Sometimes, there’s no easy way to tell someone to be quiet, stop talking, or shut up.
It’s even more complex in a foreign language like Spanish, especially if you’re unaware of the right register or lack the vocabulary.
However, you’re in luck! There are several variations of the phrase “shut up” in Spanish.
You don’t have to worry about sounding rude in formal situations or lacking emphasis in informal situations: You’ve got a list of variations you can use in this article (some of which you won’t learn in a Spanish course)!
Check out the usage descriptions too, which will help you know when to use them.
Impolite/rude ways to say shut up in Spanish
Say you’re with friends or family and want them to stop talking. Say you want to tell them to shut their mouths, brusquely.
In cases like these, you’ll need informal and (frankly) rude ways to say “shut up” in Spanish.
I’ve listed seven examples in this first section that you can use in the circumstances like these.
1. Cierra la boca
Cierra la boca translates to English as “shut your mouth”.
Even though you’ll often hear native speakers using this phrase with a rude intonation, there are times when Spanish speakers say cierra la boca in a sort of jokey, good-humoured way.
When the speaker is angry, they’ll say cierra la boca as a command. You can tell this variation is rude because it uses the imperative or command conjugation of the verb cerrar. However, with a different intonation, you can convey surprise or shock with this phrase.
Here are two usage examples:
¿Has ganado peso? Estás más gorda que antes.
Cierra la boca, que hago ejercicio todos los días.
¿Vas a viajar al Polo Norte? De ninguna manera, ¡cierra la boca!
2. Cierra el pico
Have you ever heard of the phrase cierra el pico?
This Spanish phrase is a variation of cierra la boca. So, what’s the difference between the two? While cierra la boca uses the noun boca (meaning mouth), cierra el pico uses the noun pico, which means… well, “beak”.
If you’re a visual person, you may picture a parrot at this point since parrots speak too much.
Hence, native speakers say cierra el pico to tell people to stop chatting so much (as parrots do).
No vas al cine con él. Es un tipo raro.
Cierra el pico, voy a donde quiera.
This interjection sometimes explodes from the mouth like an eruption, well, especially if you’re outraged and want someone to shut up.
Note the pronoun te at the end of this word, meaning you can use this conjugation when addressing the second person, i.e., “you”.
Now, there are some situations where you may be talking to several people and want them to shut up. In that case, you’ve got the verb conjugations ¡callad! or ¡callaos! to address them.
Picture an angry teacher telling their class to shut up, and you’ve got the right idea.
¡Callaos! Vamos a estudiar el subjuntivo.
4. Cállate la boca
Cállate la boca also means “shut up”, and it’s similar to the phrases “shut your mouth”, “hold your tongue”, or even “keep your mouth shut”.
Although you may think the expression is rude, it’s sometimes not such an aggressive phrase. For instance, if your child uses palabrotas (swear words), you may use this phrase to tell them off.
Cállate la boca, niño. Deja de usar palabrotas.
5. ¿Por qué no te callas?
The verb callar can take a more sarcastic tone in the form of a question. Spanish speakers may use the interrogative ¿por qué no te callas? as a backhanded suggestion, where the question is an instruction.
¿Por qué no te callas? means, “why don’t you shut up?” Use this phrase in informal situations when you’re with friends or family.
Me dijiste qué soy mala. Pues, ¿por qué no te callas? No sabes nada de mis problemas.
Use ¡chit! if you want to tell someone to quieten down in Spanish.
For instance, if you want to watch a movie and your friend is talking through the critical scene, you can say ¡chit!
This short word translates as “shhh” or “shush”.
¡Chit! Este es el momento clave. Vamos a ver a quien comió la tarta.
For added emphasis and to convey extra urgency, you can modify ¡chit! and instead, use the word ¡chitón!
Native speakers use this colloquial interjection to avoid danger when someone is speaking too much. Think of the critical moment in a Spanish film where an honest character is about to confess someone’s wrongdoing, and the other person wants them to shut up.
No fue él. Ya lo sé que era…
¡Chitón! ¡No sabemos quien fue!
