Preparing a trip to a Spanish-speaking country may be intimidating, as Spanish language is known for being complex and difficult to understand. Fortunately, there are useful tricks and expressions that will make your trip easier. Whether travelling for pleasure or business, these expressions will be useful to review, even if you are already an intermediate Spanish learner.
There is always the option to grab some extra practice before your trip. There is a large amount of web sites in internet where you can practice by talking to a native speaker. There are also awesome online services like Languag3online, where you can book a lesson with a native tutor, and get all the help you need.
- Introducing Yourself using “Ser”, “Estar” and “Llamarse”
Remember “ser” and “estar” are the Spanish translations for “To be”. Ser is used when addressing a permanent feature, like name, profession, and physical description, while “estar” is used when addressing a temporary feature. It includes location, position and mood:
Yo soy Michael – I am Michael
Me llamo Michael – My name is Michael
Soy Abogado – I’m a lawyer
Ella es Mary, es mi esposa – She is Mary, my wife
Soy Vegetariano – I’m a Vegan
Estoy en Argentina de Vacaciones – I’m in Argentina on Vacation
Estoy en Colombia por Negocios – I’m in Colombia for business
Estoy Emocionado por mi viaje – I’m excited for my trip
Estoy Cansado – I’m tired
Estoy Feliz – I’m happy
No hablo español – I don’t speak Spanish
¿Hablas inglés? – Do you speak English?
- Useful phrases when politeness is required
It is always useful to take into consideration whether the situation is formal or informal in Spanish. Most formal situations involve the use of “Usted” plus conjugating the verb to match that pronoun. Remember there is a trick: most conjugations for “Usted” are just like the regular conjugations for “El/Ella”.
Encantado de conocerte – Nice to meet you
Mucho gusto – Pleased to meet you
¿Como está usted? – How are you? (formal)
¿Estoy muy bien, y usted? – i’m fine and you? (formal)
¿Como se llama? – What is your name? (formal)
¿Puede usted ayudarme? /Puede ayudarme? – Could you help me? (formal)
- “Where” Questions in general
Where questions are particularly useful when combined with “puedo” and another verb you want to add (in infinitive). The person you are talking to, will understand you want information about it, but will help you to it too (if possible)
¿Dónde puedo conseguir un teléfono? – Where can I borrow a phone?
¿Dónde puedo alquilar una habitación? – Where can I rent a room?
¿Dónde puedo comprar ropa? – Where can I buy some cloths?
¿Dónde puedo desayunar? – Where can I have some breakfast?
- “Where” Questions when combined with “estar”
Combine “Donde” with “Estar” when you want to know about the location of something or someone.
¿Dónde está el baño? – Where is the bathroom?
¿Dónde está mi habitación? – Where is my room?
¿Dónde están los taxis? – Where are the taxis?
¿Dónde está el Hospital? – Where is the hospital?
¿Dónde está la sala de conferencias? – Where is the conference room?
- “Where” Questions when combined with “quedar”
In some regions, though, it is way more common and sounds more natural to use “quedar” instead of “estar” when talking about location. The following expressions are just equivalent:
¿Dónde queda el baño? –Where is the bathroom?
¿Dónde queda mi habitación? – Where is my room?
¿Dónde queda el Hospital? – Where is the hospital?
¿Dónde queda la sala de conferencias? – Where is the conference room?
- “How” Questions
Use “Como” questions not only to know how to do something, but to imply you need it done too. The person will assume you need help and provide help if necessary.
¿Como puedo rentar una habitación? – How can I rent a room?
¿Como puedo llegar a la playa? – How can I get to the beach?
¿Como puedo pedir un taxi? – How can I order a taxi?
¿Como se escribe su nombre? – How is your name spelled?
- Asking for information using “Hay”
“Hay” is extremely useful to talk about existence/availability of things, as it is a fixed word and it is not conjugated. Notice, then, how it translates to both “there is” and “there are” when we say “Hay una manzana” (there is an apple), and “Hay dos manzanas” (there are two apples). No change!
¿Hay habitaciones disponibles para el lunes? –Are there rooms available for Monday?
¿Hay vuelos disponibles para la semana que viene? –Are there available flights for next week?
¿Hay taxis disponibles para las ocho de la mañana? –Are there taxis available for tomorrow at 8 in the morning?
¿Hay desayuno incluido? – Is breakfast included?
¿Hay opciones vegetarianas? – Are there vegan options?
- Asking for permission and things with “poder”
You can use poder plus a verb in infinitive form to askiabout permission, or to make an indirect polite request.
¿Puedo usar su teléfono? – May I borrow your phone?
¿Puede llamarme un taxi? – Could you please call a taxi for me?
¿Puede despertarme a las siete de la mañana? – Could you please wake me up at 7am?
¿Puede ayudarme? – Could you help me?
- Checking if something may be done with “se puede”
If you are not specifically asking for permission, but you’d rather know if something is allowed in general, you can use the form “se puede”, plus a verb in infinitive form:
¿Se puede fumar aquí? – Is it allowed to smoke in here?
¿Se puede usar la piscina? – Is it allowed to use the pool?
¿Se puede hacer llamadas internacionales? – Is it allowed to make international calls?
- Getting what you want using the verb “querer”
Use “querer” plus a verb in infinitive form (or a substantive), when you want to make a request. For example, in a restaurant or a bar.
Quiero desayunar sándwich de pollo – I wand a chicken sándwich for breakfast
Quiero carne con arroz, vino y café – I want rice, meat, wine and coffee
Quiero usar el baño – I want to use the bathroom
- Getting what you want using the verb “gustar”
“Quiero desayunar frutas” may be a Little bit informal in some situations. You can say the same in more formal environments by using “me gustaria” plus a verb in infinitive form (or a substantive).
Me gustaría desayunar un Sándwich de pollo – I’d like to have a chicken sándwich for breakfast
Me gustaría comer pollo con arroz y café – I’d like to have the chicken, rice and coffee
Me gustaría usar el baño – I’d like to use the bathroom
- Talking about quantity and price
To ask “how much” questions, we use “Cuanto”. When they provide an answer, the will use the verb costar:
¿Cuánto cuesta eso? – How much is it?
¿Cuánto cuestan esos zapatos? – How much are those shoes?
Los zapatos cuestan diez dólares – The shoes are 10 dollars
Eso está muy caro – It is expensive
Eso está barato – It is cheap