‘Qué poca’ – Meaning / In English

Quick answer – ‘qué poca’ is a well-known Mexican slang expression. Depending on context, it can mean ‘what the heck’, ‘I cannot believe your nerve’, and ‘shame on you’.

Qué poca‘ is a super common expression in Mexico and you’re sure to hear it when out socializing with your Mexican pals.

And where (on earth!) does it come from?

Well, it’s actually just a euphemism for another popular (and considerably more vulgar!) Mexican expression!

¡Qué poca! Eso no se hace.

What the heck! You don’t do that.




Uses / Meanings of ‘qué poca

Qué poca’ can be used in the following ways –

  • As a way of saying ‘what the heck’ / ‘I can’t believe your nerve’

  • As a way of saying ‘shame on you’

  • To start a phrase or idea with ‘how little (…)’


As a way of saying ‘What the heck’ / ‘I can’t believe your nerve´

‘Qué poca’ is normally used to express outrage, a bit like the English expression ‘what the heck’ or ‘what the heck is wrong with something / someone’.

As I mentioned above, it’s a euphemism for a more vulgar phrase with the word ‘madre‘.

For example –

Ana – El concierto empezó hace una hora y ese wey todavía no llega. 

Laura – ¡Qué poca!


 
Ana – The concert started an hour ago and that dude still hasn’t arrived.

Laura – What’s wrong with him!


 

Diego – Unos perros mataron a mi gato.

Óscar – ¡Qué poca! No lo puedo creer…



Diego – Some dogs killed my cat.

Oscar – What the heck! I can’t believe it…


If the person in question has done something selfish, it can also mean something akin to ‘I can’t believe your nerve´ –

Diana – Hazme un paro* y préstame un poco de dinero. Mañana te pago.

Francisco – ¡Qué poca! Aún me debes $500, ¿recuerdas?


 
Diana – Do me a favor and lend me some money. I’ll pay you back tomorrow.

Francisco – I can’t believe your nerve! You still owe me $500, remember?

*Erika’s note – the phrase hacer el paro is the Mexican Spanish equivalent of ‘to do a favor‘.

As a way of saying ‘shame on you

Similarly, ‘qué poca’ is often used to shame someone over something morally questionable they’ve done.

Alicia – ¿Viste ese tipo? Se pasó el alto. 

Karina – ¡Qué poca! Eso es* muy peligroso.


 
Alicia – Did you see that guy? He ran the red light.

Karina – Shame on him! That’s really dangerous.

Erika’s top tip – it’s very easy to get ‘es‘ (third person singular of the verb ‘ser‘) and ‘está‘ (third person singular of the verb ‘estar‘) muddled up!

Be sure to check out our article on es‘ vs ‘esta to find out more!

To start a phrase or idea with ‘how little (…)

If we translate ‘qué poca’ literally, we get ‘how’ (‘que’) and ‘little’ (‘poca’)

So, when used at the beginning of a sentence, ‘qué poca’ expresses surprise or puzzlement as regards the quantity or quality of something.

Just remember to say ‘qué poca’ if the noun it’s describing is feminine and ‘qué poco’ if it’s masculine.

Qué poca luz hay en este teatro. 

There’s very little light in this theater.



¡Qué poco amor me demuestras!

You hardly ever show me that you love me!


By the way, if you wanna top up on your Mexican slang, you NEED to check out our “Master Guide” … it’s everything you need to know all in one place 👇🌵🇲🇽

Erika pointing to the word "Mexican Slang Master Guide"



Qué poca’ pronunciation

The word ‘qué’ is said like ‘keh’, and ‘poca’ sounds like ‘poh-kah’

Simples.

/ keh poh-kah /


Final thoughts

That’s all for today, folks!

You can whip out a ‘qué poca’ the next time you want to express rage or anger amongst close friends … just remember to take a deep breath and a chill pill afterwards!

Head on over to our article on te pasas if you wanna learn another super useful Mexican expression!

¡Hasta pronto!

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

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