‘Caer’ (or the reflexive ‘caerse’) is an extremely common Spanish verb which, as you probably already know, often translates to ‘fall’ in English … BUT you’ll also find it used in a bunch of different expressions / idioms!
It can actually refer to actions as contrary as ‘liking’, ‘dropping by’, ‘getting sick’, and ‘understanding’ (and MANY more!).
So, brace yourself and accompany me on this journey through the quite astonishing number of expressions with ‘caer’!
Here are some of the most popular expressions with ‘caer / caerse’ in Spanish –
1. Me cae bien = I like him/her
2. Me cae mal = I don’t like him/her
3. Ya me cayó el veinte = I get it now (as in ‘I understand’)
4. ¿Te cae? = Are you serious?
5. Me cae = I’m positive
To like or dislike someone
1 Caer bien – To like someone
‘Me cae bien’ (which literally means ‘he/she falls well with me’) is an EXTREMELY common way of saying ‘I like him (or her)’.
Mariana – ¿Qué piensas de mi hermano Miguel? ¿Te cayó bien?
Fabián – Sí, me cayó muy bien, es chévere*.
Mariana – What do you think of my brother Miguel? Did you like him?
Fabian – Yeah, I really liked him, he’s pretty cool.
*Erika’s note – ‘chévere’ is one of many epic ways to say ‘awesome’ in Spanish.
2 Caerle en gracia
This phrase literally translates as ‘to fall into grace’ (huh?!), but it actually refers to ‘finding someone or something pleasant’ –
Ramiro – ¿Por qué te regaló una galleta el barista?
Damián – Pues porque le caí en gracia, supongo.
Ramiro – Why did the barista give you a cookie?
Damián – Well, because he liked me, I suppose.
3 Caer de madre (Mexico) – To REALLY like someone
This one might seem a bit weird, since the literal translation doesn’t make much sense, but it’s basically a Mexican’s way of using the awesomeness of their mothers as a way of measuring exactly how awesome something else is (I mean, our mums do set a pretty high bar, let’s be honest!).
So, if someone ‘te cae de madre’, it means that you think they’re amazing –
¿Conoces a Juan? ¡Me cae de madre! Es de mis mejores amigos.
Do you know Juan? He’s super cool! He’s one of my best friends.
4 Caer mal – To dislike someone
On the other side of the spectrum, we have ‘caer mal’ (literally ‘to fall badly’), which means ‘to dislike someone’ –
Silvia – Cuando nos conocimos habría podido jurar que te caí mal.
Ingrid – ¡No, para nada! Soy muy tímida, pero tú me caes increíble*.
Silvia – When we met, I could have sworn that you didn’t like me.
Ingrid – No, not at all! I’m very shy, but I think you’re incredible.
*Erika’s top tip – you’ll find that Spanish-speakers also use other adverbs with the expression ‘me cae bien’, such as ‘increíble’ or ‘de maravilla’.
5 Caer gordo – To dislike someone
‘Gordo’ is one of MANY different ways to say ‘fat’ in Spanish.
And ‘caer gordo’?
Well, it’s actually an extremely common way to express dislike for someone, and although it isn’t considered offensive at all, many people ARE starting to question the use of ‘fat’ with negative connotations in everyday phrases.
Tu compañero me cae muy gordo; por favor, no lo invites a la fiesta.
I can’t stand your classmate; please don’t invite him to the party.
To die or perish
7 Caer muerto – To drop dead
This phrase can mean quite literally ‘to drop dead’.
It also has another connotation that we’ll look at further down the list.
La mosca cayó muerta a mis pies.
The fly dropped dead at my feet.
8 Caer en batalla – To die in battle
This one’s useful for you history buffs!
Dicen que cayó en batalla, luchando hasta el último minuto para defender el fuerte.
They say he died in battle, fighting until the last minute to defend the fort.
9 Caída de – The fall of (someone / a group of people)
Use ‘caída’ (noun) when talking about fallen kings, empires, civilizations, and governments –
Hoy vamos a hablar acerca de la caída del Imperio Romano.
Today we’re going to talk about the fall of the Roman Empire.
10 ¡Se va a caer! – It’s gonna fall
At some point you’ll most likely come across this extremely common (and kinda catchy!) phrase used by feminists.
