A buenas horas, mangas verdes – Spanish sayings #1

At good hours, green sleeves!‘. I love to literally translate sayings from one language to another, it’s so hilarious!

Of course, this doesn’t make any sense to you because this kind of sayings are not meant to be translated like that, and in some cases, there isn’t even an equivalent in the target language as in this case. Or at least I’ve never heard about anything which expresses the same idea. Don’t hesitate to correct me if I’m wrong! 🙂

So this is how we’re going to do things. I’ll tell you what it means, I’ll give you a few dialog examples and then we’ll see what the origin of this saying is. Shall we start, then?

a buenas horas, mangas verdes

What does it mean?

You would use this saying when someone comes to you with a piece of information or a solution to a problem when it’s already too late, that is when that information is no longer useful because you can no longer change something or when the problem is already solved.

For instance,

– No pidas ese plato en el restaurante, no está nada bueno.
[Don’t order that dish in the restaurant, it’s not good at all]

A buenas horas, mangas verdes. ¡Me lo podías haber dicho antes de ir!
[Too late! You could have told me before going!]

– Te he traído el libro que me pediste la semana pasada.
[I’ve brought you the book you asked for last week]

A buenas horas, mangas verdes. Como no me habías vuelto a decir nada sobre él ayer fui y me lo compré yo mismo.
[Too late! Since you hadn’t mentioned it again yesterday I went and bought it myself.]

Where does it come from?

There are two theories, although they’re basically the same one.

The first one says that it comes from an old ‘military peacekeeping association of armed individuals’ called ‘La santa hermandad‘, literally ‘the holy brotherhood’ created by Queen Isabella I during the 15th century in Spain.

Its members used to wear a very particular uniform which included green sleeves and so people started to call them just like that, ‘green sleeves’. It was very effective at the beginning of its existence, but after some time it started to decline up to the point where they were known for never arriving on time when needed. Consequently, people coined the phrase ‘A buenas horas, mangas verdes’ [‘Right on time, green sleeves!’].


The ‘second’ theory is more or less the same but instead of to ‘La santa hermandad’ it associates the creation of this saying to ‘La guardia civil‘, ‘the civil guard’ which was founded in Spain during the mid-19th century and is still active today.

Would you like to see any other Spanish sayings explained? Write them down in the comments! 🙂

Disclaimer: I’m not a native English speaker, therefore you might find weird-sounding/looking sentences or downright wrong stuff.