Ponte las Pilas – Translations & Meanings in English

What does ‘ponte las pilas’ in Spanish mean?

In Spanish, ponte las pilas is a colloquial expression that people use to encourage or tell someone to be active and push themselves to make a better effort. As a result, ‘ponte las pilas’ means ‘to apply yourself’, ‘to buckle down’ or ‘to pull your socks up’ .

How and When to use ‘Ponte las Pilas’

Ponte las pilas is the reflexive form of ‘poner las pilas’ which means ‘to put the batteries on’. And what happens when we put batteries on something? It starts working! So, ponte las pilas is a popular Spanish idiom that we use to tell people to work harder or make a better effort

As you can imagine, this can be a measurable effort (such as studying more hours) or something more intangible (like behaving better with people). ‘Ponte las pilas’ is an informal expression that you can use in all Spanish-speaking countries. 

Here are some real-life examples of how to apply this expression:

Asking people to make an effort, word harder or behave

Notice that ‘ponte las pilas’ comes from ponerse las pilas. In other words, this is a reflexive expression, and as such, the verb follows a reflexive conjugation.  

[Ponerse conjugated] + las pilas

Ponte las pilas o voy a tener que despedirte
Pull your socks up or I’m going to have to fire you

Kim, ponte las pilas y haz lo que tienes que hacer
Kim, get your act together and do what you need to do

Si nos ponemos las pilas, podemos terminar a tiempo
If we roll our sleeves up, we can finish this on time

La neta Efraín no se quiere poner las pilas en la oficina
Efrain doesn’t want to get his act together in the office 

Me tengo que poner las pilas en español porque el año que viene me mudo a España
I have to buckle down with Spanish because next year I’m moving to Spain 

Take Note: Ponte las pilas is the imperative form of the reflexive verb ‘ponerse las pilas’. If you want to use this expression with different people, you need to make sure that you know how to conjugate reflexive verbs in Spanish

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Synonyms: 4 Ways To Say ‘Ponte las Pilas’

  • Avisparse is a common and casual expression that also means ‘to pull your socks up’. It’s more common in Spain. 
  • Aplicarse is a casual expression that can be used to ask people to make a better effort and work harder. 
  • Ponerse al tiro is a Mexican slang expression that can be used to ask people to take advantage of an opportunity and work harder. It means ‘to pull your socks up’. This expression’ is slightly more informal than ‘ponerse las pilas’. 
  • Hacer un mejor esfuerzo is a formal and standardized way to ask people to try harder. It means ‘to make a better effort’.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

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