Common Spanish Words and Phrases Every Beginner Should Know

common spanish words and phrases

The idea of learning Spanish can be fun and exciting but getting started with the process can sometimes be a little daunting. However, you can relax knowing that it’s not necessary to learn the whole Spanish dictionary to be able to hold your first conversation. Whatever your reason may be for deciding to learn Spanish, professional or personal, you will just need these most common Spanish words and phrases to help you get started and avoid the sometimes awkward language barrier to begin. 

hola-hello in Spanish

Being able to communicate with basic greetings as well as having some useful phrases thought out next visit to a Spanish-speaking country will help you start out confidently with your Spanish language learning journey. We all know becoming fluent in a language takes time, but everyone has to start somewhere, right?

The idea is to master a few phrases that you can use to begin and then build on them to eventually become confident enough to dominate the conversation. Remember practice makes progress and you will become more comfortable with each conversation. 

Basic Spanish Words

Below is a list of handy words that will help you make a good first impression and survive your first conversation with a Spanish native speaker. So, do you know your hola from your gracias and de nada? Let’s find out.

Common Spanish Words

Survival Phrases to Use in Spain

We’ve all been there. You think you’re all set for your first conversation but sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you discover that you’re not so prepared after all. Don’t worry, we can help! Having a conversation with a native speaker is very different from practicing in the classroom or online.

What happens when they speak too fast? Or when you lose track of the conversation, after spending so much time trying to translate something in your head that there is a long silence? That’s when you need your Spanish survival phrases, some of the following phrases are bound to get you out of some tricky situations. 

    • ¿Puedes repetir por favor? – Can you repeat please?
    • ¿Puedes hablar más despacio? – Can you talk slowly?
    • No entiendo – I don’t understand
    • No tengo ni idea – I have no idea
    • ¿Qué has dicho? – What did you say?
    • No hablo mucho español – I don’t speak much Spanish
    • ¿Qué significa? – What does it mean?
    • ¿Cómo se dice … en español? – How do you say … in Spanish?
    • Lo que quiero decir es… – What I want to say is…
writing Spanish phrases on a blackboard
Image from Unsplash

Making small talk in your own language can sometimes be hard enough let alone in a foreign language. But let’s face it, small talk is always needed, whether it be asking someone their name, what they are up to, or talking about the weather, it fills silences in an empty struggling conversation. The following phrases might come in handy when you find yourself in one of those situations. 

    • ¿Cómo te va? How’s it going?
    • ¿Qué haces hoy? – What are you doing today?
    • Hace buen día – It’s a nice day

If you’re heading to a Spanish-speaking country without mobile data or don’t have a good grasp of the language yet, it’s almost inevitable that you will end up lost. Fear not, with some of the following phrases you’ll find your back to exactly where you need to be. 

    • Estoy perdida – I’m lost
    • ¿Me puedes ayudar por favor? – Can you help me please?
    • ¿Dónde está…? – Where is…?
    • El hotel/hospital/aeropuerto/supermercado/metro – The hotel/hospital/airport/supermarket/underground
    • ¿Dónde hay…? – Where is there a ….?
    • Restaurante/banco/cajero automático – Restaurant/bank/cash machine 
    • ¿Dónde puedo encontrar…?- Where can I find…?

Asking Questions in Spanish 

After learning how to follow a conversation you will build up the confidence to ask questions and learning the question words in Spanish is a good place to start.

    • ¿Qué…? – What
    • ¿Cómo…? – How
    • ¿Cuándo…? – When
    • ¿Dónde…? – Where
    • ¿Quién…? – Who 
    • ¿Por qué…? –Why
    • ¿Cuál…? – Which

Once you get to grips with the question words and you have started to build your own bank of vocabulary. You will find it much easier to create your own questions in any given situation. To keep a conversation flowing input is required from both speakers or the conversation quickly runs dry. Here are some common questions you might like to use in your first conversations in Spanish.

    • ¿Cómo te llamas? – What’’s your name?
    • ¿Dónde vives? – Where do you live?
    • ¿De dónde eres? – Where are you from?
    • ¿A qué te dedicas? – What do you do for a living?
    • ¿Qué haces en tu tiempo libre? – What do you do in your free time?
    • ¿Hablas inglés? – Do you speak English?
    • ¿Te gusta…? – Do you like…?

The easiest way to identify a question in Spanish is the upside-down question mark at the beginning. You will always find questions written like this, at least in formal texts. However, if you are messaging a Spanish friend and using colloquial Spanish they are probably just going to use a question mark at the end of the question.

Responding to Questions in Spanish

Figuring out what people are asking you is a task in itself when you are just starting out. So, having your responses prepared is helpful, and you don’t find yourself flustered looking for the answer. Here are some of the most basic responses to questions in Spanish. 

    • – Yes
    • No – No 
    • Tal vez/Quizás – Maybe 
    • A veces – Sometimes
    • Claro – Of course
    • No sé – I don’t know
    • Vale – Okay
    • ¿En serio? – Really?
    • Madre mía – My goodness

It’s important to note that Spanish-speaking cultures are normally very expressive. It is something you will get used to but don’t always expect a yes or no mundane answer. Expect exaggeration, volume, and a lot of hand gestures. Don’t be intimidated by this expression because after a while you will find yourself talking this way in Spanish. The Spanish way of being is contagious and using their open, warm, expressiveness is inevitable.

Learning a language is not just about how much you know but also about how confident you are in your ability. It’s easy to make a few mistakes and want to give up because you feel like you know nothing. But persevering is important so that you can get to the level of fluency you desire. It’s also helpful that normally people in Spanish-speaking countries are friendly with language learners and you will find encouragement in short language exchanges with Spanish native speakers. 

Practicing with native speakers really is one of the quickest ways to see your Spanish improve. The sooner you make the mistakes, the sooner you learn the corrections and the sooner you’ll have the confidence to keep on practicing. 

Now you have enough of the basics to go off and fire up some conversations. Good luck! ¡Suerte! 


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