Here are a few Spanish phrases you may find helpful as you travel
¡Hola! – Hello
Por favor – please
Gracias – thank you
(GRA-thee-as [Spain] / GRA-see-as [Latin America])
If you get stuck in your Spanish conversation, you can always fall back on these next two phrases to get you out of trouble.
Yo (no) entiendo – I (don’t) understand
(yo no en-tee-EN-doh)
¿Habla inglés? – Do you speak English?
The Verb Querer (To Want)
Once you’ve finished greeting someone, you’ll need to be able to move on to the crux of your conversation and to do that you’ll need to learn a couple of common verbs.
There are hundreds of Spanish verbs to learn and, to make your life more difficult, these verbs conjugate (change form).
This means learning a verb is never as simple as learning one word; you have to learn multiple different forms.
Having said that, you might be surprised by how far you can get only knowing one simple verb: I want.
It may not make you the most sophisticated Spanish speaker but 9 times out of 10 it will get you what you, well, want.
The verb in question is querer (to want) and in the first person form, it becomes quiero (I want).
Let’s take a look at how you can use it:
Yo quiero un menu – I want a menu
(YO kee-EH-ro oon me-noo)
Yo quiero un taxi – I want a taxi
(YO kee-EH-ro oon taxi)
If you’d like to be a bit more polite (which is usually a good idea), you can also use:
Quisiera … – I would like … (lit. I would want)
Asking For & Understanding Directions
Whether you’re looking for the bathroom in a restaurant or trying to find a place to stay, you’ll inevitably need to ask for directions at some point during your trip.
The simplest way to ask where something is, is to use ¿Dónde está? followed by the noun you are looking for:
¿Dónde está el baño? – Where is the bathroom?
(DON-day es-tah el BAH-nyo?)
¿ Dónde está el banco? – Where is the bank?
(DON-day es-tah el BAN-koh?)
¿ Dónde está la calle [de Alcalá]? – Where is [Alcalá] Street?
(DON-day es-tah la ka-yay de al-cal-AH?)
If you are asking someone on the street for directions, don’t forget your manners! To get someone’s attention, start by saying:
Disculpe – Excuse me
Con permiso/Perdóname – Excuse me
(Con per-MEE-soh / Per-DOH-nah-may)
Estoy perdido – I’m lost
Asking for directions is one thing but it’s pretty pointless if you don’t know how to understand the directions that are given to you!
Memorize these phrases to help you understand what the friendly locals are trying to tell you when you ask for their help:
Aqui – here
Allí – there
A la derecha – on the right
(A la de-RE-cha)
A la izquierda – on the left
(A la iz-kee-ER-da)
Derecho – straight ahead
En la esquina – at the corner
(En la es-KEE-nah)
A una cuadra – in one, two, three, four blocks
(A oo-na kwAD-rah)
If you’re not keen on walking everywhere, you will need to be able to find out about local transport options to find your way around wherever you are.
Here are a few simple phrases you can use to locate a bus, train or taxi and get to wherever you need to go:
¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi? – Where can I get a taxi?
(DON-day pway-doh en-kon-trar oon taxi?)
¿Dónde está la parada de autobús más cerca? – Where’s the nearest bus stop?
(DON-day eh-STAH la pa-RAH-dah de oww-to-BOOS mas SER-ka?)
¿Dónde está la estación de ferrocarril más cerca? – Where’s the nearest railway station?
(DON-day eh-STAH la es-tah-see-ON de ferro-carr-EEL mas SER-ka?)
¿Cuánto cuesta un billete para … ? – How much does a ticket to … cost?
(KWAN-ta KWES-ta oon bee-YET-ay pa-ra …)
Un billete para … , por favor. – A ticket to … please.
(oon bee-YET-ay pa-ra … por fa-vor)
At A Restaurant
Each Spanish speaking country has its own unique flavours and cuisine for you to try when your travel!
To start with, you need to be prepared to hear and understand certain questions in restaurants, such as:
¿Quieres algo para comer? – Would you like something to eat?
(kee-EH-res AL-go pa-ra koh-mer?)
¿Quieres algo para beber? – Would you like something to drink?
(kee-EH-res AL-go pa-ra beh-ber?)
¿Qué quieres comer? – What would you like to eat?
(KAY kee-EH-res koh-mer?)
When you read the menu, you'll see the available food grouped into different categories, just like in an English menu:
una entrada – an appetizer
un plato principal – a main dish
(oon pla-toh prin-si-pal)
un postre – a dessert
una bebida – a drink
When you're ready to order, use either quiero (I want) or quisiera(I would like) with the items on the menu to tell the waiter what you'd like. For example, quiero…
una sopa – soup
una ensalada – salad
el pollo – chicken
la carne – the meat (beef)
una agua – water
un café – coffee
If you're not sure what to try, you can always ask your waiter for a recommendation:
¿Qué me recomienda? – What do you recommend?
(Kay may re-kom-ee-en-dah?)
Finally, let's learn a couple of quick phrases you can use to ask about prices.
Key Spanish Question Words
Here are some key Spanish question words you need to know:
¿Quién? – Who?
¿Qué? – What?
¿Dónde? – Where?
¿Cuándo? – When?
¿A qué hora? – When/what time?
(A kay AW-ra?)
¿Por qué? – Why?
¿Cómo? – How?
¿Cuánto? – How much?
¿Cuántos? – How many?
¿Cada cuánto? – How often?
¿Por cuánto tiempo? – How long?
(Por KWAN-toh tee-em-poh)