What is an equivalent Portuguese expression for "to bite off more than one can chew," that is, to take on a task that is too complex, costly, or lengthy to be completed? (reference)

Example: He bit off more than he could chew when he bought that 1880s-era house.

Is there a similar expression in Portuguese?

  • I only remember a expression similar to this one, but in the sense of food. "Comer com a boca maior que o estômago", that is "to eat with the mouth bigger than the stomach", that means to eat more than one can bear.
    – Yuuza
    Jul 17, 2015 at 21:10
  • 3
    @BrunoLopes That sounds like an equivalent of "his eyes are bigger than his stomach." Jul 17, 2015 at 21:11
  • Yeah, that's another variation of this expression.
    – Yuuza
    Jul 17, 2015 at 21:14
  • 5
    There's also muita areia para o [meu|seu|etc] caminhãozinho.
    – bfavaretto
    Jul 18, 2015 at 0:08
  • 2
    @bfavaretto Ou em Portugal muita areia para a [minha|tua|etc] camioneta.
    – g4v3
    Jul 18, 2015 at 9:23

2 Answers 2


I believe the nearest in meaning would be "dar o passo maior que a perna" (i.e. "try to jump more than your legs could").

  • He bit off more than he could chew when he bought that 1880s-era house. -> "Ele deu o passo maior que a perna quando comprou esta casa da era de 1880."
    – Jorge B.
    Jul 27, 2015 at 8:43
  • Ótima tradução, deve funcionar na maior parte dos casos.
    – bfavaretto
    Jul 27, 2015 at 15:45

Based on this context:

I think I bit off more than I could chew when I agreed to paint this house by myself.

the Portuguese expression for this would be:

Ter mais olhos que barriga - Eu tive mais olhos que barriga quando aceitei pintar esta casa toda sozinho.

When a person accepts a lot of work and then can't handle it.
Another example - at the table when a person serves to much food and then can't eat it all.

Tem mais olhos que barriga

  • 2
    The problem of that expression is that it's usually linked to a greedy behaviour. Biting off more than one can chew may simply be caused by a placebo, increased expectations, or a lack of measurement.
    – E_net4
    Jul 18, 2015 at 15:45
  • 1
    No Brasil a expressão é ligeiramente diferente, "ter o olho maior que a barriga".
    – bfavaretto
    Jul 27, 2015 at 15:44

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