8. No hables
Sometimes, someone will continue speaking even when you ask them to stop.
This situation is when you can use the negative imperative no hables, meaning “stop speaking” or “don’t speak”.
Remember that if you’re writing this negative imperative phrase, you must swap the ordinary infinitive ending ar with the negative imperative ending es. This conjugation makes the phrase different from the present tense statement no hablas, which means “you don’t speak”.
No hables. Aunque tienes muchas ideas, vamos a decidir juntos.
Polite ways to say shut up in Spanish
There will be circumstances when you want to tell someone to be quiet on a formal occasion. This kind of circumstance calls for a whole different register, so check out the four formal ways to say “shut up” or “silence please” in Spanish listed below.
The place you’ll hear this word most often is in classrooms. As you can tell, it’s a cognate with a similar meaning to the word “silence”. Teachers will tell their students to stop talking by saying silencio, but they may also follow this up with the phrase por favor to be polite.
Silencio, por favor, estamos en clase y vamos a seguir con este tema.
2. Guarda silencio
Guarda silencio means “be quiet”.
In televised parliamentary meetings, you’ll hear the more formal alternative, guarden silencio, where the official presidente de la Cámara de los Comunes asks the politicians to remain silent.
The main difference between guarda silencio and guarden silencio is that the second of these phrases is the ustedes imperative plural version used to address several people in formal contexts, while the first is the informal tú imperative version used to address one person in informal contexts.
Por favor, guarden silencio. Escuchamos al presidente del gobierno.
3. Haga silencio
Haga silencio is another alternative to guarda silencio. The verb haga in this phrase is the imperative, usted form of the verb hacer (to make).
In other words, this phrase means “make silence” or “be silent”, just like guarda silencio.
It’s used in formal contexts as you will see when you check the imperative conjugation of hacer.
Haga silencio, o retirarse de la corte.
4. Quédese en silencio
Used in formal situations, this reflexive phrase means “stay silent”.
You can conjugate the reflexive verb quedarse to make different people the subject of the imperative. For instance, if you wanted to tell a group of other people you know well to stay silent, you could use the phrase quedaos en silencio.
If you wanted to say to a group of people you don’t know well to remain silent you could use the ustedes version and say quédense en silencio.
Quédese en silencio, por favor_. _El juez está juzgando.
An idiom for saying shut up in Spanish
For advanced Spanish learners looking to add another Spanish idiom to their knowledge, here’s a Spanish idiom you can use to tell someone to shut up.
Morderse la lengua means “bite your tongue”, which is similar to “hold your tongue”. It’s a great way to tell someone to avoid speaking in tense or complex situations.
Mejor morder la lengua que ser hablador. Ahora es mejor callarse.
Formal or informal: Why is register important when telling someone to shut up in Spanish?
So, which should you use and why?
Well, usually, when you’re with friends or family, you can be slightly harsher or to the point when telling them to shut up.
In situations like these, you can also afford to bromear and tell jokes using impolite versions of “shut up” in Spanish.
The main reason for this register choice is that you’ll not make a bad impression on people who know you. You won’t have to worry if you offend your family because your relationship with them is more relaxed than with strangers.
You won’t usually hear friends using silencio or guarda silencio, unless they’re being ironic or mimicking a courtroom drama.
On the other hand, you can use polite, formal registers like these with people you don’t know. So, all the variations of silencio and even the idiom morderse la lengua (after you’ve conjugated it) are ideal when speaking to strangers with whom you must show respect.
Choose the right register to tell people to shut up in Spanish
Now you’ve got a list of ways to tell someone to shut up in Spanish, but here’s one final tip.
Since some phrases can be used both politely and impolitely, use the correct register and tone of voice when you use these words and phrases.
If you’re joking with friends or being dramatic, ensure your tone matches the message you’re trying to convey. With these various ways to say “shut up” in Spanish, you’ve got the correct vocabulary to joke around or show your disapproval. You can now use them with friends and family to practice and improve.
What other Spanish terms for “shut up” did I miss?