Understanding the Spanish Idiom: "poner verde" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: Spanish
Etymology: Literally, “put [someone] green”.

The exact origin of the idiom poner verde is unclear. Some speculate that it comes from medieval times when people believed that if someone was jealous or envious, they would turn green with envy. Others suggest that it could be related to plants turning green as they grow and mature.

Regardless of its origins, today poner verde is commonly used throughout Spain and Latin America as a way to express criticism or disapproval towards someone or something.

Usage and Nuances

As mentioned earlier, poner verde has a figurative meaning that goes beyond its literal translation. When someone says they are going to put someone or something green (or criticize them), they are expressing their dissatisfaction or disappointment with them.

It’s important to note that while this expression can be used in various contexts – from criticizing politicians’ policies to commenting on your friend’s fashion choices – it’s considered informal language. Therefore it might not be appropriate to use it in formal settings.

English Spanish
To turn green Poner verde
Criticism/Disapproval Critica/Desaprobación

Origins and Historical Context of the Spanish Idiom “poner verde”

The idiom poner verde is a common expression used in the Spanish language, which refers to criticizing or speaking ill of someone. The origins of this phrase are not entirely clear, but it is believed to have originated in Spain during the 19th century.

During this time period, Spain was going through significant political and social changes. The country was experiencing economic hardship, political instability, and social unrest. As a result, people were more likely to criticize each other openly and publicly.

It is also possible that the phrase poner verde has its roots in traditional Spanish folklore. In many folk tales and legends, green is often associated with envy or jealousy. Therefore, it may be that the phrase originally referred to speaking ill of someone out of envy or jealousy.

Regardless of its exact origins, poner verde has become an integral part of modern Spanish slang. It is commonly used in everyday conversation as a way to express disapproval or criticism towards others.

In recent years, there has been some debate about whether this expression should be considered offensive or derogatory. Some argue that it perpetuates negative stereotypes about Hispanic culture and reinforces harmful attitudes towards minorities.

Despite these concerns, however, poner verde remains a widely used idiom in contemporary Spanish language and culture. Whether you love it or hate it, understanding its historical context can help shed light on why this expression continues to resonate with so many people today.

Usage and Variations of the Spanish Idiom “poner verde”


The phrase poner verde has several variations that are commonly used in Spanish. Some of these include:

  • “Poner a parir”: This variation means to criticize harshly or speak ill of someone.
  • “Poner de vuelta y media”: This phrase is similar to “poner a parir” but with a more intense connotation.
  • “Poner en tela de juicio”: This variation means to question or doubt something.


The most common use of poner verde is when expressing criticism towards someone or something. For example:

  • “Juan siempre pone verde al jefe en su ausencia.” (Juan always criticizes the boss behind his back.)
  • “Los críticos pusieron verde la última película del director.” (Critics heavily criticized the director’s latest film.)

However, this idiom can also be used in other contexts, such as expressing doubt or questioning something:

  • “No puedo poner en duda tus palabras.” (I cannot doubt your words.)
  • “El periodista puso en tela de juicio las declaraciones del político.” (The journalist questioned the politician’s statements.)

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Spanish Idiom “poner verde”

When it comes to synonyms for poner verde, there are several options. One common alternative is “criticar” which means to criticize. Another possibility is “hablar mal de” which translates to speak badly of. These phrases convey a similar meaning to “poner verde” but may be used in different contexts or with slightly different connotations.

On the other hand, antonyms for poner verde might include phrases like “elogiar” (to praise) or “admirar” (to admire). These words represent the opposite sentiment of speaking negatively about someone or something.

In terms of cultural insights, it’s worth noting that this idiom is commonly used in Spain but may not be as prevalent in other Spanish-speaking countries. Additionally, while it can have negative connotations when directed at an individual, it can also be used more playfully or jokingly among friends.

Practical Exercises for the Spanish Idiom “poner verde”

If you want to master the Spanish language, it’s important to not only understand its grammar and vocabulary but also its idioms. One of the most commonly used idioms in Spain is poner verde. This expression has a figurative meaning that can be difficult to grasp if you’re not familiar with it. However, by practicing with some exercises, you’ll be able to use this idiom like a native speaker.

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blanks

In this exercise, you’ll need to complete sentences using poner verde in the correct form. Look at the examples below:

Example Answer
I heard Maria ___________ about her boss. pone verde
We shouldn’t ___________ our friends behind their backs. poner verdes
The journalist ___________ politicians during his interview. puso verde

Exercise 2: Create Your Own Sentences

In this exercise, you’ll need to create your own sentences using poner verde. Try to use different verb tenses and forms. Here are some prompts:

  • – Talk about someone who always puts others down.
  • – Describe a situation where someone was criticized unfairly.
  • – Explain why it’s important not to put people down.

Remember to use the correct form of poner verde and try to be creative with your sentences!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Spanish Idiom “poner verde”

When it comes to using the Spanish idiom poner verde, there are a few common mistakes that non-native speakers often make. These mistakes can lead to confusion or even offense, so it’s important to be aware of them and avoid them when possible.

One mistake is using the phrase too casually or in inappropriate situations. Poner verde is a slang term that means to speak negatively about someone behind their back, often in a malicious way. It’s not appropriate for polite conversation or professional settings, so use it with caution.

Another mistake is misunderstanding the nuances of the phrase. While poner verde may seem straightforward at first glance, there are actually different levels of severity and intent involved. For example, someone might “poner verde” about a coworker’s outfit choice in a lighthearted way, but they might also do it with more malicious intent as part of gossip or bullying.

Finally, some non-native speakers may struggle with using the correct verb tense when using this idiom. In Spanish, poner is conjugated differently depending on who is doing the action and when it happened. Make sure you understand these nuances before attempting to use the phrase yourself.

By avoiding these common mistakes and taking care to use poner verde appropriately and correctly, you can communicate effectively with native Spanish speakers while also showing respect for their language and culture.

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