Understanding the Spanish Idiom: "tenérselas tiesas con" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: Spanish
Etymology: (This etymology is missing or incomplete. Please add to it, or discuss it at the Etymology scriptorium.)

The phrase tenérselas tiesas literally translates to “to have them stiff”, but its figurative meaning is much more nuanced. It can refer to physical posture, as well as mental fortitude and determination. Understanding the context in which this idiom is used is key to interpreting its meaning accurately.

Idiom: “Tenérselas tiesas con”
Literally translated: “To have them stiff with”
Meaning: To stand one’s ground; to hold firm; to be stubborn

This idiom can be challenging for non-native speakers of Spanish, as it requires an understanding of both the literal and figurative meanings of the words involved. However, once mastered, it can add depth and nuance to your communication skills in Spanish-speaking contexts.

In upcoming sections, we will delve deeper into specific examples of how tenérselas tiesas con is used in everyday conversation, as well as explore related idioms that share similar themes and meanings.

Origins and Historical Context of the Spanish Idiom “tenérselas tiesas con”

The origins of the Spanish idiom tenérselas tiesas con can be traced back to ancient times when Spain was under Roman rule. The phrase is believed to have originated from the Latin expression “tener se stantem,” which means to stand firm or hold one’s ground.

Throughout history, Spain has been a country marked by political and social turmoil, with frequent conflicts between different groups vying for power. In this context, the idiom tenérselas tiesas con emerged as a way of expressing determination and resilience in the face of adversity.

Over time, the phrase has taken on various meanings depending on its context. It can refer to standing up for oneself or others in a difficult situation, refusing to give in or compromise one’s principles, or simply persevering through challenging circumstances.

Today, tenérselas tiesas con remains an important part of Spanish language and culture, embodying values such as strength, courage, and perseverance. Its historical roots remind us that even in times of struggle and uncertainty, it is possible to stand firm and overcome obstacles.

Usage and Variations of the Spanish Idiom “tenérselas tiesas con”


While the core meaning of the idiom remains consistent across regions, there are some variations that exist in its usage. For example, in some parts of Latin America, people may use the phrase tenerse en sus trece instead, which translates to “to stick to one’s guns.”


The expression can be used both positively and negatively depending on the context. In a positive sense, it can signify strength and determination when standing up for oneself or one’s beliefs. On the other hand, it can also suggest stubbornness or inflexibility if taken too far.

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Spanish Idiom “tenérselas tiesas con”

One synonym for tenérselas tiesas con is “mantenerse firme,” which means to stand firm or hold one’s ground. Another similar expression is “no ceder,” which translates to not give in or yield. These phrases convey a sense of determination and resilience that are also present in the original idiom.

On the other hand, an antonym for tenérselas tiesas con could be “ceder ante la presión,” which means to give into pressure or compromise one’s position. This phrase implies a lack of conviction or strength when faced with opposition.

Culturally speaking, this idiom reflects a common trait among Spaniards: their stubbornness. The expression suggests that once someone has made up their mind about something, they will stick to their guns no matter what. It also highlights the importance of being resolute and unwavering in one’s beliefs.

Practical Exercises for Mastering the Spanish Idiom “tenérselas tiesas con”

In order to truly understand and use the Spanish idiom tenérselas tiesas con, it is important to practice its usage in context. Here are some practical exercises that will help you master this expression:

Exercise 1: Fill in the Blank

Read the following sentences and fill in the blank with an appropriate form of tenérselas tiesas con:

  1. No importa lo que pase, siempre ____________.
  2. Si quieres tener éxito en la vida, debes ____________.
  3. Mi jefe es muy exigente y siempre me ____________.

Exercise 2: Role Play

Get together with a partner and act out a conversation using tenérselas tiesas con. One person should play the role of a boss or authority figure who is being tough on their employee or subordinate. The other person should respond by showing that they can handle the pressure and have what it takes to succeed.

  • Boss: Necesito que trabajes más duro si quieres mantener tu trabajo aquí.
    Employee: No se preocupe, yo siempre me las tengo tiesas con todo lo que hago.
  • Boss: Este proyecto es muy importante para la empresa. ¿Crees que puedes manejarlo?
    Employee: Claro que sí, siempre me las he tenido atadas cuando se trata de proyectos importantes como este.
  • Boss: No tolero errores en mi equipo. Si cometes uno más, tendrás problemas.
    Employee: Entiendo su preocupación pero puede estar seguro de que me las tendré bien atadas para evitar cualquier error en el futuro.

Exercise 3: Write Your Own Sentences

Create your own sentences using tenérselas tiesas con. Try to use different tenses and forms of the expression to show that you understand how it can be used in various contexts. Share your sentences with a Spanish-speaking friend or teacher for feedback.

By practicing these exercises, you will become more comfortable and confident in using the idiom tenérselas tiesas con in everyday conversation.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Spanish Idiom “tenérselas tiesas con”

When communicating in a foreign language, idioms can be tricky to master. The Spanish idiom tenérselas tiesas con is no exception. While it may seem straightforward, there are common mistakes that non-native speakers make when using this expression.

Mistake Correction
Using the wrong verb tense The correct verb tense for “tenérselas tiesas con” is the present tense. Using past or future tenses can change the meaning of the expression.
Taking the idiom too literally “Tenérselas tiesas con” does not actually involve holding something stiff or tight. It means to stand one’s ground or hold firm in a situation.
Using it inappropriately This idiom should only be used in situations where someone needs to stand up for themselves or their beliefs. Using it casually or out of context can come across as aggressive.

To avoid these common mistakes, it’s important to understand the true meaning and usage of tenérselas tiesas con. Practice using it correctly and pay attention to how native speakers use it in conversation.

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