It’s a shortened version of ‘el patriarcado se va a caer’ or ‘the patriarchy is gonna fall’.
Consigna popular en las marchas del 8 de marzo en Latinoamérica
Abajo el patriarcado, se va a caer, se va a caer.
Arriba el feminism, que va a vencer, que va a vencer.
Popular slogan during the marches of March 8th across Latin America
Down with the patriarchy, it’s gonna fall, it’s gonna fall.
Up feminism, it’s gonna prevail, it’s gonna prevail.
To fall asleep
11 Caer muerto (de cansancio) – To zonk out
‘Caer muerto’ can also be used in a less literal way: to refer to someone falling asleep (due to tiredness!).
You might also come across the longer expression ‘caer muerto de cansancio’, which would literally translate as ‘to fall dead from exhaustion’ –
Disculpa que no te llamara ayer; caí muerta de cansancio cuando regresé del entrenamiento.
I’m sorry I didn’t ring yesterday; I zonked out when I got home from training.
12 Caer rendido – To fall asleep
‘Caer rendido’ is another way of saying ‘to fall asleep’ (because you’re REALLY knackered) –
Matilda – ¿Y Toño? ¿No está?
Ramón – Está en su cuarto. Cayó rendido después de la escuela.
Matilda – And Toño? Is he not here?
Ramón – He’s in his room. He fell asleep after school.
To faint (from surprise)
13 Caerse de la impresión – To be shocked
The word ‘impresión’ has several meanings in Spanish, but in this particular phrase it probably best translates as ‘a shock’.
Accompanied by ‘caerse de’, it means something along the lines of ‘to be shocked’ or ‘to be blown away’ (literally: ‘to fall from the shock’) –
Tengo algo qué contarte. ¡Siéntate porque te vas a caer de la impresión!
I have something to tell you. Sit down because you’re gonna be blown away!
14 Caerse para atrás / Caerse pa’ trás – To be shocked
This means ‘to fall backwards’ and, well, it’s another common way of saying that you’re extremely surprised by something –
¡Esta noticia está que te caes pa’ trás!
This news will knock your socks off!
15 Caerse de espaldas – To be shocked / To fall backwards
‘Caerse de espaldas’ also means ‘to fall backwards’ and, yep, it’s yet another way to say ‘to be shocked’ (in the sense of something being so surprising that you faint)!
¡Cuando lo ví venir hacia mí, pensé que me caería de espaldas!
When I saw him coming towards me, I thought I was gonna faint!
16 Caer como balde de agua fría – To receive unexpected news
If you hear someone say that something ‘hit them like a bucket of cold water’, they’re NOT saying that someone is criticizing them or ruining their fun; it just means that they didn’t see it (i.e., the news) coming!
¡No puedo creer que te divorciaste! Me cayó como balde de agua fría.
I can’t believe you got divorced! It caught me completely off guard.
To talk about time
17 Caer en – To fall on
You can use ‘caer’ exactly as you would ‘to fall’ in English when saying that something is gonna happen on a specific day.
Mi cumpleaños va a caer en domingo.
My birthday is gonna fall on a Sunday.
To become aware of something
18 Caer en – To comprehend
‘Caer en’ (or ‘to fall into [something]’) can also mean ‘to understand’ –
Hasta ahora caigo en lo que me dijiste.
I just got what you meant to say.
19 Caer en la cuenta – To realize something
‘Caer en la cuenta’ means ‘to realize’.
It´s basically another way of saying ‘darse cuenta’.
Acabo de caer en la cuenta de que cometí un error en el examen.
I just realized that I made a mistake on the test.
Caí en la cuenta de que en realidad sí me gustan los gatos.
It dawned on me that I actually do like cats.
20 Caerle el veinte – To realize something
Remember those old payphone booths?
Well, in Mexico, you needed 20 cents in order to make a call, and you’d know it was ready once you heard the coin drop.
Fast forward a few decades and this widespread expression is still synonymous with understanding something, and most of the younger generations use it without knowing where it actually came from.
¿Ya te cayó el veinte, o te lo explico otra vez?
Did you get it, or shall I explain it again?
To think or believe something
21 ¿Te cae? – Are you serious?
This is an extremely common way of asking ‘really?’ or ‘seriously?’
