Sample Essay With Idioms In Spanish

In order to do well on the AP Spanish exam’sfree-response section, you must be able to write a persuasive essay based on three Spanish-language sources.

Are you up to the task?

After years of elementary, middle and high school Spanish, the time has come—you’re getting ready to tackle the AP Spanish exam.

You can conjugate any irregular verb you see. You’ve got conditionals down pat. And your vocabulary is out of this world.

But can you form a coherent argument… in Spanish?

Here we’ve put together a list of 40 vocabulary words that will come in handy for making and supporting arguments in your AP Spanish essays, and in any other piece of Spanish writing!


What’s the AP Spanish Free-response Section Like?

The free-response section of the exam is meant to test your ability to communicate with others in spoken and written Spanish.

There are two essays in the free-response section. The interpersonal essay asks you to respond to an email. The presentational essay tests how well you can draw information from Spanish-language sources, form an argument and write formally. This second essay is a little less straightforward, so we’ll walk you through it here.

So, how does it work?

The presentational essay is based on three sources. Two of them are written sources and one is an audio source.

These sources can be just about anything: Advertisements, articles, infographics, letters, maps, interviews, radio programs, podcasts and conversations are just some examples of the types of sources you may encounter.

You’ll have about 55 minutes to complete this particular essay. First, you’ll have six minutes to read the prompt and the two written sources, and then you’ll hear the audio source twice. Finally, you’ll have 40 minutes to plan and write your essay.

The essay is graded on the basis of Spanish language skills like reading, listening, writing and grammar—but it’s also based on your general ability to analyze the sources and make a strong, coherent argument.

How to Prepare for the Free-response Section

In many ways, preparing for the free-response section is the same as preparing for the rest of the AP exam.

It involves studying grammar and vocabulary, and it also means immersing yourself in the Spanish language as much as possible. The more exposure you have to Spanish-language sources leading up to the exam day, the easier it’ll be for you to understand and analyze the three sources you encounter in the presentational essay task.

Seeking out native Spanish sources is easy, and FluentU has got you covered. Here, you can find info on great news outlets, podcasts, YouTube channels and blogs—all in Spanish. Even following some Spanish Twitter feeds or listening to Spanish music can be a great way to work a little language practice into your day.

There are also some targeted ways to practice for the free-response section.

  • Do practice exams and read sample essays.The College Board has posted the full AP exams from the last several years. Try to read the sources and write the essay in the allotted 55 minutes. When you’re done, go back and slowly revise your essay for errors in grammar, spelling and logic. After that, you can also check out the grading rubric provided by the College Board and several sample persuasive essays. Try to compare your essay against the rubric and the samples to see how you can improve your writing.
  • Practice summarizing and analyzing Spanish-language sources. Remember all those great resources listed above? Well, it’s not enough to just read or listen to them. The whole point of the presentational essay is to measure your ability to summarize, synthesize and argue. So, after you read or listen to a Spanish-language source, take five minutes to summarize it—on paper. Identify the main argument, and then make a bulleted list of important points. Finally, write a few sentences summarizing your personal opinion.
  • Learn targeted vocabulary for talking about opinions and arguments. Is there anything more frustrating than knowing exactly what you want to say, but not having the vocabulary to say it? This article lists many crucial vocabulary words for expressing and supporting opinions in persuasive essays. Using these words and phrases will make your writing flow more smoothly—and they’ll allow you to argue with more credibility and style.

40 Persuasive Vocabulary Words for Writing Strong AP Spanish Essays

Agreeing and Disagreeing

Estoy de acuerdo/No estoy de acuerdo — I agree/I disagree

Estoy de acuerdo con lo que dice el autor. (I agree with what the author says.)

No estoy de acuerdo con la idea principal de la fuente número dos. (I disagree with the main idea of source number two.)

En mi opinión — In my opinion

En mi opinión, los jóvenes deberían comer más sano. (In my opinion, young people should eat healthier.)

La verdad es— The truth is

La verdad es que todavía hay mucha desigualdad en los Estados Unidos. (The truth is there is still a lot of inequality in the United States.)

Es verdad — It’s true

Es verdad que las redes sociales pueden ser peligrosas. (It’s true that social media can be dangerous.)

Es falso—It’s false

Hay gente que dice que las redes sociales son peligrosas, pero esto es falso. (There are people who say that social media is dangerous, but this is false.)

Me parece/No me parece—It seems to me/It doesn’t seem to me

Me parece bien que los niños asistan a colegios bilingües. (I think it’s a good idea that children attend bilingual schools.)

No me parece bien que los niños asistan a colegios bilingües. (I don’t think it’s a good idea that children attend bilingual schools.)

