With twenty Spanish-speaking countries around the world, travelers may be eager to learn some of the local lingoes before their trip. While it is daunting to visit a new country and have a language barrier, learning the basics of the local language can boost your confidence and help you connect to the local people and culture.
In today’s world, technology has made learning a new language easy with apps, websites, and even games. However, it can be difficult to sort through all the vocabulary and phrases when you are trying to narrow a language down to its basics.
Our article will highlight the most common and need-to-know Spanish words and phrases, so you can navigate the language like a pro. With phonetic spellings to help you with your pronunciation, you can think of this as your mini Spanish language guide or survival kit.
Countries that speak Spanish:
- Costa Rica
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
As you travel to Spanish-speaking countries, it’s vital you learn some of the more common words to greet the locals. Below are several phrases you may find yourself saying often in order to help you navigate around.
Whenever we speak, we use pronouns to refer to ourselves or others. Whenever you are trying to speak with a local to convey an idea or ask a question, you need to have your Spanish pronouns memorized. Pronouns are also important because they give you and other people an identity, which also demonstrates your respect for others and their culture.
Whether you want to express how you feel or ask others a question, you will need to be comfortable with using Spanish pronouns. However, one challenge in the Spanish language is the use of formal and informal pronouns. If you are unsure whether to be formal or informal, the most polite action is to always use formal pronouns. Later, a person may state which pronouns they prefer.
- I, Me – Yo (yoh)
- You (Informal) – Tu (too)
- You (Formal) – Usted (oos-tehd)
- You (Formal and Plural) – Ustedes (oos-teh-dehs)
- She, Her – Ella (eh-yah)
- He, Him – El (ehl)
- They, Them – Ellos (eh-yohs) (Masculine), Ellas (eh-yahs) (Feminine)
- We, Us – Nosotros (noh-soh-trohs)
Formal vs. Informal
In the Spanish language, the word “you” can be used informally or formally. When you are speaking with a friend, family member, or someone younger than you, it is acceptable to use the informal “tú” (too). A formal you, “usted” (oos-tehd) is used when you are speaking to someone who is in a position of power, a person that you do not know, or someone who is older than you.
However, if you are referring to a group of people, the plural form of “you” will always be used, which is “ustedes” (oos-the-dehs) in Spanish.
Masculine vs. Feminine
While learning to identify masculine and feminine nouns is difficult, it is necessary for travelers who are serious about learning Spanish. Nouns are also different in Spanish because they are divided by gender. Masculine and feminine nouns can be identified by their articles or endings.
“El” (ehl) is the masculine adjective, which can be used to describe a person or singular object. “Un” (oon) is the masculine adjective in its plural form. The feminine adjective is “ella” (eh-yah) for singular form or “una” (oo-nah) in plural form.
Travelers are full of questions and when you’re exploring a new country, you might find yourself struggling to ask a question. The most common question words that are used in English are also used in Spanish. These words will help you navigate a new country and ask for directions, recommendations, and information.
- Who? – ¿Quién? (kyehn)
- What? – ¿Qué? (keh)
- When? – ¿Cuándo? (kwahn-doh)
- Where? – ¿Dónde? (dohn-deh)
- Why? – ¿Por qué? (pohr-keh)
- How? – ¿Cómo? (koh-moh)
Whenever you are on the go, you are bound to meet lots of people on your travels. Whether you’re greeting strangers or connecting with friends and family, it is important to learn how to properly greet other people. People who use common greetings are not only more polite, but these words can help you make new friends on your journey.
Be sure you use these before asking questions as most Spanish countries will be more open to dialogue if you greet them properly.
- Hello – Hola (oh-lah)
- Good morning – Buenos días (bweh-nohs dee-ahs)
- Good afternoon – Buenas tardes (bweh-nahs tahr-dehs)
- Good evening – Buenas noches (bweh-nahs noh-chehs)
- Nice to meet you – Mucho gusto (moo-choh goos-toh)
- Nice to see you – Que gusto de verlo (keh goos-toh deh behr-loh)
- Welcome – Bienvenido (byehm-beh-nee-doh)
- What is your name? (Informal) – ¿Cómo te llamas? (koh-moh teh yah-mahs)
- What is your name? (Formal) – ¿Cömo se llama? (koh-moh seh yah-mahs?
- My name is… – Mi nombre es… (mee nohm-breh ehs)
Another rule of good manners is not walking away from a conversation without properly ending your interaction and saying goodbye. Phrases that help you say farewell can be used as a courtesy to people around you and help you exit a conversation. These are the most common farewell phrases that are used in the Spanish language.
