What dar la vuelta a la tortilla means

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What “dar la vuelta a la tortilla” means and when you can use this Spanish expression

The Spanish expression “dar la vuelta a la tortilla” means, literally, “turn the omelette over”. The Spanish omelette -tortilla de patatas- is well-known all around the world for being delicious and for that “scary” moment of flipping it over to cook the other side.

The turning movement is so popular and essential to the Spanish culture that it is used to express more than a cooking technique. It means to change a situation to the opposite. As you can see, the meaning is figurative, based on the real movement of turning the omelette over to cook the opposite side.

English expression with the same meaning

In English, “Dar la vuelta a la tortilla” can be translated, depends on the context, as:

  • Turn the tables
    • “La empresa iba a cerrar pero el nuevo director dio la vuelta a la tortilla y la salvo de la ruina”. → “The business was about to close down but the new manager turned the tables and saved it from bankruptcy”.
  • The boot/shoe is on the other foot.
    • “Cómo ha dado la vuelta a la tortilla: antes era él quien daba las órdenes” → “The shoe’s on the other foot now: before, he was the one who gave the orders”.

Grammar aspects

  1. Dar(se): it has different meanings but in this case, it means to make or practice an action: “dar un abrazo” → “give a hug” or “dar saltos” → “make leaps”
  2. Vuelta: it can mean turn, spin, walking, detour, or the part of an object that it´s not visible.

“Nos perdimos y tuvimos que dar la vuelta”. → “We got lost and had to turn around”.

“Estuvo dando vueltas en el columpio”. → “He was spinning in the swing”.

“Fuimos a dar una vuelta por el parque”. → “We were walking by the park”.

“Después de dar muchas vueltas por las obras en la carretera, finalmente llegamos a Zaragoza”. → “After a number of detours because of the road works, we finally arrived in Zaragoza”.

“La dirección de Ana estaba escrita en la vuelta de la postal” → “Ana´s address was written on the back of the card”.

3. Tortilla: omelette. It´s femenine: la tortilla. If you want to know more about this traditional Spanish dish, you have here some curiosities about it.

Other expressions with the same meaning

Dar un giro de 180 grados: turn 180 degrees.

Here you have a fun video from a popular Spanish TV Show, El hormiguero, where many popular actors and actresses sing a song about “darle la vuelta a la tortilla”. (With subtitles in English).

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