Understanding the Spanish Idiom: "poner de patitas en la calle" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: Spanish

This idiom is commonly used in Spain and Latin America to describe a situation where someone is fired or dismissed from their job abruptly and without warning. However, it can also be used more broadly to refer to any situation where someone is suddenly forced out of a place or position they were previously occupying.

The Origins of “Poner de Patitas en la Calle”

Like many idioms, the exact origin of poner de patitas en la calle is unclear. However, it likely dates back several centuries and may have originated in rural areas where farmers would sometimes need to expel animals from their property quickly.

Over time, this phrase came to be applied more broadly to situations involving people being forcibly removed from their homes or workplaces. Today, it remains a popular expression throughout much of the Spanish-speaking world.

Usage Examples

To give you an idea of how poner de patitas en la calle might be used in conversation, here are some example sentences:

– Después del escándalo con el jefe, pusieron al empleado nuevo de patitas en la calle. (After the scandal with the boss, they put the new employee out on the street.)

– No puedo creer que me hayan puesto de patitas en la calle después de tantos años trabajando aquí. (I can’t believe they put me out on the street after so many years working here.)

– Si no pagas el alquiler a tiempo, te pondrán de patitas en la calle sin pensarlo dos veces. (If you don’t pay your rent on time, they’ll put you out on the street without a second thought.)

As you can see from these examples, poner de patitas en la calle is a versatile and widely used idiom in Spanish that can be applied to a variety of situations. By familiarizing yourself with this expression, you’ll be better equipped to understand and participate in conversations with native speakers.

Origins and Historical Context of the Spanish Idiom “poner de patitas en la calle”

The origins and historical context of the Spanish idiom poner de patitas en la calle can be traced back to Spain’s rich cultural heritage. The phrase has been used for centuries in various contexts, from literature to everyday conversations.

Historically, Spain has had a complex social hierarchy, with clear distinctions between different classes of people. This led to a situation where those who were deemed lower in status were often treated unfairly by their superiors. As a result, many idioms developed over time that reflected this societal divide.

Poner de patitas en la calle is one such idiom that speaks to the power dynamic between employer and employee. It literally translates to “to put on all fours in the street,” which implies a sense of humiliation and disrespect towards the person being fired or dismissed from their job.

This idiom has been used throughout Spanish history as a way for people to express frustration with authority figures who abuse their power. It highlights the importance of treating others with respect and dignity, regardless of their social status or position within society.

Usage and Variations of the Spanish Idiom “poner de patitas en la calle”

When it comes to idioms, their meanings can often be difficult to decipher for those who are not familiar with them. The Spanish idiom poner de patitas en la calle is no exception. However, once you understand its meaning, you’ll find that it’s a versatile phrase that can be used in various situations.


Like many idioms, poner de patitas en la calle has variations that are commonly used by native speakers. These variations include:

  • “Echar a alguien a la calle”
  • “Mandar a alguien al carrer”
  • “Despedir a alguien”


The primary use of this idiom is to express the act of firing or dismissing someone from their job. However, it can also be used in other contexts such as ending a relationship or kicking someone out of your home.

In addition to its literal meaning, poner de patitas en la calle can also be used figuratively to describe being left without any support or resources.


Cuando mi amigo perdió su trabajo lo pusieron de patitas en la calle sin ninguna explicación.

Translation: When my friend lost his job he was fired without any explanation.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Spanish Idiom “poner de patitas en la calle”

When it comes to understanding a foreign language, knowing its idioms is crucial. The Spanish language has many colorful expressions that can be challenging to grasp for non-native speakers. One such idiom is poner de patitas en la calle, which literally translates to “put on all fours in the street.” This phrase is used when someone is fired from their job or kicked out of their home.

To gain a deeper understanding of this idiom, it’s essential to explore its synonyms and antonyms. Synonyms for poner de patitas en la calle include “despedir” (to dismiss), “echar” (to throw out), and “expulsar” (to expel). On the other hand, antonyms could be phrases like “contratar” (to hire) or “aceptar en casa” (to welcome into one’s home).

Cultural insights are also valuable when trying to comprehend an idiom fully. In Spain, losing your job or being evicted from your home can have severe consequences due to high unemployment rates and expensive living costs. Therefore, using an expression like poner de patitas en la calle highlights the gravity of the situation.

Practical Exercises for the Spanish Idiom “putting on all fours in the street”

Exercise 1: Fill in the blanks

Complete each sentence by filling in the blank with the correct form of poner de patitas en la calle.

  1. El jefe ____________ a Juan por llegar tarde al trabajo.
  2. Mi novia me ____________ después de una discusión.
  3. Nuestro vecino fue ____________ por no pagar el alquiler.
  4. No quiero que me ____________, necesito este trabajo.

Exercise 2: Role-play

In pairs, role-play a conversation using poner de patitas en la calle in context. One person should play the role of an employer or landlord who is firing or evicting someone, while the other person plays the role of an employee or tenant who is being fired or evicted. Use appropriate body language and tone to convey emotions.

  • A possible scenario for an employer-employee conversation:
    • “Lo siento mucho Juan, pero tengo que ponerte de patitas en la calle. No puedo permitir que llegues tarde todos los días.”
  • A possible scenario for a landlord-tenant conversation:
    • “Lo siento señor García, pero si no paga el alquiler este mes, tendré que ponerlo de patitas en la calle.”

After the role-play, switch roles and repeat the exercise.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Spanish Idiom “putting on all fours in the street”

When it comes to using idioms in a foreign language, it’s easy to make mistakes that can lead to confusion or even offense. This is especially true when dealing with an idiom as colorful and specific as putting on all fours in the street in Spanish.

  • Mistake #1: Taking the idiom too literally. While the phrase may conjure up images of someone being physically thrown out onto the street, its actual meaning is closer to “firing” or “letting go.”
  • Mistake #2: Using the wrong verb tense. The correct form of this idiom is “poner de patitas en la calle,” not “poniendo de patitas en la calle.” Be sure to use the proper conjugation!
  • Mistake #3: Forgetting cultural context. Like any idiom, “putting on all fours in the street” has a specific cultural background that should be taken into account when using it. Make sure you understand how and when this phrase is typically used before incorporating it into your own speech.
  • Mistake #4: Overusing or misusing the idiom. Just because an expression sounds catchy doesn’t mean you should use it constantly or in inappropriate situations. Use discretion and good judgment when deciding whether or not to incorporate this particular idiom into your conversations.
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