Language Guide
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Fundamental Spanish Phrases to Learn Right Away

Fundamental Spanish Phrases to Learn Right Away

Quick Answer

As Spanish learners, we've all gone through the experience of staring blankly at someone after they've spoken to you in Spanish and you have no idea what they said. In the meantime, our brains are playing catch-up trying to process and understand each word that was just said to us. The reason that comprehension can be so difficult at first is because we parse out language as phrases instead of as words. That’s why a great way to learn languages is to learn phrases as a whole first and then learn the words that make them up. In this article, we’ve written down the most fundamental Spanish phrases to help you fake it 'til you make it. With some practice, you'll be having great conversations in Spanish in no time!

¿Cómo estás?

¿Cómo estás?  means how are you? in English. You’ll most likely hear this asked as part of a greeting, such as right after hola  or buenos días .

Friend:
Hola, ¿cómo estás? 
Hi, how are you?
You:
Bien, gracias, ¿y tú? 
Good, thanks, and you?

¿Cómo estás? is the second-person informal singular form we use to ask someone how they are. In formal contexts, this phrase would become ¿Cómo está? . If we want to ask how a group of people are, we would use ¿Cómo están? , which is the second person plural form of the phrase.


Buenos días

Buenos días  in Spanish means good morning and is the most common way of greeting someone during the morning hours. In most Spanish-speaking countries, you might even just hear buenos , as a shortened, more colloquial form of this phrase.

Friend:
¡Buenos días! ¿Quieres venir conmigo a la playa hoy? 
Good morning! Do you want to come to the beach with me today?
You:
¡Buenos! Sí, pero primero tengo que hacer mi tarea. 
Morning! Yes, but I have to do my homework first.

Buenas tardes

Buenas tardes  can mean either good afternoon or good evening, depending on the time of day that you use it. As with buenos días, this greeting is often heard simply as buenas  in an informal context.

Ice Cream Man:
¡Buenas tardes! ¿Puedo ayudarles con algo? 
Good afternoon! Can I help you with something?
You:
Sí, queremos dos helados de chocolate por favor. 
Yes, we would like two chocolate ice creams please.

Buenas noches

Buenas noches  means good night and is used more as a farewell than as a greeting. Feel free to use this phrase in the evening as a polite way to wish someone farewell!

Friend:
Hoy fue muy divertido. Debemos ir a la playa y comer helado más a menudo. 
Today was really fun. We should go to the beach and eat ice cream more often.
You:
Sí, de acuerdo. Pero ahora tengo que regresar a casa. ¡Buenas noches! 
Yes, I agree. But now I have to return home. Good night!

Hasta pronto

Also a farewell, hasta pronto  means see you soon and is often used in casual settings.

Friend:
Me voy a Miami. ¡Hasta pronto! 
I’m going to Miami. See you soon!
You:
¡Chao! 
Bye!

Hasta luego

Similar to hasta pronto, hasta luego  means see you later and is also a common way to bid farewell. The slight difference is that hasta luego tends to be used in situations where you're not sure when you'll next see each other.

Shopkeeper:
Gracias por tu visita. ¡Regresa pronto! 
Thanks for your visit. Come back soon!
You:
¡Por supuesto! ¡Hasta luego! 
Of course! See you later!

Me llamo

Use the phrase me llamo  along with your name to introduce yourself. Me llamo literally translates to I call myself, but in English the more natural translation is my name is.

María:
Hola, soy María. ¿Vienes aquí a menudo? No te he visto antes. 
Hi, I'm Maria. Do you come here often? I haven't seen you before.
Raúl:
Hola, me llamo Raúl. La verdad es que es mi primera vez aquí en este café. 
Hi, my name is Raúl. The truth is that it's my first time here in this cafe.

Gracias

Gracias  means thank you or thanks in English and is used across different formal contexts, in every Spanish-speaking country, and by almost anyone you meet. Feel free to use it whenever you get the chance!

Friend:
Gracias por toda tu ayuda. No hubiera podido escalar esa montaña sin ti. 
Thanks for all your help. I couldn't have climbed that mountain without you.
You:
¡De nada! Debemos ir más a menudo. 
You’re welcome! We should go more often.

De nada

The more often you say gracias, the more likely you are to hear de nada , which means you’re welcome in English. A popular variation of de nada that you might also hear is no hay de qué , which also means you’re welcome or don’t mention it.

Friend:
Gracias por venir conmigo al supermercado. 
Thanks for coming with me to the supermarket.
You:
De nada. 
You’re welcome.

Perdón

Perdón  is a polite way of saying excuse me or pardon me. You can use this phrase in situations where you didn’t hear someone and need to politely ask them to repeat themselves, after accidentally stepping on someone’s foot, or even if you want just want to politely grab someone’s attention to ask them something.