Remember that since me parece implies an opinion or emotion, you must conjugate the verb in the subjunctive tense.

(Yo) pienso que—I think that

Yo pienso que no hay nada más importante que la familia. (I think that there is nothing more important than family.)

(Yo) creo que — I believe that

Yo creo que todos los adolescentes deberían aprender a tocar un instrumento. (I believe that all adolescents should learn to play an instrument.)

Stating an Opinion

The following phrases all have the same structure: Es + adjective + que.

This structure is similar to the English “It’s [adjective] that…” and is great for expressing and supporting opinions in a strong and confident manner. Here are some phrases that are especially useful when making and defending claims in a persuasive essay:

Es evidente que—It’s evident that

Es claro que—It’s clear that

Es cierto que —It’s certain that

Es obvio que— It’s obvious that

Es importante que — It’s important that

Es necesario que— It’s necessary that

Es probable que—It’s probable that

Es dudoso que — It’s doubtful that

For some of these phrases, the verb following the word que must be conjugated in the indicative, while others require the subjunctive. A good rule of thumb is that when implying that something is certain, use the indicative. When expressing doubt or expressing some other emotion, use the subjunctive.

On this list, evidente, claro, cierto and obvio use indicative verbs, and importante, necesario, probable and dudoso use subjunctive verbs.

Es cierto que nuestro clima está cambiando. (It is certain that our climate is changing.)

Es importante que la gente sepa hablar más de un idioma. (It’s important that people know how to speak more than one language.)

Supporting an Opinion

These words will help you refer to your three sources, which contain information that will help you support your argument. This section also contains transition words to connect one part of your argument to the next.

Según— According to

Según el autor… (according to the author…)

La fuente —The source

Según la fuente numero 1… (According to source number one…)

El tema—The theme/topic

Esto es un tema muy importante. (This is a very important topic.)

Mostrar—To show

La fuente muestra la importancia de la diversidad. (The source shows the importance of diversity.)

Remember, mostrar is an o-ue stem-changing verb—pay attention to conjugation!

Demostrar—To demonstrate

La tabla demuestra que muchos jóvenes en España juegan al fútbol. (The table demonstrates that many youths in Spain play football.)

Demostrar is also an o-ue stem changing verb. Luckily for you, it follows the exact same conjugation rules as mostrar!

Indicar—To indicate

La tabla indica que hay muchas familias pobres en ese barrio. (The table indicates that there are many poor families in that neighborhood.)

Apoyar—To support

Estos datos apoyan la idea de que el clima está cambiando. (This data supports the idea that the climate is changing)

Por otra parte— On the other hand

Es importante que la economía crezca, pero por otra parte, tenemos que cuidar el medio ambiente. (It’s important that the economy grows, but on the other hand, we have to care for the environment.)

Por lo cual—For this reason/That’s why/Which is why

This phrase is used in the middle of a sentence to connect ideas.

La Amazonía tiene un alto nivel de biodiversidad, por lo cual la conservación de esta región debe ser una prioridad. (The Amazon has a high level of biodiversity, which is why the conservation of this region must be a priority.)

Además — Additionally

This word is usually seen at the beginning of a sentence, and it’s useful for transitioning from one idea or argument to another.

Además, es evidente que la tecnología nos ayuda mucho. (Additionally, it’s evident that technology helps us a lot.)

Sin embargo—However

This is another good transition word. In your essay, you may want to present an alternate argument and then explain why you disagree with it. Sin embargo is very helpful for this.

Obviamente, estudiar es muy importante. Sin embargo, es necesario que los adolescentes tengan tiempo para jugar con sus amigos. (Obviously, studying is very important. However, it’s necessary that teenagers have time to play with their friends.)

En comparación —In comparison

En comparación, la fuente número 2 indica que hay más obesidad en Estados Unidos que en España. (In comparison, source number 2 indicates that there is more obesity in the United States than in Spain.)

Al igual que —Just like

Al igual que en los años 40, hoy en día hay mucha gente que no quiere ayudar a los refugiados de guerra. (Just like in the 40s, today there are many people who don’t want to help war refugees.)

Tanto ________ como ________ — _________ as well as ___________

Fill in this phrase with two nouns to emphasize that you’re talking equally about two different things.

Tanto chicos como chicas deberían aprender a cocinar, limpiar, coser y cuidar a los bebés. (Boys as well as girls ought to learn how to cook, clean, sew and care for babies.)

Sino—But rather

Remember that Spanish has two translations for the English word “but.” The word sino is like the English phrase “but rather,” used to introduce an alternative.

Leer no es una pérdida de tiempo, sino una manera de aprender y de conocer otras culturas. (Reading isn’t a waste of time, but rather a way to learn and understand other cultures.)

