Many people think learning Spanish phrases is just a travel hack to blurt out some sentences when you’re on a vacation, at the airport, or in a restaurant. I used to believe that too…
After learning 5 languages myself, earning a linguistics degree, writing a book on language learning, and working with tens of thousands of language learners, I’ve come to realize that having an extensive network of phrases in your head (or chunks, as we call them here at Effortless Conversations), ready to roll off the tongue, is the very thing that makes you speak any language fluently.
After all, isn’t the very fact that you don’t think about grammar at all – just like in your mother tongue – the best sign that you’re speaking effortlessly?
The “formal” way of learning Spanish (through textbooks, word lists, verb conjugations, and grammar drills) just doesn’t get you there. It only gives you a theoretical understanding of the language with little to no carryover into a real-life conversation in Spanish.
That’s why nowadays, learning chunks I observe in conversations is the only activity I do to learn a foreign language. Same with the thousands of students who also use Conversation Based Chunking to learn conversational Spanish and other languages. And it reduces the time it takes to learn Spanish significantly.
So in this article, I set out to collect some of the most important Spanish chunks and phrases to get you started. They’ll come in handy in almost any Spanish conversation.
¡Empecemos! (Let’s get started!)
No matter if you’re walking on the street and you see someone you know, you need to make an order at a restaurant, or if you need to ask for information, knowing how to greet someone is essential Spanish for Beginners.
Even though using Hola fits almost any situation, there are other chunks and phrases to greeting people in Spanish. Let’s see a few of them below.
Essential Spanish chunks to greet people
|Hola, ¿qué tal?
|Hi, how things are going?
|Hola, ¿cómo vas?
|Hi, how is it going?
|How is it going?
|Long time no see!
|Qué alegría verte
|What a joy to see you
|Good morning (more ways to say good morning in Spanish)
|Que gusto verlo
|What a pleasure to see you
These are the best ways to greet someone when speaking Spanish. In general, if you want to be polite and keep a formal tone, you can use phrases like Buenos días or Buenas tardes/noches.
Also, “Que gusto verlo” is good alternative when you want to speak in a formal way. When we want to be forma, we basically conjugate verbs using “usted” or “ustedes”.
Similarly, when you want to be informal, you use the pronoun “tú”. In Latin America, people often use just “Buenas” because it fits for any time of the day. It is so versatile that you could it in situations where “tu” or “usted” is necessary.
On the other hand, when we want to be informal we can use phrases like “¿Qué tal?” or “Como vas?”. Although we use these phrases as an alternative to “¿Cómo estás?” in some situations, we can also use them as an alternative to “Hi”. They will help you start informal Spanish conversations in a smooth way.
Continuing Your Conversation in Spanish After the First Greeting
Your conversation won’t stop after the first greeting, of course. Broadly speaking, conversations in Spanish (and other languages) go like this:
- First, say hi.
- Second, asking questions.
- Third, answer those questions.
- And finally, saying goodbye.
In the following sections, you will learn other useful phrases to get Spanish conversation practice in all of these stages.
This is the basis of Conversation Based Chunking™: you observe native speakers in their conversations, identify the chunks and phrases they use, memorize these… and then use them yourself. It’s as simple as that!
Want to know more about Conversation Based Chunking? Make sure to request your free Spanish Chunking Starter Pack, with walkthrough videos, flashcard decks, recommended resources, and more.
2. Essential Spanish Phrases to Ask Questions
Asking questions is among the most important things when having a conversation. They can help you solve problems if you are a tourist, or get updates about how someone feels. In fact, questions are essential in any context, beyond a basic Spanish conversation, too.
Here’s a good video by Paulísima, one of the teachers at Spring Spanish about asking questions in Spanish:
Below, find a list of some essential questions in Spanish you can use in any situation.
Essential Spanish chunks you can use in any situation
|How are you?
|¿Qué tal todo?
|¿Qué tal tu día?
|How’s your day?
|¿Cómo vas? ¿Qué haces?
|How is it going? What are you doing?
The questions above are the most used when you want to know how someone feels or “how is it going”. In a few words, most of them are used during informal scenarios. However, “¿Qué tal todo?” and “¿Cómo estás?” will fit any situation. If you want to be even more formal, you could say “¿Cómo le va?” because “Le” will help you add the formal tone.
In some cases, asking how someone feels isn’t enough as we need to ask for information or need to ask something completely different. In that case, we need to make use of the famous Spanish W words.
