95 Spanish Phrases

Beginners Spanish phrases: Part one

Rob Ashby

Rob Ashby

The Spanish Obsessive

Welcome to the first set of phrases from our beginners Spanish phrases mini-series. You can test yourself using the quiz at the bottom of this article.

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1

Soy Lis

I am Lis

Construction

Soy is the first person singular (ie, “I”) of ser, meaning “to be”. There are two ways to say “to be”: ser and estar. Ser is used with names.

Why we love it

This is actually used more often than me llamo – learning soy should be a starting point for your Spanish!

2

Buenos días

Good morning/day

Construction

Bueno is an adjective meaning “good”, and buenos is in plural as Spanish adjectives “decline”, meaning they change (plural vs singular, masculine vs feminine). Días means “days”. Why is this plural? No one seems to know…

Why we love it

This is a standard greeting, that you’ll often hear throughout the day. It can be used with anyone, anywhere. Notice that the adjective buenos matches the noun in gender (masculine), and number (plural). Funnily enough, día is a masculine noun, despite ending in a. Good to remember!

3

Buenas tardes

Good afternoon

Construction

Buenas is now a feminine, plural adjective, to match tardes, which is feminine.

Why we love it

The same concept here, but because tarde is feminine, buenas uses a feminine ending.

4

Hasta luego

Goodbye

Construction

Hasta is literally “until”, and luego is “later”, so this is literally “until later”. Notice that the h is not pronounced – h is always silent when it starts a word in Spanish.

Why we love it

Universally used around the Spanish speaking world. You can also use chao.

5

Nos vemos

See you later

Construction

Vemos comes from the verb ver, meaning “to see”. Nos vemos literally means “we see each other” – understood in English to mean “we’ll see each other”.

Why we love it

This is a standard way of saying “goodbye”, meaning literally “we see each other”. You’ll hear it incredibly often, and it’s a nice standard way of adding to hasta luego.

6

¿Cómo te llamas?

What’s your name?

Construction

Llamar means “to call”, and this phrase uses llamarse – a reflexive verb (indicated by the se at the end). It literally means “I call myself”.

Why we love it

You’ll come across a lot of reflexive verbs, so it’s good to get some phrases under your belt early so you have a grasp of how they work.

7

¡Feliz año nuevo!

Happy new year!

Construction

Feliz means “happy”, año means “year”, and nuevo is “new”. Notice that feliz doesn’t change its ending (or “decline”). Some adjectives decline for both gender and plural/singular, some (such as feliz) only change for plural/singular (for example: días felices, “happy days”).

Why we love it

Apart from being a phrase that you’ll hear once a year, this phrase shows that adjectives (feliz and nuevo) can go both before and after the noun (año). You’ll see this all the time, but the meaning of adjectives can change based on their placement, unlike in English.

8

¿Cómo estás?

How are you?

Construction

Cómo is a question word in Spanish, meaning “how”. Estás comes from the verb estar, meaning “to be”. Spanish has two verbs meaning “to be”: Ser and estar. They are both used in different circumstances – we won’t go into all of the details now, but you can find out more in this article: Ser vs estar.

Why we love it

Estar is one of the verbs meaning “to be”. In this case we’re using it with , an informal “you”. Estar is used for impermanent states, such as how someone is.

9

¿Cómo te ha ido?

How are you?

Construction

This literally means “how has it gone for you?”:

Cómo: “how”

Te: “to you”

Ha (as an auxiliary verb, from the verb haber)

Ido, from the verb ir, “to go”.

Why we love it

Less often used, but a nice alternative to cómo estás. This phrase uses the “present perfect”, literally meaning “how has it gone for you” – you’ll hear this phrase more often in Latin America than Spain.

10

¿Cómo te encuentras?

How are you?

Construction

This literally means “how do you find yourself”. Encuentras comes from the verb encontrar, “to find”. You’ll notice the word te, which makes this “reflexive” – so that the subject and object are the same thing: “How do you find yourself?”. Reflexive verbs and constructions are common in Spanish, find out more about them in our guide to reflexive pronouns.

