Understanding the Spanish Idiom: "por sistema" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: Spanish

In essence, por sistema refers to something that is done routinely or habitually. It implies that a particular action or behavior has become so ingrained in someone’s way of doing things that they do it automatically, without even thinking about it.

This idiom can be used in a variety of contexts, from describing personal habits to discussing broader societal norms. Understanding its nuances and how it is commonly used can help learners of Spanish better communicate with native speakers and gain deeper insights into the culture and customs of Spanish-speaking countries.

Origins and Historical Context of the Spanish Idiom “por sistema”

The Spanish language is rich in idiomatic expressions that reflect its culture, history, and social context. One such expression is por sistema, which has a long history dating back to the 19th century.

During this time, Spain was undergoing significant political and social changes. The country was transitioning from an absolutist monarchy to a constitutional monarchy, and many people were struggling with issues related to power, authority, and justice.

In this context, the idiom por sistema emerged as a way of describing situations where something was done systematically or routinely without regard for individual circumstances or exceptions. It reflected a growing concern among Spaniards about the need for fairness and equality in all aspects of society.

Over time, the use of por sistema expanded beyond politics to encompass other areas of life. Today it is commonly used in everyday speech to describe any situation where something is done automatically or habitually without much thought or consideration.

Despite its evolution over time, however, the origins and historical context of por sistema remain an important part of its meaning. Understanding these roots can help us appreciate the significance of this idiom within Spanish culture and language today.

Usage and Variations of the Spanish Idiom “por sistema”


Por sistema can be translated to English as “by system,” but it is often used to express something that is done habitually or automatically. For example:

Spanish English Translation
Hago ejercicio por sistema todas las mañanas. I exercise every morning as a routine.
Mi jefe siempre critica por sistema mi trabajo sin razón. My boss always criticizes my work without reason as a habit.

In some cases, por sistema can also mean “as a matter of principle.” This usage implies that something is done based on certain beliefs or values. For instance:

Spanish English Translation
No acepto sobornos por sistema, aunque me cueste el trabajo. I don’t accept bribes as a matter of principle, even if it costs me my job.


Por sistema can also appear in other forms, such as “de sistema” or “en sistema.” These variations have similar meanings and can be used interchangeably with the original phrase. Here are some examples:

Spanish English Translation
Mi hermano estudia de sistema para sus exámenes. My brother studies systematically for his exams.
La empresa trabaja en sistema para mejorar su productividad. The company works systematically to improve its productivity.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Spanish Idiom “por sistema”

One synonym for por sistema is “de manera sistemática,” which means in a systematic way. Another similar expression is “con regularidad,” which translates to regularly or consistently. On the other hand, an antonym for “por sistema” could be “a veces,” meaning sometimes or occasionally.

Understanding the context in which an idiom is used can also provide valuable cultural insights. In Spain, using por sistema implies doing something automatically or without much thought. For example, if someone says they always take their coffee with milk por sistema, it means they do so out of habit rather than preference.

In Latin America, however, the same phrase may have different connotations depending on the country. In some places like Mexico and Peru, using por sistema suggests doing something deliberately or intentionally as part of a plan or strategy.

Practical Exercises for the Spanish Idiom “por sistema”

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blank

Read the following sentences and fill in the blank with the appropriate form of por sistema.

  1. No puedo confiar en él. Siempre hace las cosas ________.
  2. Ella siempre se queja de todo ________.
  3. El jefe quiere que hagamos las cosas ________, sin excepción.
  4. Mi hermano menor siempre pregunta ___________ cuando no entiende algo.

Exercise 2: Use it in Context

Create a short dialogue or story using por sistema at least twice. Be sure to use it correctly and in context!

For example:

  • “¿Por qué nunca sales temprano del trabajo?” – preguntó Juan.

    Es que mi jefe me pide que revise todos los informes ___________, aunque ya estén correctos, respondió Ana con frustración.

    ¡Vaya! Eso suena muy tedioso, dijo Juan comprensivamente.

    “Sí, lo es. Pero al menos tengo un trabajo seguro”, concluyó Ana resignadamente.

By practicing these exercises, you’ll become more comfortable using por sistema and other Spanish idioms naturally in conversation. Keep up the good work!

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Spanish Idiom “por sistema”

When it comes to using idioms in any language, it’s important to understand their meanings and how they are used in context. The Spanish idiom por sistema is no exception. However, even if you have a good grasp of its meaning, there are still some common mistakes that you should avoid when using this expression.

Avoiding Literal Translations

One of the most common mistakes people make when using the idiom por sistema is trying to translate it literally into English. This can lead to confusion or misunderstandings because idioms often have meanings that cannot be directly translated word for word.

Using It Too Often

Another mistake people make with this idiom is overusing it. While por sistema can be a useful expression, using it too frequently can sound repetitive and unnatural. Instead, try varying your vocabulary by using other similar expressions or finding different ways to convey your message.

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