basic spanish words


Planning a trip to a Spanish-speaking country? Chances are you’ll meet some locals who can speak English. But starting a conversation with them in Spanish will make a huge difference to your traveling experience. 

No doubt, knowing some common Spanish words and phrases will help you be on the firm ground even if you’re just at the very beginning of your language learning journey. And don’t worry about making mistakes or fast speech rate of the language. Spanish people are amiable, so they’ll highly appreciate your efforts and try to understand you and speak slowly. Just do your best!

Here are some basic Spanish phrases for you to get you started. If you want to start mastering your language skills right away, try to use language learning apps, listen to the Spanish podcasts or study online with Preply. 

Learning a language on platforms like Preply helps you save your time and speak with native speakers right from your home. You’ll learn Spanish with a private tutor at a time which suits you the most via the video chat right from your device. So why not give it a try! 

We have online tutors in more than 50 languages.

We have online tutors in more than 50 languages.

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Introduce Yourself in Spanish Using These Words and Phrases

If you want to introduce yourself, you can say:

  • Mi nombre es — My name is

But you can also start with another simple Spanish word “soy” which means “I am”. For example:

  • Hola, soy Markus — Hi, I’m Markus

To ask the name of a person you’re talking to, you can say:

  • ¿Cómo te llamas? — What is your name?

When you’re introduced to someone, you should say “mucho gusto”. Its literal translation is “pleasure”. Although it sounds too formal in English, this important Spanish phrase can also be translated as “nice to meet you”.

Here are more simple Spanish phrases to use when you need to talk about yourself:

  • (Yo) tengo … años — I am … years old.
  • (Yo) soy de — I come from


Common Spanish Words and Phrases to Start a Conversation (and Keep It Going)

Of course, you can’t expect to have some small talk without knowing some Spanish greetings. One of the most popular words in Spanish is “hola” which means “hi” or “hello”. You can also use the following Spanish expressions:

  • Buenos días — Good morning
  • Buenas tardes — Good afternoon
  • Buenas noches — Good evening / Good night

To keep the conversation going, it’s time to ask “how are you”. Here are some basic Spanish questions that come after greeting:

  • ¿Cómo está usted? — How are you? (formal)
  • ¿Cómo estás? — How are you? (informal)
  • ¿Qué tal? — How are you? (informal) / What’s up?
  • ¿Cómo te va? — How’s it going?
  • ¿Qué haces? — What are you doing?
  • ¿Qué pasa? — What’s happening?

If someone asks you one of these questions, you can use the following conversational Spanish phrases:

  • Bien, gracias — Good, thank you
  • Como siempre — As always

And also don’t forget about this fundamental follow-up question:

If you feel like it’s time to switch to English, you’re free to clarify whether the person you’re talking to speaks English or not. Just say “¿Habla inglés?” that is used for “Do you speak English?”.


Basic Spanish Vocabulary to Express Politeness

No matter what your mother tongue is, the simple words of politeness always go a long way. These Spanish phrases will surely come in handy during the conversation if you don’t want to offend anyone:

  • ¡Gracias! — Thank you!
  • ¡Muchas gracias! — Thank you very much!
  • ¡De nada! — You’re welcome! / No problem!
  • Por favor — Please (generally used at the end of a sentence)
  • ¡Disculpe! — Excuse me! (to apologize in advance for being a bit of a bother)
  • ¡Lo siento! — Sorry! (to apologize for a mistake)



Ask Simple Questions with These Spanish Words

If you want to make your conversation with other people really effective, you have to know how to ask questions. So, here is a list of Spanish question words you need to memorize right away:

Pay attention that question words in Spanish always come with an accent and opening as well as closing question mark. 

Just imagine that you’re abroad. What should you do when you suddenly need to ask for help? Or if you want to buy something at a souvenir shop? In this case, it’s crucial to know basic Spanish sentences (questions and answers) so that you’ll be able to keep the conversation flowing or cope with problems once they crop up.

Common Spanish questions (& answers)

Here are some examples of questions you have to learn:

  • ¿Qué hora tienes? — What time is it?
  • ¿De dónde viene? — Where are you from?
  • ¿Dónde vives? — Where do you live?
  • ¿Puede ayudarme? — Can you help me?
  • ¿Podría ayudarle? — Can I help you?
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta eso? — How much does it cost?
  • ¿Qué hora tienes? — What time is it?
  • ¿Entiende? — Do you understand?
  • ¡Puede repetirlo! — Can you say that again?
  • ¿Qué significa [word]? — What does [word] mean?
  • ¿Puedes hablar más despacio? — Can you speak slowly?
  • ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi? — Where can I find a taxi?
  • ¿Dónde está [hotel’s name] hotel? — Where is [hotel’s name] hotel?

And of course, you should know what to answer:

  • ¡Sin problema! — No problem!
  • No entiendo — I don’t understand!
  • No (lo) sé — I don’t know!
  • No tengo ni idea — I have no idea!
  • No hablo español — I don’t speak Spanish
  • Estoy perdido — I’m lost
  • Mi español es malo — My Spanish is bad


Common Spanish Verbs: have, need, want

With this list of Spanish verbs, you’ll have a firm foundation for creating sentences in different circumstances. Basic Spanish for travelers is based on these simple words: to have (tener), to want (querer), to need (necesitar)

If you want to ask whether someone has something you need, you may say “¿Tienes…?” followed by a necessary noun. When you’re at the hotel, you might ask the receptionist;

  •  ¿Tienes las amenidades de baño? — Do you have bathroom amenities?

You could also say “necesito” if you need something. Are you at the railway station and want to buy a ticket? Just say:

  • Necesito un boleto a Seattle — I need a ticket to Seattle

Any time you want something, you can say “quiero”. For example:

  • Yo quiero un café — I want a cup of coffee

Using these uncomplicated constructions, you’ll be easily understood and find a way out of any situation. Just add the right noun to the required verb, but don’t forget to conjugate it correctly.


Want to know how to conjugate Spanish verbs? Check out our article “The Ultimate Guide to Spanish Conjugations”.


Useful Spanish Words and Phrases for Special Occasions

There are various expressions in Spanish used for special occasions. These phrases are perfect for events like birthdays, party or dinner with friends:

  • ¡Feliz Cumpleaños! — Happy Birthday!
  • ¡Felicitaciones! — Congratulations!
  • ¡Diviértete! — Have fun!
  • ¡Buen provecho! — Bon appetit!
  • ¡Bienvenidos! / ¡Bienvenidas! — Welcome!


Spanish Words and Phrases to Say Goodbye

It’s always hard to say goodbye, especially if you don’t know how to do it properly. Here are some popular Spanish phrases to help you end a conversation:

  • Hasta luego — See you later (most likely today)
  • Hasta mañana — See you tomorrow
  • Nos vemos — See you (informal)
  • ¡Cuídate mucho! — Take care!
  • ¡Tenga un buen día! — Have a nice day!
  • ¡Hasta luego! — See you soon!
  • ¡Buen viaje! — Have a good trip!


Final thoughts

So now you have the right key words to help you get started on your Spanish language journey. With these useful phrases, you’ll soon find yourself having your first conversation with a native Spanish speaker.

The best way to learn these words is by practicing regularly. Preply offers 1-on-1 lessons with native Spanish tutors, so you can easily find an expert and start putting your knowledge into practice right away.

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