Sin duda— Without a doubt

Sin duda, el cambio climático es el problema más grave que enfrenta nuestra planeta. (Without a doubt, climate change is the most serious problem that our planet faces.)

Aunque— Even though/Although

Aunque is followed by an indicative verb when the outcome is known, but a subjunctive verb when the outcome is speculative.

Aunque cuesta mucho dinero, tenemos que buscar una solución. (Even though it costs a lot of money, we have to search for a solution.)

Aunque cueste mucho dinero, tenemos que buscar una solución. (Even though it may cost a lot of money, we have to search for a solution.)

Concluding Your Essay

In your final paragraph, you’ll want to provide a summary of your main argument and your main supporting points. You can use the following helpful phrases:

En conclusión—In conclusion

En resumen—In summary

En fin—Finally

En conclusión,/En resumen,/En fin, las tres fuentes muestran que la contaminación del aire es un problema muy grave para todo el mundo. (In summary, the three sources show that air pollution is a very serious problem for the whole world.)

After summarizing your essay, you’ll want to re-state your main argument in a succinct, strongly-worded sentence. Start with these phrases:

Por estas razones—For these reasons

Por eso — That is why

Así que—Therefore

Entonces — So

Por estas razones,/Por eso,/Así que/Entonces, afirmo que los adolescentes no deberían usar las redes sociales. (For these reasons, I affirm that teenagers should not use social media.)


Learn and study these words—they’ll help you express yourself more fluidly in your AP Spanish essays.

But, of course, learning vocabulary is just one way to prepare for the free-response section.

Remember to expose yourself to as many Spanish-language sources as you can before test day, and don’t forget to think critically about those sources as you read them!

With practice, writing strong essays for the AP Spanish exam will be a breeze.

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You can learn all the Spanish words that you want, but unless you understand common Spanish idioms, you’d still be at a complete loss when talking to Spanish speakers.

I mean, how would you know that a Spaniard is flirting with you when they refer to it as throwing disks at you (te tira los tejos)?  And how are you to understand that a funny guy is also a horny person (es un cachondo)?

Learning about Spanish idioms will not only make you truly understand real Spanish as it is actually spoken by native speakers….it will also make you sound a little more natural. Like a native. Sounds like a great deal, huh? So today, we’ll take a look at 20 common Spanish idioms and discover what they mean.

1 . Dar en el clavo

Literal meaning: Hit on the nail

What it really means: To be assertive

Aggressive, assertive, unyielding….hard-hitting. This one’s pretty easy to understand.

Example: ¡Nuestro gobierno nunca parece dar en el clavo con sus decisiones! Our government never seems to hit on the nail with their decisions!

2. Dormirse en los laureles

Literal meaning: Fall asleep in the laurels

What it really means: To cease to make an effort after achieving success

This is quite similar to the English version “to rest on your laurels”.

Example: Nuestro equipo simplemente se ha dormido en los laureles. Our team has simply fallen asleep on the laurels.

3. Entre la espada y la pared

Literal meaning: Between the sword and the wall

What it really means: Having to choose between two equally bad things

Does this remind you of “a rock and a hard place”? It’s basically the same thing.

Example: Mi amigo me ha puesto entre la espada y la pared, ¡quiere que elija entre gatos o perros! My friend put me between the sword and the wall, he wants me to pick a favourite between cats or dogs!

4. Con la soga al cuello

Literal meaning: With the rope to the neck

What it really means: To be in a situation of a lot of pressure

A noose around your neck. That sure feels like a whole lot of pressure, doesn’t it?

Example: Cuando mi novia quiere salir de compras conmigo me siento como con la soga al cuello. Whenever my girlfriend wants to go out shopping I feel as if I have a rope tied to the neck.

5. Le falta un tornillo

Literal meaning: Missing a screw

What it really means: To be crazy

To put it nicely, someone with a screw loose is an eccentric person. Or a nutjob and a wacko, if one can be so blunt about it.

Example: Está comprobado que las personas que odian el chocolate sufren de una rara enfermedad: ¡les hace falta un tornillo. / It has been scientifically proven that those who hate chocolate suffer from a rare disease: they’re missing a screw!

6. Dos pajaros de un tiro

Literal meaning: Two birds with one shot

What it really means: To get two things done at once

Similar to its English counterpart, when you hit two birds with one shot (or with one stone), you are accomplishing two things at once! (hey, good for you)

Example: Al quedarme dormido mate dos pájaros de un solo tiro: ahorre energía y mis empleados tienen tiempo extra para terminar sus obligaciones. By falling asleep I killed two birds with one stone: I saved some energy and my employees have extra time to finish their obligations.