Sam – Siento que nos están ocultando algo importante…
Jen – ¿Te cae?*
Sam – I feel that they’re keeping something important from us …
Jen – Really?
*Erika’s note – if you wanna learn some more ways to say ‘really?’ or ‘are you serious?’ in Spanish, definitely check out our article on the subject!
22 Me cae – I’m serious
Are you dead serious about your statement?
Then respond to ‘¿te cae?’ with an emphatic ‘¡me cae!’.
Sam – Me cae que sí; algo está muy raro.
Sam – I’m positive; there’s something very strange going on.
To describe health issues
23 Caer enfermo – To fall ill
Use this expression just as you would ‘to fall ill’ or ‘to fall sick’ in English.
Cayó enfermo la semana pasada, pero al parecer ya se siente mejor.
He fell ill last week, but he seems to be feeling better now.
24 Caer en cama – To fall ill
‘Caer in cama’ is another way of saying ‘to fall ill’ –
Caí en cama con gripe.
I got the flu.
25 Caer malo – To fall ill
Yep, yet another way of saying ‘to fall ill’!
Mind that ‘o’ in ‘malo’, because sometimes in Spanish you’re just one letter away from an entirely different meaning.
Mi hermano cayó malo ayer y lo tuvimos que llevar al médico.
My brother fell ill yesterday, and we had to take him to the doctor.
26 Caerse mal / To not sit well (food)
If you’re referring to food instead of a person (as in ‘caer mal’ as a synonym of ‘disliking’ someone), then ‘caer mal’ means you’re experiencing an upset stomach.
Creo que me cayeron mal los mariscos que comimos.
I think the seafood’s upset my stomach.
27 Caer pesado – To feel bloated
‘Pesado’ is ‘heavy’ in English, so this phrase refers to when food makes you feel bloated and heavy.
28 Caerle la venganza de Moctezuma (Mexico) – To have Diarrhea
If you visit Mexico, eat some delicious food, and end up running to the toilet, you may hear locals say that ‘Moctezuma’s revenge (or curse) fell on you’. (No, not ‘Montezuma’: ‘Moctezuma’).
This curious expression goes back to the Spanish conquest, when Spaniards brought maize back to Spain, but skipped the process of nixtamalization – a method in which the dry kernels are cooked and steeped in an alkaline solution – which caused many Spaniards to get sick or even die.
Moctezuma was one of the last and most important emperors of the Mexica Empire, hence the name. Nowadays it’s just a mischievous expression for whenever foreigners have a few stomach issues after having sampled the local Mexican cuisine.
29 Cayendo y levantando – To have ups and downs
‘Falling and getting back up’ refers to sick people who get better from time to time, but then fall ill again.
30 Caerse redondo – To faint / to black out
If you ‘fall round’ (in English) it means you ‘faint’ or ‘black out’.
Empecé a ver lucecitas y, de pronto, caí redonda.
I started to see little lights and suddenly I blacked out.
To give or receive something
31 Caerse con + a thing – To share/give something
Between friends this phrase is a simple request to share something, but it’s also used in not-so-amicable situations to ask for a bribe or during a robbery.
Take out the beers, bro!
En un asalto en un autobús
¡Cáiganse con las carteras!
During a hold up on a bus
Give me your wallets!
32 Caer un jale (Mexico) – To get a job/gig
In Mexico a ‘jale’ is slang for a ‘job’ or ‘gig’.
Me cayó un jale que paga bastante bien.
I got a gig that pays pretty well.
To visit or get to a place
33 Caerle – To drop by / To come round
This expression is mostly used amongst friends and family when visiting one another.
It’s similar to the English ‘to drop by’.
Amanda – ¿A qué hora es la fiesta?
Ismael – Pablo me dijo que le cayéramos como a las nueve.
Amanda – What time is the party?
Ismael – Pablo told me that we could drop by around nine.
34 ¡Cáele! – Come on over! / Get over here!
This is ‘caerle’ in the form of an invitation.
¡Cáele! Estamos viendo pelis en mi casa.
Come on over! We’re watching movies at my place.
35 Caer de sorpresa – To drop by unannounced and uninvited
We all know someone who just ‘cae de sorpresa’ (or ‘drops by unannounced’) at the worst time!
As a sexual euphemism
36 ¡Ya cayó! – To consent to a sexual (or romantic) relationship
This interjection is used when a person convinces (under somewhat manipulative circumstances) another person to be with them.