Of course, in Spanish, they don’t start with a W but have the same purpose. Let’s see below these Spanish question words and some useful combinations.
The Spanish “W words”
All of these question words will indeed help you get the information you need in any Spanish conversation. Some of them have the same English translation as Cuál and Qué, but are used differently.
Below, we have listed some questions you can have always under your sleeve to get essential information.
Get essential information with these Spanish chunks
|¿Qué hora es?
|What time is it?
|¿Qué día es hoy?
|What day is it?
|Which one do you want?
|What is it?
|Where is it?
|¿Dónde queda + article + place?
|Where is + article + place?
|Where are you?
|When are we going?
|When is it?
|How are you?
|How do I do it? / How do you do it?
|How do I know? / How do you know?
|Who are you?
|Who are you?
Please note that it’s possible to add some extra information to each question if we need to know something specific. For example, we can ask “¿Cuál es tu bebida favorita?” instead of only using “¿Cuál es?”. Using “¿Cuál es?” will be useful to get information about someone’s favorite drink if the information is implicit in the context.
We can even use other kinds of questions to get different information.
To learn more about chunks, sign up to our Chunking Starter Pack!
For example, using querer, poder, and deber is useful when we need to know what’s the behavior we need to follow. They are even great to express our availability and wishes.
Other kinds of questions to get different information
|Should I come in?
|¿Debería comprar eso?
|Should I buy that?
|I can go?
|You can help me?
|We can talk?
|What do you want?
|Do you want to go?
|¿Quieres comer algo?
|Do you want to eat something?
|¿Quieres hacer algo?
|Do you want to do something?
All of these questions are great if you’re a tourist and you’re visiting a new place. One of the most important is “¿Puede ayudarme?” which we can change to “¿Podría ayudarme?” if we want to show even more respect. Using “¿Puede ayudarme?” is among the best alternatives to asking for help when necessary.
If you’re one of those who like to break the ice, using “Quieres hacer algo?” will become one of your favorite questions. It will help you to make plans about going out. And, if you’re just bored to spend the whole day at your place, you can use it to ask someone out.
3. Keep the Spanish Conversation Going: Phrases to Answer Basic Spanish Questions
Answering basic questions is essential to keep the conversation flowing. In most cases, if you’re just a beginner or you have met someone new, probably the first question you need to answer is “¿Cómo estás?”.
Even so, there are a bunch of other questions you’ll need to answer. Here are some essential phrases you can use to answer almost any basic question.
Spanish chunks to answer basic Spanish questions
|Yes of course!
|No muy bien
|Not so good
|Yo soy + occupation/ nationality/ name
|Yo trabajo en/ de + company/ place/ job position
|I work at/as…
|Naci en + country
|I was born in…
|Hoy es + day of the week
|Son la/las + time
|It’s + time
|Está en + place
|It’s at/in + place
|Eso es en + place
|Nice to meet you
|Yo quiero + wish
|No puedo/ quiero
|I don’t want/ I can’t
|Si, me gustaría
|Yes, I would like it
|No sé / No lo sé
|I don’t know
|No entiendo / No lo entiendo
|I don’t understand
|Estoy de acuerdo
|Si/no tengo hambre
|I’m (not) hungry
As you may see, there are plenty of ways to answer basic questions in Spanish. The ones above are the most common and “flexible”. It’s because they may come in handy in almost any situation to keep the conversation flowing.
If you want to say what you do for a living, you could use “Yo soy + occupation”. For example, “Yo soy ingeniéro”. If you want to add more information, you could use the structure “Yo trabajo en/de”.
For example, “Yo trabajo en Samsung” (I work at Samsung) or “Yo trabajo de Gerente” (I work as a manager). The phrase “Yo soy…” will help you not only to talk about your job but to provide information like your name and to tell where are you from.
Using phrases like “No sé”, “No entiendo” or “Estoy de acuerdo”, will help you show either doubt or agreement. Keep them always in mind since they are quite versatile. Add in Spanish connectors and/or Spanish conjunctions, and you’re well on your way to a fun conversation.
4. Essential Phrases to Say Goodbye
Generally speaking, saying goodbye is the last stage of a conversation. If you’re a talkative individual, starting a new conversation after saying goodbye is also probable. Nonetheless, if you’re not so talkative, saying goodbye will put an end to the conversation. As a result, It’s always good to learn a few phrases to say goodbye.
