‘Échale’ is a real jack of all trades in Mexican Spanish.
On its own it means ‘to pour / put something on’, or ‘go on’ / ‘do your best’ (amongst other things!).
But it´s also used as part of the following phrases – ‘to take a look (at this)’, ‘to keep an eye on someone / something’, ‘to give someone a hand’ and ‘to put your back into something’.
Sounds difficult, right? Breathe, it isn´t!
The key to unravelling the mysteries of ‘échale’ is to identify when it´s being used as a stand-alone phrase and when it´s part of a set expression!
‘Échale’ is a complex word that has MANY uses. The two most common are:
- to pour / put something on
- used as a form of encouragement (kind of like ‘Go on!’)
Yes, I know what you´re thinking!
How come you´ve translated that one little word to a phrase?
Well, let me welcome you to the (sometimes) traumatizing reality of Spanish! Not every word or phrase has an English equivalent, unfortunately!
Anyway, let’s have a look at ‘échale’ in action.
To pour / put something on
‘To pour / put something on’ is most commonly used when talking about food or liquids.
If you´re eating some tacos or cooking something and you hear ‘échale’ followed by an ingredient, you´re basically being asked to pour / put something into whatever it is that you are eating, drinking, or cooking.
For example –
Ángel y Fernanda están en una taquería
Ángel – Échale salsa a tus tacos, así saben mejor …
Fernanda – Pero ¿Cúal pica menos?
Angel and Fernanda are at a taco restaurant
Ángel – Put salsa on your tacos, that way they taste better …
Fernanda – But which one’s less spicy?
Rupert´s note – remember to always smell and taste a bit of the salsa you are about to drown your tacos in! I´m not responsible for any salsa related injuries or extreme bathroom visits. Don´t say I didn´t warn you!
Used as a form of encouragement
‘Échale’ is frequently used at parties or social gatherings to cheer and encourage an individual to give his / her all to the task at hand.
In this context, you´ll hear your Mexican companions or friends yell ‘¡ÉCHALE!’ followed by cheering sounds like ‘Whoop!’ or ‘Siiiii!’ …
No, they haven´t gone crazy and, no, they aren’t warning you about impending danger. They´re simply rooting for you and want you to do your best!
If you aren´t at a party and you hear a loud or emotional ‘ÉCHALE’ it´s also likely to be a form of encouragement.
Let´s look at some examples –
Ana y Laura están bailando en una fiesta
Ana – ¡ÉCHALE LAURA!
Anna and Laura are dancing at a party
Ana – GO ON LAURA!
Raúl y Luis están haciendo ‘reps’ en el gimnasio
Raúl – ¡Échale, Luis! Que ya casi acabamos.
Luis – ¡Échale, cabrón*! La última y nos vamos.
Raúl and Louis are doing reps in the gym
Raúl – Go on, Luis! We´re almost done.
Luis – Go on, man! One more and we´re out of here.
*Erika’s top tip – in Mexico the word ‘cabrón’ can be used to address a close friend (a bit like the words ‘buddy’ or ‘mate’ in English).
Uses of ‘Échale’ in Mexican Spanish
If you’ve read all the way up until this point, congrats! You´re well on the way to mastering that pesky word ‘échale’ that keeps cropping up in all sorts of strange situations!
As mentioned previously, ‘échale’ can also be used as part of a phrase with a wide variety of uses and meanings.
Some of the most common include:
- échale un vistazo = take a look (at this)
- échale un ojo = keep an eye on someone or something
- échale una mano = give a hand
- échale ganas = an expression of encouragement
Échale un vistazo (a esto) – take a look (at this)
This phrase is used when you want someone to check something out or have a closer look at something. It translates to something along the lines of ‘check it / this out´ or ‘take a look (at this)’.
Pro tip – if you find yourself in a situation in which you DO NOT know the word for something and it´s close to you, point towards the thing and say ‘esto’ which means ‘this one’ (you can thank me later!).
El perro de Sofia y Iovanna está ladrando sin parar
Iovanna – ¡Sofi! El perro está ladrando. Échale un vistazo a ver que pasa.
Sofía – ¡Voy!
Sofia and Iovanna’s dog is barking nonstop
Iovanna – Soph! The dog´s barking. Take a look and see what´s going on.
Sophie – On my way!
Rosi y Oscar están viendo el Instagram
Rosi – ¡Oscar, échale un vistazo a esto!
Oscar – ¡Wow! ¡Qué bonita foto!
Rosie and Oscar are scrolling through Instagram
Rosie – Oscar, take a look at this!
Oscar – Wow, what a nice picture!
Échale un ojo a algo / alguien – keep an eye on someone or something
Probably the most practical phrase of the lot is ‘échale un ojo a algo / alguien’ which translates to ‘keep an eye on someone / something’.
This one´s sure to be a lifesaver when you require a friend or colleague to safeguard something of emotional or monetary value.
If the scenario arises, remember to say “Échale un ojo a + what you want the person to look after”.
If you don´t know the word for the thing in question in Spanish, you can say ‘Échale un ojo a esto, por favor´.
Rodrigo paró en una tiendita para comprar agua
Rodrigo – Carlos, échale un ojo a mi bici, por favor.
Carlos – Solo si me compras unos Panditas
Rodrigo – Va.
Rodrigo has stopped at a convenience store to buy water
Rodrigo – Carlos, keep an eye on my bike, please.
Carlos – Only if you buy me some gummy bears.
Rodrigo – Ok.
Erika y Frida están en la oficina
Erika – Échale un ojo a esto. No me tardo.
Frida – Si, no te preocupes.
Erika and Frida are in the office
Erika – Keep an eye on this. I won’t be long.
Frida – Yes, don´t worry.
Échale una mano a alguien – give someone a hand
People in Mexico tend to be amicable to the extreme with foreigners and nationals alike. This trait is given linguistic form with the phrase ’echale una mano a alguien’ … it´s basically the Mexican way of asking someone to help another person out with something.
Just be careful with the way you arrange the words in this phrase! In English, we use ‘someone’ first and then ‘a hand’, in Spanish it´s the other way around.
María – Échale una mano a Isabel con su mudanza
Roberto – ¿Cuándo se muda?
María – Mañana.
María – Give Isabel a hand, she´s moving out.
Roberto – When´s she moving out?
María – Tomorrow.
Erika´s Note – the phrase ‘échale una / la mano’ is also used to mean ‘give him / her a hand’.
Échale ganas – put your back into it
This phrase means ‘put your back into it’.
Mexican culture is all about flavors and effort. When you hear this phrase, you´re most likely being asked to put more flavor / effort into whatever it is that you´re doing. You´ll hear it used in any context in which energy is required to get a job done.
By the way, hearing this phrase after some sexy time with your significant other is a very bad sign!
Mariela – ¡Échale ganas o no va a quedar el pastel!
Mauricio bate más rápido y con más fuerza la mezcla
Mariela – Put your back into it or the cake will be ruined!
Mauricio whips the mixture faster and with more strength
Échale’ is pretty easy to pronounce. The ‘é’ sound is like the ‘e’ in elephant, the cha sound is like ‘cha’ in the dance ‘cha cha chá’and the ‘le’ like ‘leh’.
/ e-cha-le /
/ eh-chah-leh /
Well, thank goodness ‘échale’ isn´t a mouthful or else it would be the stuff of nightmares!
All jokes aside, ‘échale’ is a valuable addition to your lexis mainly because of its many uses, practicality and how commonplace it is in Mexican Spanish.
Make sure to head over to our article on the meaning of ‘qué hueva‘ to further improve your Mexican slang!
¡Hasta la proxima!