Spanish from Scratch

Spanish from Scratch 3

Join Rob and Liz in a cafe! We teach you a few phrases that you can use to order like a native in a cafe or restaurant.
Lis Salinas

Lis Salinas







Hello and welcome to our third podcast in our beginners Spanish from Scratch series at Spanish Obsessed. We hope you’ve done your homework from the last couple of podcasts and memorised all of the phrases from the last few weeks. If however you haven’t, then do check out a couple of articles which we’ll put below this podcast for techniques for how to make this easier for yourself. So today, Lis and I would like to buy you a coffee. We’re going to talk about a couple of ways you can say that you want something, like a coffee or a beer in a café, as well as what to expect in a typical Spanish bar or café, as well as a Colombian one, which is where Lis is from, if you’re feeling a little bit more adventurous. As always, don’t forget to check the accompanying materials below this podcast, and do let us know you thoughts in the comments section as well. So in our conversation today, Lis has just gone into a café, hola Lis
 Hola, hola a todos
And Rob, that’s me, is the waiter. Hola! ¿Qué te pongo?
 Buenas, me pones dos cortados y un café con leche, por favor.
Dos cortados y un café con leche. ¿Quieres algo más?
 No, ya está. Gracias.
And now we’re going to repeat the conversation, this time leaving a little pause afterwards for you to repeat, and see if you can guess what we’re saying.
Before we dive into the language, I think it’s interesting to talk about the Spanish café culture and how that’s a little bit different to the English café culture, and certainly Colombian and South American cafés are completely different. So in my experience, I would say that as English people one of the mistakes that we can sometimes make has not actually got anything to do with language at all. In Spanish cafés, as soon as you go in you should take a seat, you don’t need to go up to the bar or anything like that, and there’s always table service, so that’s the first thing. Secondly, sometimes Spanish waiters or barmen can seem a little bit abrupt to us, a little bit sharp, we’re used to service with a smile in England. I’d say in Spain they’re not exactly rude but they can seem a little bit honest, let’s say. How about in Colombia, Lis?
 I think in Colombia the customer service has to be very friendly and smiley all the time, so yeah I think it’s a bit similar
Do they have table service?
 Yes, they do
Ok, so you can just go in and sit down, you don’t need to…
Alright so on to the language. So the first thing the waiter – that’s me – said, was “¿qué te pongo?”. So you can remember what “qué” means, that’s “what”, and “te” is “you”, so you remember last podcast we said “¿qué te gusta?”, which means “what do you like”, this time it´s ¿qué te pongo?. So “pongo” is a new word. And you remember that there are three types of verbs, in the infinitive form. We’ve got -ER, -AR, and -IR, and “pongo” comes from the first type, which is -ER, so the full infinitive is “poner”. So what we’ve done is we’ve conjugated the verb, so it’s “pongo” for the first person, so you conjugate for “I”. So literally, the waiter here is saying “what do I put you?”, “¿qué te pongo?”. It sounds a little bit strange to us, but it is totally correct, and then Lis said:
So “buenas” is a really good way of saying “hello”. If you’re not sure if it’s afternoon, morning, or evening, you can just say “buenas” because you’re not saying “buenas noches” or “buenas tardes”, you’re just saying “buenas”
 Also in Colombia we use a lot this word, when you arrive anywhere you say “buenas”
And then she used the same verb, “poner”, but she didn’t say “yo pongo”, she said
 Me pones
“me pones”. So, “me” is “me”, and “pones” is again conjugated, so it’s not “pongo”, it’s “poner”. So, that’s conjugated for “tú” [pones]. So “yo” is “I”, “yo pongo” and “tú”
pones. So she’s saying to the waiter, literally, “you put me” which again sounds a little bit strange to us but is perfectly normal over there. “Me pones dos cortados y un café con leche”. Do you have cortados in Colombia?
 Different name, we don’t call like that, we call like espresso
So I think cortado is a type of coffee which is especially for Spain, and it literally means “cut”, so it’s an espresso cut with milk so you’ve got a little bit of milk, it’s my personal favourite coffee. And she said “dos cortados y”
 “un café con leche”
“un café con leche”. So that’s a coffee with milk, which is like a cappuccino. And then I repeated that, I said “dos cortados, y un café con leche”. Then I said, “¿quieres algo más?”, which means “do you want anything else?”. ¿Quieres algo más? Or you could often say “algo más”, they often say that, without “quieres”. And “quieres” again has been conjugated, it comes from the full verb “querer”, which means “to want”. So, just like “pones” for “tú”, I said “quieres”, “do you want”, “algo más”, “do you want anything else?”. And then finally, Lis said
 Ya está, gracias.
