical expressions. 

The main meaning is to ‘enclose, insert or place something inside something else’. 

This meaning is what has led us to explain these 5 expressions using the verb meter, that every Spanish student should know. The Royal Spanish Academy (known as RAE; Real Academia Española) lists almost 30 different meanings for the word, so it is really no wonder that this verb gives students a headache! 

The following expressions are very frequently used in the European Spanish and are mostly used in informal and colloquial speech. Every native speaker understands these expressions or uses them on a daily basis, so we would encourage you to get to know them and add them into your vocabulary, so you can speak like a native! 

1.Meter cizaña

If someone attempts to confront other people or to create controversy we say “alguien mete cizaña”. In the middle of an argument, it is common to hear a native say:  “Bueno, no metas más cizaña, tengamos la fiesta en paz”  “No more arguments, let’s keep the peace!”  We also often use it to define people:  “No me gusta mi compañera de trabajo, siempre está metiendo cizaña y crea un mal ambiente”.  “I don’t like my co-worker; she’s always stirring up trouble and creating a bad atmosphere”.  

You may be wondering what the term cizaña means: It is a toxic plant and in the past some people used to put it between other farmers wheat crops so that it would ruin their harvest…hence this popular expression. 

2. Meterse en camisa de once varas. 

If someone makes a situation more difficult than it needed to be or over complicates something simple, we say “se mete en camisa de once varas”. 

For example: 

“Marcos siempre se mete en camisa de once varas cuando organiza una cena, ¡con lo fácil que es hacer algo sencillo entre todos!”.  “Marcos always makes life difficult for himself when organizing dinner, it is easy for us to do something simple between us”. 

This expression dates back to the Middle Ages. When adopting a son, the father would put the child through the sleeve of a really wide shirt, pulling his head out the other end to symbolise a second birth. An extremely complicated and unnecessary thing for the baby, don’t you think? 

Un Vara is a unit of measure, no more than 0.8 meters. So, the meaning of “once varas” (11 varas) in this expression is used to exaggerate the size of the shirt. 

The verb Meter in Spanish

3. Meterse a alguien en el bolsillo. 

Although this literally means to have someone in your pocket, we use this expression to say that we have won someone’s favour, friendship, or confidence. As you know ‘el bolsillo’ is like a little pouch sown into a garment… so, when you metaphorically put someone in your pocket, it means that you have them close to you.  

For example, if you have your boss in your pocket it means that you have him or her on your side, convinced, before an important decision. 

4. Meter la pata.  

When someone does or says something inappropriate in the spare of the moment, we say; “Metemos la pata” or “estamos ante una metedura de pata”  It is not so much to make a common mistake, but rather to make a careless comment or indiscrete remark. 

For example, if you said to Luis: 

 “¡Nos vemos luego en tu fiesta de cumpleaños!”  “See you at your birthday party!” 

And the birthday party was supposed to be a suprise… Habrás metido la pata, ¡y hasta el fondo! (In other words,… you really messed up). There is no clear origin of this expression, but it seems like an analogy for when an animal puts its leg in the traps set by hunters before being caught. Another way to use this expression is “meter la gamba” coming from the Vulgar Latin term camba for a horse’s leg.  

5. Meterse alguien donde no lo llaman 

When we say “una persona se mete donde no le llaman”, it means that they are interfering in matters that don’t concern them. 

For example, if my neighbour has an opinion about how I educate my child and says it without me asking for their opinion, I could say: “Estoy negra con María, ¡siempre metiéndose donde no le llaman y comentando lo que hago con todo el mundo! ¡Que se meta en sus asuntos, hombre!”  “I am furious with Maria, she is always sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong and commenting on everything I do! Mind your own business, man!” 

This expression can also be used in the following ways: 

  • meterse donde nadie lo llama 
  • meterse en lo que no le importa 
  • meterse en lo que no le toca  
  • meterse en lo que no le va ni le viene. 

The adjective metomentodo/a comes from this expression. It is defined in the RAE as “a person who interferes in other people’s affairs”. 

Do you want to practice what you have just learnt and make sure you understand these expressions using the verb meter?

Check out the QUIZ on our web page and let us know if you have any questions! And, don’t forget to leave a comment if you think of any other phrases using the verb meter! We are all ears! 

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