7. La gallina de los huevos de oro

Literal meaning: The hen that lays the golden eggs

What it really means: A source of wealth

Example: ¡Algún día encontrare mi gallina de los huevos de oro!  Someday I will find my chicken with the golden eggs!

8. Meter la pata

Literal meaning: Put the foot in

What it really means: To screw up/ to mess up/ make a blunder

Example:  Cuando me preguntan si poseo alguna habilidad especial yo siempre hago alarde de mi talento para meter la pata. Whenever I’m asked if I have any special skill I always brag about my talent to screw up

9. Pasarse de la raya

Literal meaning: To cross the line

What it really means: To do something that can’t be tolerated

I’m pretty sure you already know what crossing the line means, right? Same as with English, this one means that you have reached a point where you can no longer be tolerated.

Example: Nunca me paso de la raya, pero siempre busco estar encima de ella.  I never cross the line, but I always try to stay on top of it.

10. Pedir peras al olmo

Literal meaning: Asking for pears from the elm

What it really means: Expect something that is impossible

This one is somewhat similar to the English counterpart “getting blood from a stone” or “trying to squeeze blood from a stone”. Either way, what you’re asking for is impossible.

Example: Pedirle a nuestro gobierno transparencia total es como pedirle peras al olmo. Asking our government for total transparency is like asking pears from an elm tree.

11. Poner el dedo en la llaga

Literal meaning: To put your finger on it

What it really means: To be straightforward about the source of a bad situation

Example: No le preguntes sobre su ruptura con su novio, eso si es poner el dedo en la llaga. Don’t ask her about her breakup with her boyfriend, now that’s really putting the finger on the wound.

12. Salirse con la suya

Literal meaning: Get away with it

What it really means: To succeed at getting something through obnoxious methods

Example: Nuestra mascota siempre logra salirse con la suya. Our pet always manages to get away with it.

13. Ser pan comido

Literal meaning: to be eating bread

What it really means: to be easy

Example: Para mi todas esas actividades son pan comido. To me all of those activities are eaten bread.

14. Ser un cero a la izquierda

Literal meaning: To be a zero to the left

What it really means: To not have any influence

Example: Tus comentarios negativos son un cero a la izquierda para nosotros. Your negative comments are just a zero to the left to us.

15. Tener agallas

Literal meaning: to have guts

What it really means: To be brave

Example: Tener las agallas para decir que no a una pizza gratis es una acción respetable.. ¡y muy tonta! Having the guts to say no to a free pizza is a respectable action.. and a very foolish one too!

16. A duras penas

Literal meaning: At tough hardship

What it really means: To barely achieve something

Example: Pude terminar todo mi trabajo pendiente a duras penas.  I was barely able to finish all of my pending work.

17. Costar un ojo de la cara

Literal meaning: To cost an eye off the face

What it really means: Something very expensive

In English, it would cost you an arm and a leg. The Spanish version, however, is an eye. Either way, it means that something would cost you a fortune.

Example: Salir con mi familia casi siempre me cuesta un ojo de la cara. Going out with my family almost always cost me an eye off my face.

18. Perder los estribos

Literal meaning: To lose the stirrup

What it really means: To get angry

When you “lose the stirrup”, you’ve basically lost your temper. It is also similar to the English idiom “to fly off the handle”.

Siempre pierdo los estribos cuando hablan mal de Derrick Rose.  I always lose it when people talk badly about Derrick Rose.

19. Echar leña al fuego

Literal meaning: To throw wood to the fire

What it really means: To raise the intensity of something

When something is already burning and you add more wood to it, you are making things escalate further. This is quite similar to the English version “to add fuel to the fire”.

Example:   Echar leña al fuego cuando otros discuten es malo, ¡debemos asegurarnos de echar suficiente gasolina primero! Throwing wood into the fire when others argue is bad, we should always make sure to put enough gasoline first!

20. De buena fe

Literal meaning: Of good faith

What it really means: To do something with good intentions

This one is self-explanatory. Doing something in good faith means you have clear intentions and aren’t up to something shady.

Example: Todo lo que hago por mis amigos es de buena fe. Everything I do for my friends is in good faith



Idioms are fun and easy enough to learn. They also make conversations so much more colorful. Which idiomatic expression is your favorite so far?

If you want more, sign up for the weekly newsletter and you’ll receive an amazing gift: 100 Days of Spanish Words and Expressions. You’ll love it, I’m sure!

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About the Author Janey

Janey is a fan of different languages and studied Spanish, German, Mandarin, and Japanese in college. She has now added French into the mix, though English will always be her first love. She loves reading anything (including product labels).

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