Stranger:
Perdón, ¿hay una estación de tren por aquí? 
Excuse me, is there a train station around here?
You:
Sí, hay una al lado del supermercado en la próxima esquina. 
Yes, there's one by the supermarket on the next corner.

In addition to perdón, you can also use the word disculpe  as a polite way way of saying excuse me or pardon me. Disculpe comes from the verb disculpar , which means to forgive or to excuse.


Por supuesto

Por supuesto  means of course in English and is a common way to enthusiastically respond to someone’s request in the affirmative. To spice things up, you can also use the phrase claro que  , which means the same thing.

Classmate:
Disculpe, ¿podría prestarme un lápiz? 
Excuse me, would you lend me a pencil?
You:
¡Por supuesto! 
Of course!

Feliz cumpleaños

If all of a sudden, all of your Spanish-speaking friends start saying feliz cumpleaños  to you, you better check the date; it’s probably your birthday! Feliz cumpleaños means happy birthday and is used to wish anyone a happy birthday regardless of status, gender, or region. If it is your birthday, you can claim the title of cumpleañero  (birthday boy) or cumpleañera  (birthday girl) for the day!

Friend:
¡Feliz cumpleaños! ¿Cuántos años cumples hoy? 
Happy birthday! How old are you turning today?
You:
Cumplo 29, ¡por la quinta vez! 
I turn 29 for the fifth time!

Did you know that the word cumpleaños , or birthday, is a Spanish portmanteau of the words cumplir , meaning to complete, and años , meaning years?


¿Cuánto cuesta?

¿Cuánto cuesta?  is a useful question that means how much is this? and can be used in any store or marketplace to inquire about how much something costs. Additionally, you can ask ¿Cuánto vale?  or simply ¿Cuánto es?  as variations of ¿Cuánto cuesta?.

You:
Me encanta esta camisa. ¿Cuánto cuesta? 
I love this shirt. How much does it cost?
Shopkeeper:
$20, pero le dejo dos por $30. 
$20, but I’ll sell you two for $30.

Careful! When you’re asking how much more than one thing costs, you will have to use the plural form of this phrase, which is ¿Cuánto cuestan? , or how much do these cost?.


No sé

If someone asks you a question and you can’t think of the answer, this phrase will surely come in handy. No   means I don’t know. Upon admitting you don’t know something, you can always ask your friend ¿sabes tú?  or do you know? to see if they can help you out.

Professor:
¿Puede decirme alguien cómo solucionar esta ecuación? 
Can anyone tell me how to solve this equation?
Student:
Es una buena pregunta. No sé. 
That’s a good question. I don’t know.

Te quiero

Te quiero  means I love you in English, even though its literal translation is I want you. This is a phrase you can use to show your affection for a parent, friend, or significant other. You can also use the phrase te amo  (this time, literally I love you) in the same way, however be advised that te amo tends to carry a more romantic connotation in some regions.

Carlos:
Javier, por mucho tiempo he querido decirte que… ¡te quiero! 
Javier, for a very long time I’ve been wanting to tell you… I love you!
Javier:
¿De verdad? ¡Yo te quiero, también! 
Really? I love you too!

Te extraño

If you want to express to your friend, family member, or spouse, how much you miss them while they’re away, you’ll want to remember, te extraño , which means I miss you. Alternatively, it’s very common to hear the phrase te echo de menos , which is an idiomatic way of saying the same thing!

Mother:
No te he visto en siglos. ¡Te extraño! 
I haven't seen you in ages. I miss you!
You:
Mamá, nos vimos ayer. 
Mom, we saw each other yesterday.

Buena suerte

Buena suerte  means good luck and you can use it just like in English. Remember this phrase to wish someone good luck before they take an exam, before they go on stage, or before they head out on a very important date.

Friend:
¿Hoy tienes tu examen de matemáticas, verdad? ¡Buena suerte! 
You have your math exam today, right? Good luck!
You:
¡Gracias! La necesitaré. 
Thanks! I'll need it.

Buen trabajo

You’ll want to use the phrase, buen trabajo , meaning good job to congratulate someone on a job well done. You can also use the phrase bien hecho , which means well done, to communicate the same sentiment.

Friend:
¿Sacaste 100% en tu examen? ¡Buen trabajo! 
You got 100% on your exam? Good job!
You:
¡Gracias! ¡Estoy muy contenta! 
Thanks! I’m really happy.

¡Bien hecho! Now you have a bunch of useful phrases to carry with you into your Spanish class or Spanish conversations while traveling to a Spanish-speaking country. With some practice, you'll start to master these essential phrases in no time.

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