Yes, so Lis says “ya está”. That’s actually two words, it sounds like one word. It’s actually “ya” and “está” which means “that’s all”. It’s a really, really useful phrase “ya está”. And finished with…
“Gracias”, which means “thank you”. Very important. Ok, so see if you can guess what the following phrases mean in English, using vocabulary that we’ve just learned.
 ¿Me pones tres cortados, por favor?
So that means “can I have three cortados, please?” and the next one:
 Me pones cuatro cervezas por favor
Can I have four beers please, so “cerveza” is beer. That’s a very important one to know.
 I prefer that one than coffee! Nos pones una botella de agua, por favor.
Can we have a bottle of water, please. So this is slightly different, instead of saying “me pones”, which means “give me”, or “can I have”, we’re saying “give us”, so “nos” is “us”. So “nos pones”, “you put us”, “una botella de agua”, “a bottle of water”. And “water” is pronounced “A-WA”, even though it’s spelt AGUA, it’s like a “w” isn’t it? But you don’t say the G?
 Oh yeah, I didn’t realise! And also “agua” sounds like a feminine word, but we use “el” agua.
Very good, yes. So you don’t say “la” agua, it’s “el” agua. OK, so now we’re going to test your memory. We’re going to repeat our earlier conversation in English, and then see if you can finish the sentence, or fill in the silence, with Spanish. So repeat what we say in English with Spanish. And then we’ll tell you the correct version in Spanish, which you can then repeat. Hi, what would you like?
 Hola, ¿qué te pongo?
Hello, can I have two cortados, and one white coffee.
 Buenas, me pones dos cortados, y un café con leche por favor.
Do you want anything else?
 ¿Quieres algo más?
No, that’s all thanks.
 No, ya está, gracias.
OK, so we’ve covered a couple of ways you can ask for something. You can say “me pones”, and then you say what you want, so “me pones dos cervezas”, or “me pones un cortado”, or if there’s more than one of you you say “nos pones”. However, there are loads of other ways you can ask for things, but what you can’t say is literally “can I have”, which is “puedo tener”. You cannot literally translate that, because it sounds like you’re asking for permission to have something. So you need to be a little bit more abrupt for our English ears, and here’s a few more cool ways that you can ask for things. So the first one is:
“dame”. So that literally means “give me”, which sounds quite rude, but you can say that can’t you, it’s fine?
So “dame”
 Una cerveza
Una cerveza. Give me a beer. Ok, what’s the next one?
Which literally means “put me”, so it’s like a command, “ponme” una cerveza, “put me” a beer. Again this sounds a little bit rude, but perfectly normal, is that right?
 Yeah, that’s right
OK. What about the next one?
 ¿Me traes?
So “me traes”. So this is “you bring me”, “can you bring me”, “me traes una cerveza”, “can you bring me a beer”
 Por favor
Sorry, por favor
 Yeah, because if you don’t say please, or “por favor”, it’s going to be rude
Do you think so?
 Yeah, quite like an order. Strict.
So even if you say to someone “dame”, “give me a beer”, is that rude?
 It sounds quite impolite.
 Yeah, I prefer to say “por favor”
Oh very good, Lis is very polite then. And then finally, something they use in South America, in Colombia quite a lot
 Yes, this is very normal for me
 me regalas
“Me regalas”. So that means, “regalar” which is the infinitive, means to give a gift, so when you give someone a present you “regalar” someone something.
 Something free
Well that would be nice wouldn’t it. So you’re saying, “would you gift me”, or “would you be so kind as to give me something”, “me regalas una cerveza”. They don’t tend to use this in Spain, but in South America it’s used a lot. And it’s nice, I like it.
 Yeah, you like it? Me regalas un café.
OK, so we’ve equipped you with a few phrases and a little bit of grammar for when you go into a café. Make sure you take a dictionary because generally the menus have a huge number of dishes in which we couldn’t cover here today. As always, our materials are beneath this podcast on, but for now, from me Rob hasta luego, and from Lis
 Gracias, y adiós

Review Notes



Hola a todos

Hi everyone 

¿Qué te pongo?

What can I get you? (lit. “what do I put you?”)This is mainly used in mainland Spain, and is less common in South America
Buenas nochesGood night 
Buenas tardesGood afternoon 
Buenos díasGood morning 


HiA good catch-all “hello”, suitable for any time of day

Me pones

Can you get me (lit. “put me”)This is mainly used in mainland Spain, and is less common in South America
Nos ponesCan you get us 
Un cortadoEspresso with milk, similar to a machiatto 
Me regalasCan you get meUsed in South America, less in Spain
Nos regalasCan you get usUsed in South America, less in Spain
Café con lecheWhite coffee 
Una cervezaA beer 
Una botella de aguaA bottle of water 
QuererTo want 

¿Quieres algo más?

Would you like anything else?Used throughout Spanish speaking world. You may just hear “algo más”

Ya está.

That’s all