The expression "Dar una de cal y otra de arena"

The expression "Dar una de cal y otra de arena"


I have found 3 possible translations for this expression:

  1. to use a carrot-and-stick policy
  2. you win some, you lose some
  3. swings and roundabouts (Br.English meaning that things will balance out)

But what is the significance of the words 'cal' (lime) and 'arena' (sand), is it something to do with building a wall ?

updated FEB 18, 2010
posted by peterpierre2

2 Answers


I found the following explanation:

Una de cal y otra de arena viene de los componentes empleados para realizar una pintura sobre muro me­diante la técnica conocida como “fresco”; para que la pared esté preparada perfectamente hay que saber equilibrar los dos componentes a partes iguales.

No es que una sea mejor que la otra, sino que una persona hábil sabe mezclar dos componentes diferentes (por textura y calidades)…de ahí la expresión “dar una de cal y otra de arena”

One of lime and another of sand and comes from components used to make a painting on the wall using the technique known as "fresh". For the wall to be fully prepared you need to know how to balance the two components equally.

It doesn't mean that one is better than the other, but a clever person knows how to mix two different components (for texture and quality) ... hence the expression "give one of lime and another of sand"...

updated FEB 18, 2010
edited by Eddy
posted by Carlos-F
English needs some corrections... - Carlos-F, FEB 18, 2010
thanks - peterpierre2, FEB 18, 2010
Hi Carlos. Just made a few alterations which Is what I think you wanted to say. - Eddy, FEB 18, 2010
Thanks Eddy... - Carlos-F, FEB 18, 2010

Yes, it does. More specifically with the finish layer. "Una de cal" - smooth, and "una de arena" - rough.

updated FEB 18, 2010
posted by 00e657d4
thanks , that does explain it ! - peterpierre2, FEB 18, 2010
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