- Goodbye – Adiós (ah-dyohs)
- Goodnight – Buenas Noches(beun-as know-chez)
- See you later – Hasta luego (ahs-tah lweh-goh)
- See you soon – Hasta pronto (ahs-tah prohn-toh)
- See you tomorrow – Hasta mañana (ahs-tah mah-nyah-nah)
- Have a good day – Que tengas un buen dia (keh tehn-gahs oon bwehn dee-ah)
- Take care – Que te vaya bien (keh teh bah-yah byehn)
- Take care (Informal) – Cuídate (kwee-dah-teh)
- Take care (Formal) – Cuídese (kwee-deh-seh)
- Have a great day – Que tengas un gran día
- Have a nice day – Que tengas un buen día
Small Talk – Feelings
Once you’ve greeted a person, you might be interested in asking about how they are doing or what they’ve been doing. This is when small talk comes into play and it is a great way to continue your conversation and demonstrate your interest. There are many ways to ask how a person is doing in Spanish, but to keep things simple, we have listed the most common phrases that you’ll hear on your travels.
- How are you? (Informal) – ¿Qué tal? (keh tahl)
- How are you? (Informal) – ¿Cómo estás? (koh-moh ehs-tahs)
- How are you? (Formal) – ¿Cómo está usted? (koh-moh ehs-tah oos-tehd)
- How have you been? – ¿Cómo te ha ido? (koh-moh teh ha ee-doh?
- What’s up? – ¿Qué pasa? (keh pah-sah)
- I am fine, how are you? – Estoy bien, ¿y tú? (ehs-toy byehn ee too)
- Good, and you? – Bien, ¿y usted? (byehn ee oos-tehd)
Small Talk – More Responses
Sometimes the conversation strays further than a simple, how are you and you might want to respond with more detail. With these responses, you can convey exactly how you feel when someone asks how you are doing. It is also okay to say if you are not fine and you can use words to describe if you are feeling tired or sick.
- I am very well. – Estoy muy bien. (ehs-toy mwee byehn)
- I am so-so. – Estoy más o menos. (ehs-toy mahs oh meh-nohs)
- I am unwell. – Estoy mal. (ehs-toy mahl)
- I am a little tired. – Estoy un poco cansado. (ehs-toy oon poh-koh kahn-sah-doh)
- I am sick. – Estoy enfermo. (ehs-toy ehn-fehr-moh)
Travelers should also be conscious about whether they are being polite and demonstrating good manners. With the common courtesy words, you can also show how much you appreciate being able to travel to and within a country. A few “thank yous” to local hosts and guides can help you make lifelong connections and new friends.
- Please – Por favor (pohr fah-bohr)
- Thank you – Gracias (grah-syahs)
- Thank you very much – Muchas gracias (moo-chahs grah-syahs)
- You’re welcome – De nada (deh nah-dah)
- I’m sorry – Lo siento (loh syehn-toh)
- Sorry – Disculpe (dees-kool-peh)
- Excuse me – Con permiso (kohn pehr-mee-soh)
- Mister – Señor (seh-nyohr)
- Misses – Señora (seh-nyoh-rah)
- Miss – Señorita (seh-nyoh-ree-tah)
Other common phrases that come naturally to conversations are questions about who you are, where you are from, and your interests. You can also use common phrases to ask about local products, get directions, or give salutations.
- How old are you? – ¿Cuántos años tienes? (kwahn-tohs ah-nyohs tyeh-nehs)
- Where are you from? (Informal) – ¿De dónde eres? (deh dohn-deh eh-rehs)
- Where are you from? (Formal) – ¿De dónde es? )deh dohn-deh ehs)
- I am from… – ¿Yo soy de… (yoh soy deh)
- What time is it? – ¿Qué hora tienes? (keh oh-rah tyeh-nehs)
- How much does this cost? – ¿Cuánto cuesta esto? (kwahn-toh kwehs-tah ehs-toh)
- Who are you? – ¿Quién eres? (kyehn eh-rehs)
- What is this? – ¿Qué es esto? (keh ehs ehs-toh)
- Do you understand? – ¿Comprende? (kohm-prehn-deh)
- Do you speak English? – ¿Hablas inglés? (ah-blahs eeng-glehs)
- Where is the bathroom? – ¿Dónde está el baño? (dohn-deh ehs-tah ehl bah-nyoh)
- I need help. – Necesito ayuda. (neh-seh-see-toh ah-yoo-dah)
- Have a good trip – Buen viaje (bwehn byah-heh)
- Enjoy your meal – Buen provecho (bwehn proh-beh-choh)
- Cheers – Salud (sah-lood)
- Well done – Muy bien (mwee byehn)
- Don’t worry – No se preocupe (noh seh preh-oh-koo-peh)
Common and Useful Words
Finally, vocabulary can help you navigate new worlds. If you have never studied Spanish before or haven’t had the time to dive in-depth into the language before your trip, learning some of the most common and useful words can still give you the upper hand when traveling. With these words, you can start to learn how to communicate with native Spanish speakers.
