95 Spanish Phrases

Beginners Spanish phrases: Part five

Rob Ashby

Rob Ashby

The Spanish Obsessive

This is the final part of our essential Spanish phrases for beginners – congratulations for making it this far! Don’t forget, you can sign up below and receive all of these phrases in both pdf and mp3:

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Es lo mejor/peor

It’s the best/worst


Mejor and peor mean “better” and “worse”, and when used with a definite article (in this case, neuter), mean “best” and “worse”. They can be used with another article (ie, la or el), and the meaning is the same (make sure you match the article to the gender of the noun – e.g. la mejor casa, “the best house”; el mejor tren, “the best train”).

Why we love it

This is a crucial phrase, particularly when making comparisons.


Es muy bueno

It’s very good


Muy, meaning “very” is used as an intensifier with adjectives – it is an adverb (ie, words which modify adjectives). Some beginners make the mistake of saying *mucho bueno – remember, we need muy here!

Why we love it

Useful for comparisons and giving your opinion, and important to remember about the use of muy.


Hay mucha gente

There are a lot of people


Mucho is an adjective used to mean “many”, with uncountable nouns.

Hay means “there is/there are”.

Gente means “people” – note that this is singular (so we don’t see muchas gente).

Why we love it

Learn these two phrases to understand the difference between muy and mucho, and avoid incorrect phrases like *es mucho bueno! Oh, and you’ll also notice that “gente” is feminine 🙂


Es lo mismo

It’s the same


We’re seeing the neuter article lo here again – we told you it’s useful! This is a set expression, there’s not much to deconstruct here. Mismo is an adjective meaning same.

Why we love it

An incredibly common phrase, you’ll hear mismo all the time. Worth memorising now!


Es igual

It’s the same


Exactly the same construction, with igual another versatile adjective meaning, in this case, “the same” or “equal”.

Why we love it

Another way to say “the same” – useful to know!


Lo conozco desde hace mucho tiempo

I’ve known him for a long time


Conocer means “to know someone”, and is used with lo for men, or la for women. Desde hace mucho is a great set construction, meaning “since/for a long time”.

Why we love it

Again, not necessarily a phrase you will be using that frequently, but it contains some great constructions that you will be using often, and that learners frequently get wrong. Learn this now, and avoid mistakes further down the line!


Dime qué estás pensando

Tell me what you are thinking


A fair bit of “grammar” in this one! Let’s take it one word at a time:

Dime: “Tell me”. Di comes from decir, meaning “to tell”, and is conjugated to the imperative form, for . Me means “me”. Still with us?

qué: “What”. Note the accent on the é, meaning that this “what” refers to a noun (instead of que, meaning “that”)

estás pensando: “You are thinking”. Estás comes from estar, and is used as an auxiliary verb (like the “are” in “you are running”). Pensando comes from pensar, meaning “to think”. The ando ending corresponds to the English -ing ending.

Why we love it

While this phrase may not be one you’ll find yourself reaching for all the time, it contains some seriously useful grammar nuggets that are worth memorising now, so that when you meet them later they click into place. Remember, this isn’t a grammar lesson – we’re planting the seed and raising your awareness of certain grammar points now while learning a useful phrase, so that if/when you come to study it at a later point, things will click into place far more easily.


La comida está muy rica

The food is very nice


La comida means “food”, and takes la as it is feminine. We use está here, as we are referring to the food’s current state (ie, “this food is really good right now), with rica meaning “tasty, good”. Note that it ends with a, to match the feminine noun.

Why we love it

We’ve into two verbs for “be” – “estar” and “ser”. There are many rules of thumb to learn when to use which verb, but it’s also good to learn phrases using them to start to internalise their uses. In this case “estar” is used with food.


A mal tiempo, buena cara

Put a brave face on


Here is the literal translation of this idiom:

A: To

Mal: Bad

Tiempo: Time (times)

Buena: Good

Cara: Face

Our English equivalent idiom is something like “to put a brave face on” – to be positive and upbeat during hard times.

Why we love it

This time, buena is not shortened, as it goes before a feminine noun. Mal has been shortened, however, as it comes before a singular masculine noun. A good phrase to memorise and use, and a useful reminder of some of the odd rules around short-form adjectives!


Él que busca encuentra

If you don’t ask, you don’t get


The literal translation of this is “he that looks, finds”.

Why we love it

None of these phrases are super common – but you could probably use this one more than others! It’s easy to remember, and makes sense as well (very similar to “seek and you shall find”).


Lo que no mata, engorda

That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger


This is almost the same literal translation, the only difference being engorda: “That which does not kill, fattens”.

Why we love it

We like this, as the Spanish version of positivity and improvement (ie, “make you stronger”) is “to fatten”. 🙂


Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush


Interestingly, the literal translation for this phrase is similar to our own: “A bird in the hand is worth more than one hundred flying”. Makes more sense, if you ask us!

If you are unaware of the expression “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, it means to take advantage of what you already have, rather than what you might have in the future.

Why we love it

We love how similar this expression is to our own. Although we are unaware of the origins of this phrase (please let us know if you have information!), it would suggest that our English phrase shares a common ancestor with the Spanish phrase, presumably from Latin…! It’s interesting to see how the two phrases have diverged.


A caballo regalado no se mira al diente

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth


This is another phrase whose literal translation is so close to our own that they must share a common route: “Don’t look a gift horse in the tooth”. If you don’t know this expression, it means that you should not look to find fault with something that has been given to you.

Why we love it

We hear this phrase reasonably often, and we love how it seems to share a common root with English too.

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