Below, find some of the most common phrases we use to say goodbye in Spanish.
Common phrases to say goodbye in Spanish
|See you later
|Hasta pronto / Nos vemos pronto
|See you soon
|See you tomorrow
|Take care of yourself
|¡Que te vaya bien!
|¡Que tengas un feliz día!
|Have a happy day!
|Que pases un buen día
|Have a nice day
|Hasta luego, saludos a + proper name/ noun
|See you later, say hi to + proper name/noun
In Latin America, people generally use phrases like “Nos vemos pronto” or “Hasta luego”. If you visit Spain, you probably will hear their Spaniard equivalent “Os vemos pronto”. All of these phrases will indeed help you put an end to a conversation.
Still, if you want to be kind and keep a polite tone, the one that will best fit your needs is “Hasta luego, saludos a + proper name/noun”. In that context, a good way to say goodbye would be “Hasta luego, saludos a todos/tu familia”.
5. Essential Phrases to Say Thanks
One of the most important things to do when you’re speaking to someone or when someone helps you/serves you is to say thanks. Saying thanks will always be among the best things to do as it makes you sound kind and polite without being too formal.
Let’s look at the best phrases to say thanks.
Best phrases to say thanks in Spanish
|Muchas gracias / Muchísimas gracias
|Thank you very much
|A thousand thanks
|Gracias por todo
|Thank you for everything
|I’m very thankful
|Se lo agradezco
|I thank you
|Quiero dar(le/te) las gracias
|I want to say thanks
The difference between “Muchas gracias” and “Muchísimas gracias” is that, in the second one, we use the superlative. Therefore, we emphasize how much we want to say thanks. These all are good alternatives for any scenario but using “Se lo agradezco” fits better in formal situations.
For more practice saying thanks in a Spanish conversation, watch this Spring Spanish video:
6. Essential Phrases Every Tourist Needs
Being a tourist and not having essential phrases in your toolbox can be a nightmare. All of these phrases you have learned will help you in every conversation. Though, as tourists, we need to learn how to order at a restaurant or how to take a cab, for example.
Here’s some travel Spanish that every tourist needs in their toolbox.
Essential Spanish phrases for tourists
|Me puede traer por favor + order
|Can you bring me please + order
|¿Cuál es el menu de hoy?
|What’s today’s menu?
|Yo quiero un/una + order/dish
|I want a… + dish/order
|¿Viene con + ingredient?
|¿Does it come with.. + ingredient?
|What do you recommend?
|¿Me lleva a… + place?
|Can you take me + place?
|Voy a + place
|I’m going to + place
|How much is it?
|La cuenta, por favor
7. Learn More Conversational Spanish With These Chunks and Phrases
Finally, we have some essential phrases that aren’t that easy to classify, but you will indeed need them. So, when the time comes, don’t hesitate to use these mixed-bag Spanish phrases.
“Mixed-bag” Spanish chunks
|No te preocupes
|No hay problema
|I need help
|No tengo idea
|I have no idea
|¿Puede hablar más despacio?
|Can you speak more slowly?
|¿Qué es esto?
|What is this?
|¿Como se dice.. + word/ phrase?
|How do you say.. + word/phrase?
|Are you ready?
|Sorry to interrupt
8. Bonus: Phrases That’ll Make You Sound Like a Mexican
Spanish is spoken in so many countries, it’s only normal there are many regional differences.
Mexican Spanish is one of the most wide-spread forms (both because of geography and because of its prevalence in the movie/tv series/telenovela world). I’ve spent quite some time in Mexico myself, and using some of the chunks taught in this video will help a lot to make you sound like an “insider” when talking to Mexicans:
9. Conclusion: Time for Spanish Conversation Practice!
Learning all of these chunks and phrases in just a few minutes, and then expecting to be able to use them all in conversations right away, would be a bit of a stretch.
But putting in some effort every day to learn some new chunks, and then use them in conversations yourself… that’s the key to success.
Once you’ve used your first phrase in a conversation, your confidence will build and you’ll feel more and more comfortable speaking Spanish. Remember to be polite and show kindness, and you’ll notice native speakers will be kind to you in return.
To get a head start, I recommend you request your free Spanish Chunking Starter Pack, which will show you how to learn even more chunks and phrases like this, where to find them, and how to make them roll off the tongue in conversations!