Any similarities with a fly getting caught on a spider’s web are probably NOT a coincidence.
¡Ya cayó! Nos casamos en noviembre.
I got him/her! We’re getting married in November.
37 Caerse la baba – To be sexually attracted
‘Caerse la baba’ means ‘to drool’, so you probably get the gist of this one!
Se me cae la baba por Andy, la neta.
I’m drooling over Andy, to be honest.
To describe physical or psychological attributes or situation
38 Caerse de maduro – To be very old / close to death
If someone is said to be ‘ripe to fall’, it means they’re very old.
Mi vecino está que se cae de maduro, pero sigue haciendo ejercicio todas las mañanas.
My neighbor is a fossil, but he still exercises every morning.
39 Caerse de tonto – To be very dumb
‘Tonto’ is ‘dumb’ in English, so ‘caerse de tonto’ means ‘to be an idiot’.
Estás que te caes de tonto.
Could you be any dumber?
40 No tener donde caerse muerto – To be poor
‘Not having somewhere to drop dead’, which is the literal translation of this expression, means to be extremely poor (although it’s often used as a hyperbole).
Estás viendo que no tengo dónde caerme muerto, ¿y aún así me pides dinero?
You can see that I´m scraping by and yet you ask me for money?
To be deceived
41 Caer en un engaño / una trampa – To fall into a trap
If you wanna say ‘to fall into a trap’ in Spanish, use the expression ‘caer en un engaño / trampa’.
Siento que caí en un engaño.
I feel like I’ve been made a fool of.
42 Caer redondito – To be tricked
If you replace ‘redondo’ with it’s diminutive, you didn’t lose consciousness … you were deceived (and I’m not sure which is worse, to be honest!).
¡Caí redondito en tus mentiras!
I fell for your lies!
To describe a negative situation
43 Caerle el mundo encima – To have a lot of problems
This one’s akin to the English ‘carrying the world on one’s shoulders’.
44 Ya nos cayó el chahuistle
‘Chahuistle’ is a disease that affects corn crops, so if someone says ‘¡ya nos cayó el chahuistle’ it means that they’ve either been caught doing something bad or they’ve found themselves in a dire situation.
45 Caerse el teatrito – To be caught red handed
‘Teatrito’ is the diminutive of ‘teatro’ (or ‘theater’ in English), and if you tell someone that ‘their little theater has fallen’, it means you’ve seen through their lies.
46 Caerse la cara de vergüenza – To be ashamed
If you say ‘me caí la cara de vergüenza’, it means that you’re extremely ashamed of something.
Me desmayé frente a toda la escuela y ahora se me cae la cara de vergüenza.
I passed out in front of the whole school and now I’m SUPER embarrassed.
47 Caer bajo – To stoop low
In Spanish, you don’t say people ‘stoop low’ when they do something reprehensible, instead they ‘fall low’ (i.e., ‘caer bajo’).
¡No puedo creer que cayeras tan bajo!
I can’t believe you could stoop so low!
To describe the state of something
48 Caer en desuso – To fall into disuse
This phrase is the equivalent of the English ‘to fall into disuse’.
Esa tecnología cayó en desuso hace muchos años.
That technology fell into disuse many years ago.
48 Caerse a pedazos – To fall apart
To describe a thing or object that is in a deplorable condition in Spanish, just say ‘se está cayendo a pedazos’ (or ‘it’s falling to pieces’).
Voy a llamar al plomero, antes de que esa llave se caiga a pedazos.
I’m going to call the plumber, before that faucet falls apart.
50 Caer de pie – To land on one’s feet
The final expression (yippee!) on the list is rather straightforward.
To ‘caer de pie’ (or ‘to land on one’s feet’) is used in the same sense as its English equivalent: to describe someone who has a sudden change of luck after a bad run.
Has pasado por muy malas experiencias, pero siempre has caído de pie.
You’ve had some bad times, but you’ve always landed on your feet.
Phew! That was a massive list! Hopefully it’ll come in handy whenever you come across this versatile Spanish verb!
If you feel ready for your next linguistic adventure, I recommend you check out the piece we wrote on ‘qué rollo’ (yep, you guessed it, another incredibly versatile Spanish word!).