A buen entendedor pocas palabras bastan

Learn Spanish Lesson 1

Much like our own language the Spanish language is rich with phrases, words and sayings, also known as idioms or figures of speech, that help us express ourselves naturally and fluently on a day-to-day basis. Often these figures of speech have a deeper meaning than is implied by their literal meaning which with our native language is often not a problem as we are capable of extracting the meaning because we can understand and put together the individual words. However when we are learning a second language, such as Spanish, our task is a bit more difficult: As Spanish language learners we not only need to understand the deeper meaning of the phrase but also the literal meaning of each individual word in order to have it all make sense in a real Spanish conversation. This can make our goal of speaking Spanish fluently challenging but by no means impossible! OK, ¡Ya basta! Enough already! Let´s get to the first lesson.

Spanish Phrase: A buen entendedor pocas palabras bastan

Literal English Translation: For a good “understander” or listener a few words are enough

English equivalent: A word to the wise (is sufficient)


To understand something (entender) is to comprehend it (comprender), to know (saber) exactly what it means.  And while on the surface the meaning of our first Spanish expression A buen entendedor pocas palabras bastan may appear to be evident after we study it for a moment (a person capable of understanding things well, a wise person, doesn’t need a lot of explanations), the phrase does carry some hidden meanings that we should be aware of when we are speaking Spanish if we want to speak like a native. 

In Spanish this phrase may be used both in a positive (if we want to praise the intelligence of someone for example) and negative (to express that someone is not wise, intelligent or capable of understanding) sense:



Lo positivo (the positive)

When we use this particular Spanish phrase positively in context we could say something like: 

En cuanto se lo dije a Héctor lo entendió enseguida y es que a buen entendedor pocas palabras bastan

As soon as I mentioned it to Hector he understood it right away (because a word to the wise is sufficient)

And while the English translation a word to the wise is awkward and we would say something more along the lines of he´s as sharp as a tack etc., in a Spanish language conversation this sentence would be a completely natural way to express that Hector is sharp, smart, wise etc, and it doesn’t take much for him to understand things.

Lo negativo (the negative)

In a negative context or in order to express that someone just doesn’t or is not capable of “getting it” or understanding it the Spanish phrase may be something like:

Chico, pues a buen entendedor pocas palabras bastan

Dude, (a word to the wise should suffice) it doesn’t take a rocket scientist etc.

In the sense that well dude, if you don’t get I can’t help it, I couldn’t explain it or it couldn’t be any clearer.


Well that´s it for now, and since I know that all of you are buenos entendedores and that pocas palabras bastan for you to get it I´ll just say see you next time, OK?


Have a great day!

¡Que tengan un buen día!