How to sound like a native Spanish speaker with easy expressions

You have been studying Spanish for a while, and you even know how to use the subjunctive! But you still sound like a textbook (“¿Dónde está la biblioteca?”). Here are some expressions in Spanish so that you can sound more natural.

Photo by Artem Bryzgalov on Unsplash

Good morning!

There’s nothing like basic sayings to demonstrate your level of a language. You can mix things up when greeting people, but there’s a word that encompasses all of them: “buenas.” Yes, it means good for the feminine plural form, like “buenas tardes,” but we Spaniards love to use it for everything. You can use it so say hello, hi, good morning, good afternoon, good night, good evening… It is quite colloquial, so don’t use it in your work/university emails (you can still use it at the doctor, you already know we treat each other with familiarity).

How are you?

Let’s forget about “¿Cómo está?”. Is it correct? Yes. Is it used? Yes, but less than what you think. First of all, “¿Cómo está?” uses the formal you (usted), and therefore we would only use it in formal situations (talking to superiors or clients, the elderly, at the bank). The informal version would be “¿Cómo estás?”, which is more common, but a little basic still.

Instead, you can swap it with “¿Qué tal?”. This expression has lots of possible variations: you can say “¿Qué tal estás?,” but also “¿Qué tal todo?” (how ‘s everything?), “¿Qué tal el trabajo/la familia/te va?,” which refer to something specific like work, family, life, and so on. 

Another colloquial way of asking that is typical for acquaintances or when you have to hurry (passing someone in the store or in the street) is “¿Todo bien?” which literally means “everything ok?” in a nice way. In English, it is more used for when you see someone is sad; in Spanish when you don’t really have time to talk.

Expressing surprise

And another useful tip for Spanish conversations is showing surprise. Spanish people are very expressive and like to show surprise for everything. For example, in the following sentence, what can we use instead of “wow!” or its equivalent in Spanish “¡guau!”:

-Hello, Juan. ¿How are you?

-Hey, María. I’m doing great. I’ve just had a kid so I’m very happy.

-Oh, wow! Congratulations!

Well, there are different options. All of the following examples can be used for positive and negative situations, so bear that in mind. One of the options is “¿En serio?” (seriously?), which in Spanish doesn’t have the strong negative connotations that it has in English. You can also say “¿De veras?/¿De verdad?,” the equivalent to “Really?”

For exclamative forms we have two: “¡No me digas!” (no way!), and “¡No jorobes/jodas!,” which is extremely colloquial and uses a curse word, so don’t teach it to your kids!

Finally, there are some short sentences to show surprise which have more negative nuances: “No puede ser” (it can’t be), “No me lo puedo creer” (I can’t believe it). So the previous example would be:

-Buenas, Juan. ¿Qué tal todo?

-Hola, María. Todo bien, acabo de tener un bebé así que estoy muy contento.

-¿En serio?/¿De veras?/¿De verdad?/¡No me digas!/¡No jodas! ¡Felicidades!

Do you have any other alternatives? Tell us below!

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