Why we love it

A third way to ask how someone is! It’s always good to have a few variations up your sleeve, instead of just relying on ¿cómo estás? all the time…

11

Estoy bien

I’m good/fine

Construction

Estoy comes from the verb estar, “to be” – in this case used to refer to an impermanent state (your mood is impermanent, generally speaking!). Bien simply means “ok”, or “well”.

Why we love it

Of course, people are likely to ask you how you are, so be prepared with an answer. You can skip the estoy if you like.

12

Creo que está bien/mal

I think it’s good/bad

Construction

Creo que means “I think that” (although creer literally means “to believe”). Está comes from estar, which is the other verb meaning “to be”. When talking about how you are, use estar. Bien means “good”; mal is “bad”.

Why we love it

One of the simplest ways to express whether you think something is good or bad. Spanish uses creer with opinions – the best translation for this is “I think it’s good/bad”.

13

Como yo lo veo

As I see it

Construction

Como means “as”, yo lo veo means “I see it” – “as I see it” (ie, “in my opinion).

Why we love it

An easy to remember hook for “as I see it”, and often used around the Spanish speaking world

14

Me parece que

It seems to me

Construction

Parece is from the verb parecer, “to appear, seem”. Me parece means “it seems to me” – a reverse construction verb.

Why we love it

This is what’s known as a “reverse construction”, where the object and subject swap around. It means that “something” appears to “you”. There are lots of examples of these in Spanish – we’ll meet more shortly.

15

Me gusta

I like

Construction

Gusta comes from gustar, meaning “to like, enjoy, please”. This is another reverse construction verb, and probably the most common one!

Why we love it

You’ll hear this all the time, and learning this is a good way to start getting your head around reverse construction verbs in Spanish.

16

No me gusta… para nada

I don’t like… at all

Construction

Notice that the construction for the negative is very simple – just add a no at the beginning of the phrase! Para nada means “at all”.

Why we love it

As you can see, it’s easy to form negative phrases in Spanish. You’ll hear para nada crop up in different contexts very frequently as well, so it’s good to remember this one now.

17

Me gustas

I like you

Construction

Gustar is now conjugated to match . The full phrase would be me gustas tú – tú is the subject, and me is the object, which is what makes this reverse construction. Don’t worry if this doesn’t make complete sense now. Memorise this phrase, and you’ll soon figure out how these reverse construction verbs work!

Why we love it

Learning a few different versions of reverse construction verbs will really help you to understand how these work. This is another common version you will hear often, and one that is easy to get wrong for learners – don’t make that mistake!

18

Me gustaría

I would like

Construction

This is taken from the verb gustar, meaning “to please”, which we’ve already met. Remember, this is a reverse construction verb, so the thing which is being liked is the subject, with the “liker” the object. There’s another twist here too, as this verb is in the conditional, adding the meaning of “would”. This is formed with ría.

Why we love it

This is a good way of learning the conditional ría ending, and can be used to say “I want” in a polite way, for example me gustaría un café con leche: “I would like a white coffee”.

19

Me encantan

I love them

Construction

Encantan comes from the verb encantargustar, and is also a reverse construction verb.

Why we love it

Encantar is a lovely sounding verb – a way of learning it is to think of “enchant”: Me encanta: “It enchants me”. Remember, in our example phrase we use me encantan, because it’s referring to a plural noun

20

Lo odio

I hate it

Construction

Odio comes from odiar, “to hate”. It’s a regular -AR verb, conjugated for yo. Lo refers to “it”, whatever that may be!

Why we love it

Be careful with this one, as it’s possibly even stronger in Spanish than in English! Use with caution…!

21

Lo que más me gusta/lo que me gusta más

What I like the most

Construction

Lo que is known as a “neuter relative pronoun”… Really, it’s easiest to understand it to mean “what” – in the sense of “that which”, or “the thing that”. We’ve combined it with a phrase from earlier, me gusta, and s, meaning “the most”. Notice that there are two possible word orders here – Spanish tends to be more flexible in its word order than English.

Why we love it

“Lo que” is an incredibly common and useful word you will hear all the time. It means “what” – we’ll meet it a little bit later so that you get a sense of how it works.

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