Even if you are unable to string together a complete sentence, expanding your vocabulary is a great step toward learning the Spanish language. These words can also help you locate your destination or get around a city or town.
- Yes – Sí (see)
- No – No (noh)
- Of course – Claro (klah-roh)
- Always – Siempre (syehm-preh)
- Sometimes – A veces (ah beh-sehs)
- Maybe – Tal vez (tahl behs)
- Never – Nunca (noong-kah)
- Left – Izquierda (ees-kyehr-dah)
- Right – Derecha (deh-reh-chah)
- Stop – Alto (ahl-toh)
- Hotel – Hotel (oh-tehl)
- Taxi – Taxi (tahk-see)
- Food – Comida (koh-mee-dah)
- Water – Agua (ah-gwah)
- Check or bill – Cuenta (kwehn-tah)
Travelers should also learn the basic colors in Spanish. This can help in instances when you are trying to describe or identify an object or place. Colors may also be used to help you find your way around town, as some locals may give descriptions of buildings or landmarks based on their color.
- Red – Rojo (rroh-hoh)
- Orange – Naranja (nah-rahng-hah)
- Yellow – Amarillo (ah-mah-ree-yoh)
- Green – Verde (behr-deh)
- Blue – Azul (ah-sool)
- Purple – Morado (moh-rah-doh)
- Pink – Rosa (rroh-sah)
- Black – Negro (new-groh)
- White – Blanco (blahn-koh)
- Grey – Gris (grees)
- Brown – Color de café (koh-lohr deh kah-feh)
- Brown – Marrón (mah-rrohn)
Days of the Week
Scheduling is essential for most travelers because you are often making plans or reservations. Learning the days of the week in Spanish can help you avoid confusion and ensure that your trip stays on schedule.
- Day – Día (dee-ah)
- Week – Semana (seh-mah-nah)
- What day is it? – ¿Qué día es? (keh dee-ah ohs)
- Monday – Lunes (loo-nehs)
- Tuesday – Martes (mahr-tehs)
- Wednesday – Miércoles (myehr-koh-lehs)
- Thursday – Jueves (hweh-behs)
- Friday – Viernes (byehr-nehs)
- Saturday – Sábado (sah-bah-doh)
- Sunday – Domingo (doh-meeng-goh)
Jueves vs. Huevos
When you are learning the days of the week, the Spanish word for Thursday is very similar in sound to the Spanish word for eggs. Jueves (hweh-behs) is the Spanish word for Thursday. Huevos (weh-bohs) is the Spanish word for eggs. Travelers should try to remember the difference between the words to avoid any confusion when communicating.
Months of the Year
Finally, some of these other phrases may come in handy while you are traveling. While you can’t learn Spanish in one day, slowly building up your personal dictionary of vocabulary and phrases is essential to becoming fluent in any foreign language.
- Okay – Bien (byehn)
- Come here – Ven acá (behn ah-kah)
- My love – Mi amor (mee ah-mohr)
- I love you (Strong relationship) – Te amo (teh ah-moh)
- I love you (friendship) – Te quiero (teh kyeh-roh)
- What are you doing? – ¿Qué haces? (keh ah-sehs)
- Very good – Muy bueno (mooee bweh-noh)
Practice Makes Perfect
Language barriers are scary, but with an understanding of basic Spanish words and phrases, you don’t have to be intimidated. No one is going to nail their first conversation and mistakes are common. But don’t let the fear of speaking Spanish hold you back from learning the language.
Practice makes perfect and the more time you take to learn Spanish and perfect your pronunciation, the more fluent you will become. So, don’t hold back. Ask questions, make statements, and in no time, you’ll be able to communicate and converse with native Spanish speakers.