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Spanish Phrasebook

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Introduction

Potosí Miner at work

Potosí Miner at work

© All Rights Reserved HansNL

Spanish, or Castillian, is the world's second most spoken language, after Mandarin Chinese. It originated in northern Spain, where it was picked up by the Kingdom of Castile, which then carried it to Spanish colonies in Africa, Asia Pacific, and the Americas.

The following countries have Spanish as an official or co-official language:

It is also spoken by many people in the following countries:

Despite its dominance abroad and at home, Castillian is not the only language spoken in Spain. Galician, Basque and Catalan are three other languages spoken in regions of Spain.

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Alphabet

The Spanish alphabet has 29 letters (although w is only used in foreign words). Besides the regular 26 of the English alphabet, Spanish has ñ, ch and ll: a, b, c, ch, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, ll, m, n, ñ, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, v, w, x, y, z.

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Basic Grammar

Street Artists at San Telmo Markets

Street Artists at San Telmo Markets

© All Rights Reserved Taffski

Pronunciation

Consonant
Most consonants are pronounced very similarly to the way they are in English, but there are several exceptions:

  • b and v (identical pronunciation) = like the b in beach - the exception is when the b or v is in between two vowels, in which case it is pronounced like a v in English, but with the sound formed by touching the lips together.
  • d = the sound of the d is softer and is produced in the front of the mouth, with the tongue between the teeth, where as in English the sound is harder and comes more from the back of the mouth.
  • g = like the g in go - where it precedes a i or an e, it is pronounced like the Spanish j (below)
  • h = silent
  • j = like the h in house
  • ll = like the y in yellow - in Argentina, it is commonly pronounced like the g in beige.
  • n = like the n in noble - where it precedes a b, v, f or p, it sounds like an m
  • ñ = like the ny in canyon
  • r = pronounced with a trill, by rapidly and repeatedly flapping the tongue against the roof of the mouth. rr indicates a longer trill.
  • x = like the x in example, but can also be pronounced like an s or Spanish j.
  • z = like the s in simple - in Spain, it is commonly pronounced like the th in thick.

Vowel

  • a = like the a in arm
  • e = like the ay in day
  • i = like the ee in tree
  • o = like the o in open
  • u = like the ou in you

Subject Pronouns

  • Yo = I
  • = You (informal, familiar)
  • Él/Ella = He/She
  • Usted = You (formal)
  • Nosotros = We
  • Vosotros (Spain only) = You (informal, plural, like "you guys")
  • Ellos = They (all men, or a group of mixed gender)
  • Ellas =They (all women)
  • Ustedes = You (plural, like "you guys")

Note: There is no "it' in Spanish. Spanish merely leaves the subject out of the sentence all together rather than using a special pronoun.
Example:

  • The chair is heavy = It (the chair) is brown. La silla está pesada. (la silla) Está morena.

The difference in use between the informal you (tú) and the more formal you (usted) is cultural and varies from country to country. Understanding of it's use comes with time and context. If you're not sure which to use to address someone, it's best to use the more formal pronoun (usted) which is more polite, especially if you don't know the person you're speaking to well. If they in turn address you informally (tú), you can then switch to the more informal pronoun (tú).

Verb conjugation

Spanish uses a different conjugation of the verb depending on who performed the action (you, I, she, they) and when it was done (future, past, present). For English speakers, this can make life quite complicated. Included below are the basic conjugation rules for regular verbs.

More wall art in Granada

More wall art in Granada

© All Rights Reserved daveh

Present tense
Examples:

  • I buy a guitar = Yo compro una guitarra.
  • She drinks a cup of tea = Ella bebe una taza de té.
  • They live in England = Ellos viven en Inglaterra.

For regular verbs ending in -ar (eg. comprar - to buy): compr| ~o, ~as, ~a, ~amos, ~áis, ~an
Example: Yo (no) compro, tu compras, el/ella/usted compra, nosotros compramos, vosotros compráis, ellos/ellas/ustedes compran

For regular verbs ending in -er (eg. beber - to drink): beb| ~o, ~es, ~e, ~emos, ~éis, ~en
Example: Yo bebo, tu bebes, el/ella/usted bebe, nosotros bebemos, vosotros bebéis, ellos/ellas/ustedes beben

For regular verbs ending in -ir (eg. vivir - to live): viv| ~o, ~es, ~e, ~imos, ~ís, ~en
Example: Yo vivo, tu vives, el/ella/usted vive, nosotros vivimos, vosotros vivís, ellos/ellas/ustedes viven

Future tense
Examples:

  • I will buy a guitar = Yo compraré una guitarra.
  • She will drink a cup of tea = Ella beberá una taza de té.
  • They will live in England = Ellos vivirán.

