6 Idiomatic Expressions with ‘Estar’


As you already know, learning idiomatic expressions is an absolute must when it comes to Spanish. So, in this article, we’ll dive into some idiomatic expressions with estar, which, as you probably noticed, is one of the most frequently used verbs in this language.

Some of the most common idiomatic expressions with ‘estar’ include:

  • Estar como un queso – To be very attractive
  • Estar como una cuba – To be drunk
  • Estar en todo – To be on top of everything
  • Estar en ascuas – To be on edge
  • Estar al tanto – To be aware
  • Estar de luto – To be mourning

There are many expressions with estar in Spanish, but in this article, I’ve gathered six super common phrases that can be applied in a wide range of situations. Learning these expressions will be really useful, especially if you ever go to a Spanish-speaking country or surround yourself with native Spanish speakers.

1. Estar como un queso – To be very attractive

If you ever need a funny and bold way to express that a guy is handsome, estar como un queso is a good option. Its literal translation is ‘to be like a cheese’, and as you can imagine, there’s not an equivalent expression in English. However, it’s close in meaning to ‘to be very attractive’

Although this is a funny way to say that a person is attractive, don’t forget that this is a bold expression and it doesn’t only refer to someone’s face, but also to their physique.

(Noun) + [‘estar’ conjugated] + como un queso

¿Conoces al hermano de Laura? Está como un queso.
Do you know Laura’s brother? He’s very attractive.

Tengo un compañero que está como un queso.
I have a classmate that is very attractive.

En los ochenta, ese actor estaba como un queso.
In the eighties, that actor was very attractive.

A couple of variations of this phrase are:

  • Estar como un tren
  • Estar bueno
  • Estar como quiere

Take note: ‘Estar como un queso’ and ‘estar como un tren’ are expressions more commonly used in countries like Spain and Argentina. This is because, when it comes to expressing that someone is attractive, each country may have its own informal expressions.

2.Estar como una cuba – To be very drunk

A ‘cuba’ refers to the wooden container used for aging wine, so estar como una cuba is an expression used to describe someone that is very drunk. Keep in mind that this is a very informal phrase and it’s usually said in a mocking way.

(Noun) + [‘estar’ conjugated] + como una cuba

Tu amigo está como una cuba.
Your friend is very drunk.

En la fiesta de ayer todos estábamos como una cuba.
At the party yesterday we were very drunk.

Sandra y Fernanda tomaron de más, están como una cuba.
Sandra y Fernanda drank too much, they are very drunk.

Additionally, you can use the standard variations estar borracho and estar ebrio, which are the direct translations of ‘to be drunk’ and are much more common. You can add adverbs like ‘muy’ ‘bastante’ or ‘demasiado’ to indicate how drunk the person is.

(Noun) + [‘estar’ conjugated] + (adverb) + borracho/ebrio

Ya me voy, estás muy borracho.
I’m leaving, you’re very drunk.

Estaba demasiado ebrio, ni siquiera podía caminar.
He was too drunk, he couldn’t even walk.

3. Estar en todo – To be on top of everything

Estar en todo is an idiomatic expression that can be used to describe a person that pays attention to details or that is aware of a lot of things at the same time. A rough translation would be ‘to be on top of everything’.

Keep in mind that, although it can have a positive connotation, it’s more frequently used as a way to say that someone likes gossiping or meddling. People usually say this to warn other people of a person like that or as a way to criticize or make fun of someone.

(Noun) + [‘estar’ conjugated] + en todo

Habla bajito, el niño está en todo.
Speak softly, the child is on top of everything.

Luego hablamos porque mi mamá siempre está en todo.
Let’s talk later because my mom is on top of everything.

Siempre estás en todo, no se te escapa ni un detalle.
You are always on top of everything, not even a detail escapes you.

4. Estar en ascuas – To be on edge

Ascuas is one Spanish word for embers. So, as you can imagine, just like other expressions in this list, estar en ascuas is a figurative way to explain something. In this case, what it refers to is a state of excitement, nervousness or intrigue for something. Although there’s not an exact translation to English, a close one would be ‘to be on edge’.

So, imagine this: your friend tells you that they have something really important to tell you but you’ll have to wait because first, they need to do something else. In this case, we would say that ‘estás en ascuas’.

(Noun) + [‘estar’ conjugated] + en ascuas

Aún no sé mi calificación, estoy en ascuas.
I still don’t know my grade, I’m a bit on edge.

Ya cuéntanos qué pasó, estamos en ascuas.
Tell us what happened, we are on edge.

Mi mamá aún no recibe noticias y está en ascuas.
My mom hasn’t received any news yet and she’s on edge.

5. Estar al tanto – To be aware

Another common idiomatic expression with ‘estar’ is estar al tanto. Spanish speakers often use this expression when someone has information about a certain situation because they have been keeping up to date with it or someone has informed them about it. As a result, it can be translated as ‘to be aware’.

(Noun) + [‘estar’ conjugated] + al tanto + de + [complement]

Estamos al tanto de su estado de salud.
We are aware of your health status.

Disculpa, no estaba al tanto de eso.
I’m sorry, I was not aware of that.

Estoy al tanto de la situación que estás atravesando.
I am aware of the situation you are going through.

Take note: In this context, ‘al tanto’ can also be preceded by poner and mantener. However, by using these verbs, your sentences will have a slightly different meaning. Poner al tanto and mantener al tanto means to keep someone informed about an occurrence and can be translated as ‘to update’, ‘keep posted’, or ‘to keep up to date’.

[Direct object pronoun] + [‘poner/mantener’ conjugated] + al tanto

Te pondré al tanto en cuanto sepa algo.
I’ll update you as soon as I know something.

Siempre nos mantuvimos al tanto de la situación.
We always kept up to date on the situation.

Por favor, manténganos al tanto de cualquier cosa.  
Please, keep us posted on anything that happens. 

6. Estar de luto – To be mourning

Estar de luto is an essential expression in situations where someone passes away. This phrase indicates that someone is suffering the loss of a loved one and, as a result, its translation is ‘to be mourning’. Although this is a standard way to express grief, it’s a little formal, so you will hear it mostly on the news or through official statements.

(Noun) + [‘estar’ conjugated] + de luto + (complement)

La nación está de luto debido a la muerte del presidente.
The nation is mourning the death of the president.

Todos en el mundo del deporte estamos de luto.
Everyone in the sports world is mourning.

Millones de personas están de luto por el fallecimiento del joven artists.
Millions of people are mourning the death of the young artist.

Related Resource: How to Express Condolences in Spanish

Wrapping Up

Now that you have added a bunch of popular Spanish expressions to your vocabulary, you’ll be able to understand native speakers a lot better and express yourself in multiple situations. Remember that you will sound a lot more natural by using these kinds of expressions and on top of that, you’ll probably master all of the conjugations of the verb ‘estar’, which is a great plus.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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