For regular verbs ending in -ar (eg. comprar): comprar| ~é, ~ás, ~á, ~emos, ~éis, ~án
Example: Yo compraré, tu comprarás, el/ella/usted comprará, nosotros compraremos, vosotros compraréis, ellos/ellas/ustedes comprarán

For regular verbs ending in -er (eg. beber): beber| ~é, ~ás, ~á, ~emos, ~éis, ~án
Example: Yo beberé, tu beberás, el/ella/usted beberá, nosotros beberemos, vosotros beberéis, ellos/ellas/ustedes beberán

For regular verbs ending in -ir (eg. vivir): vivir| ~é, ~ás, ~á, ~emos, ~éis, ~án
Example: Yo viviré, tu vivirás, el/ella/usted vivirá, nosotros viviremos, vosotros viviréis, ellos/ellas/ustedes vivirán

Past tense: Imperfect
The imperfect is used when referring to actions in the past which form a context. It is descriptive in nature.

Examples:

  • When I lived in Spain, I bought the newspaper every Thursday = Cuando vivía en España, compraba el periódico cada jueves.
  • When she was a child, she drank milk = Cuando ella era niña, bebía leche.

For regular verbs ending in -ar (eg. comprar): comprar| ~aba, ~abas, ~aba, ~ábamos, ~abais, ~aban
Example: Yo compraraba, tu comprarabas, el/ella/usted compraraba, nosotros comprarábamos, vosotros comprarabais, ellos/ellas/ustedes compraraban

For regular verbs ending in -er (eg. beber): beber| ~ía, ~ías, ~ía, ~íamos, ~íais, ían
Example: Yo bebería, tu beberías, el/ella/usted bebería, nosotros beberíamos, vosotros beberíais, ellos/ellas/ustedes beberían

For regular verbs ending in -ir (eg. vivir): vivir| ~ía, ~ías, ~ía, ~íamos, ~íais, ~ían
Example: Yo viviría, tu vivirías, el/ella/usted viviría, nosotros viviríamos, vosotros viviríais, ellos/ellas/ustedes vivirían

Past tense: Preterite
The preterite is used when referring to actions in the past which form an event. It is narrative in nature.

Examples:

  • I bought the newspaper on September 11, 2001 = Yo compré el periódico el 11 de septiembre de 2001.
  • When we were fifteen, we drank alcohol for the first time = Cuando éramos quince, bebimos alcohol por primera vez.

For regular verbs ending in -ar (eg. comprar): compr| ~é, ~aste, ~ó, ~amos, ~asteis, ~aron
Example: Yo compré, tu compraste, el/ella/usted compró, nosotros compramos, vosotros comprasteis, ellos/ellas/ustedes compraron

For regular verbs ending in -er (eg. beber): beb| ~í, ~iste, ~ió, ~imos, ~isteis, ~ieron
Example: Yo bebí, tu bebiste, el/ella/usted bebió, nosotros bebimos, vosotros bebisteis, ellos/ellas/ustedes bebieron

For regular verbs ending in -ir (eg. vivir): viv| ~í, ~iste, ~ió, ~imos, ~isteis, ~ieron
Example: Yo viví, tu viviste, el/ella/usted vivió, nosotros vivimos, vosotros vivisteis, ellos/ellas/ustedes vivieron

Negatives and questions

To make a sentence negative in Spanish, simply add the word "no" in front of the verb.
Examples:

  • I don't want coffee = Yo no quiero café
  • We weren't cooking = Nosotros no estabamos cocinando
  • You won't go = Usted no irá

To make a question, you reverse the subject and the verb (like is often done in English)
Examples:

  • Are you here? = ¿Está usted aquí?
  • Were you happy? = ¿Estabas tú feliz?
  • When can she? = ¿Cuando puede ella?

You can also make a statement, and follow it with sí? or no? When you do this, you say sí? or no? with a rising intonation.
Examples:

  • She's here, right? = ¿Ella está aquí, no?
  • They're coming, right? = ¿Ellos vienen, sí?

To make life even more difficult, there are many irregular verbs which don't conform to these patterns.

Gender

Vegetable seller at Tarabuco market

Vegetable seller at Tarabuco market

© All Rights Reserved HansNL

Nouns are gender specific. The basic rule of thumb is that a word ending in a is feminine, while a word ending in o is masculine.

Pronouns, adjectives and adverbs change according to the gender of the noun as well.

Examples:

  • His (male) cat is beautiful - Su gato es hermoso
  • The house is fantastic - La casa es fantástica

A couple of notable exceptions are: el día (day), and el mapa (map)

Plural

Plurals are generally created by adding an s or es to the end of a noun. Note that if a noun is plural, the accompanying pronoun and any adjectives are also plural.

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Useful Spanish words and phrases

Basic words

  • Yes - sí
  • No - no
  • Please - por favor
  • This - este, esta
  • That - ese, esa,
  • Am/Is/Are - soy/es/somos/son, estoy/está/estámos/están; The former implies permanence (ie. he is a father - el es un padre), whereas the latter refers to something which can change (ie. I am sick - estoy enfermo) or is descriptive (ie. She is tall - ella está alta).
  • And - y
  • Or - o
  • If - si
  • Now - ahora
  • Later - más tarde
  • Like (similarity) - como
  • I like/ I dislike - me gusta/no me gusta
  • I have/ I don't have - tengo/no tengo
  • Many/Few - muchos/pocos
  • More/Less - más/menos
  • With/Without - con/sin
  • Big/Small - grande/pequeño
  • Long/Short - largo/corto
  • Fat/Thin - gordo/delgado
  • Fast - rápido
  • Slow - lento
  • Early/Late - temprano/tarde

Prepositions and directions

  • At - en/a/por/de
  • By (me) - por
  • With - con
  • From - de/desde
  • To - a/hasta
  • For - por
  • Here/There - aqui/ahí
  • Inside/Outside - dentro de/fuera de
  • Front/Back - parte delantera, adelante/parte de atrás
  • Next to - al lado de
  • Opposite - de enfrente
  • Up/Down - arriba/abajo
  • Left/Right - izquierdo/derecho
  • Middle - medio
  • North/South/East/West - norte/sur/este/oeste
  • Centre - centro

Greetings and parting

  • Hello - hola
  • How are you? - ¿Como estás?
  • What's up? - ¿Qué onda/hay/tal?
  • Welcome - bienvenido
  • Good morning - buenos días
  • Good afternoon - buenas tardes
  • Good evening/night (after 6:00pm/when night falls) - buenas noches
  • Goodbye - adiós
  • See you again - hasta luego

Terms of address

  • I - yo
  • You - tu/usted (usted is polite, used for older people especially in Spain - not so much in South America)
  • He/She/Him/Her - el/ella
  • They/Them - ellos/ellas
  • Person - persona
  • Male/Man - hombre
  • Female/Woman - mujer
  • Child - niño/niña
  • Children - niños/niñas
  • Mr - señor
  • Mrs - señora
  • Miss - señorita
  • Father - padre
  • Mother - madre
  • Brother - hermano
  • Sister - hermana
  • Cousin - primo
  • Grandfather - abuelo
  • Grandmother - abuela
  • Uncle - tío
  • Aunt - tía
  • Foreigner - extranjeros

Thanks and apology

  • Thank you - gracias
  • You are welcome - ¡de nada! or mucho gusto
  • I'm (very) sorry - lo siento (mucho)
  • Sorry/Excuse me - perdón
  • Excuse me - disculpame

Actions

  • Do - hacer
  • Give - dar
  • Take - tomar
  • Get - conseguir
  • Want - querer
  • Talk/Say - hablar
  • Sell - vender
  • Buy - comprar
  • Help - ayudar
  • Walk - andar/caminar
  • Run - correr
  • Go in/out - entrar/salir
  • Stay - quedar
  • Go (there) - ir
  • Leave/return - dejar/volver

Questions, answers and request

  • Who/Whom - quién
  • What - qué
  • When - cuándo
  • Where - dónde
  • Why - por qué
  • How - cómo
  • Yes/No - si/no
  • Can(not) - (no)poder
  • Right/Wrong - correcto/incorrect
  • What is your name? I am John. - ¿Cómo te llamas? Soy John. (informal)
  • Where is the toilet? - ¿Dónde está el baño?
  • Which one? - ¿Cuál?
  • What is the price for this? - ¿Cuánto es?
  • How many? - ¿Cuántas?
  • Could you...? - ¿Puede...?
  • I want this/that - Quiero éste/a / ése/a
  • This/that one - Éste/a / ése/a
  • I (don't) want - (No) quiero
  • Give me this/that - Dame éste/a / ése/a
  • Wait - esperar
  • I don't understand - No comprendo
  • Do you speak english? - ¿Habla inglés?

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Food

  • Eat - comer
  • Food - comida
  • Cook - cocinar
  • Drink (verb) - beber, tomar
  • Drinks (noun) - bebida
  • Water (carbonated/non-carbonated) - agua (con gas/sin gas)
  • Beer - cerveza
  • Cider - sidra
  • (red/white) Wine - vino (tinto/blanco)
  • Juice - jugo
  • Smoothie - batido de fruta
  • Milk - leche
  • Black Coffee/Latte - café/café con leche
  • Tea - té
  • Fruit - fruta
  • (Orange/Apple/Pineapple) Juice - Zumo de (naranja/manzana/piña)
  • Vegetable - verdura, vegetale
  • Cheese - queso
  • Egg - huevo
  • Meat - carne
  • Beef - carne or carne de res
  • Fish - pescado
  • Chicken - pollo
  • Cow - vaca
  • Goat - cabra
  • Pig - cerdo
  • Rice - arroz
  • Beans - frijoles
  • Prawns - gambas
  • Squid - calamares
  • (Cured) Ham - Jamón (Serrano)
  • Rare - raro
  • Medium - mediano
  • Well done - bien cocinado
  • Vegetarian - vegetariano/a
  • To be hungry - tener hambre
  • Delicious - delicioso, rico

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Traffic and transportation

  • Road/Street - calle
  • Lane - carril
  • One-way street - calle de sentido único, una vía
  • Highway/Expressway - carretera
  • Stop/Go - pare
  • Caution - cuidado
  • Keep right/left - mantenga la derecha/izquierda
  • Yield/Give way - ceda la via
  • Train - tren
  • Bus - autobús
  • Taxi - taxi
  • Station - estación
  • Car - coche o carro
  • Motorcycle - motocicleta
  • Bicycle - bicicleta
  • Air/Land/Sea - aire/tierra/mar
  • Aeroplane - avión
  • Airport - aeropuerto
  • Boat/Ship - barco
  • Seaport - puerto

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Public places

  • Police Station - comisaría o estación de policía
  • Hospital - hospital
  • Clinic - clínica
  • Fire station - parque de bomberos o estación de bomberos
  • Post office - oficina de correos
  • Toilet - baño
  • Shop - tienda
  • Restaurant - restaurante
  • Food court -
  • Food stall -
  • Church - iglesia

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Numbers, Dates and Time

Numbers

  • 1. uno, 2. dos, 3. tres, 4. cuatro, 5. cinco, 6. seis, 7. siete, 8. ocho, 9. nueve, 10. diez
  • 11. once, 12. doce, 13. trece, 14. catorce, 15. quince, 16. dieciséis, 17. diecisiete, 18. dieciocho, 19. diecinueve
  • 20. veinte, 21. veintiuno, 22. veintidós, ...
  • 30. treinta, 31. treinta y uno, 32. treinta y dos, ...
  • 40. cuarenta, 41. cuarenta y uno, 42. cuarenta y dos, ...
  • 50. cincuenta, 60. sesenta, 70. setenta, 80. ochenta, 90. noventa
  • 100. ciento, 101. ciento uno, 102. ciento dos, 103. ciento tres, 110. ciento diez, 199. ciento noventa y nueve
  • 200. doscientos, 201. doscientos uno, 202. doscientos dos, 203. doscientos tres, 251. doscientos cincuenta y uno, 252. doscientos cincuenta y dos
  • 300. trescientos, 400. cuatrocientos, 500. quinientos, 600. seiscientos, 700. setecientos, 800. ochocientos, 900. novecientos
  • 1,000. mil, 2,000. dos mil, 3,000. tres mil, ...
  • 1 million. un millón

Dates

  • Day/Week/Month/Year - día/semana/mes/año
  • Day of week (M,T,W,T,F,S,S) - lunes, martes, miércoles, jueves, viernes, sábado, domingo
  • Month - enero, febrero, marzo, abril, mayo, junio, julio, agosto, septiembre, octubre, noviembre, diciembre
  • Day before yesterday/Yesterday/Today/Tomorrow/Day after tomorrow - antes de ayer, ayer, hoy, mañana, pasado mañana
  • Last/Next year - el año pasado/la próxima año

Time

  • Morning - mañana
  • Afternoon - tarde
  • Evening/night - noche
  • Hour - hora
  • Minute - minuto
  • Second - segundo
  • Time: 1:00 = Es la una; 11:30 = Son las once y media; 2:13 = Son las dos y treinta (note that it is la for una, and las (plural) for the others.
  • What time is it? - ¿Que hora es?

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Colours

  • White - blanco
  • Black - negro
  • Red - rojo
  • Orange - naranja
  • Yellow - amarillo
  • Green - verde
  • Blue - azul
  • Purple - morado
  • Brown - café/moreno

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Learn More

About.com has a great section devoted to learning Spanish. Lots of grammar lessons for beginners and more advanced speakers.

Contributors

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This is version 22. Last edited at 16:57 on Mar 3, 14 by Utrecht. 154 articles link to this page.

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