76 Useful (Castilian) Spanish Conversation Words They Don’t Teach You in School

One of the hardest parts on your journey to fluency in a language is just that—having the language literally “flow” off your tongue in conversation. You’re always going to sound like you’re a foreigner as long as you use disjointed, robotic speech and hesitate from one phrase to the next, even if you manage to communicate whatever message you’re trying to get across with the correct vocab or grammar.

Ferrol Is Cool street art in Ferrol, Spain

If you want to take the next the step toward having natural, fluid speech in Spanish, you’ve got to have a firm grasp on the kind of words that help you have a back-and-forth conversation with someone—words that you rarely get taught when taking formal classes in school.

I’ve put together a list of 76 extremely useful words, phrases, expressions, and interjections that Spaniards commonly sprinkle into things to show they’re interested in whatever you’re talking about. These words are crucial to have a conversation with someone, but they’re sadly not often touched on in Spanish classes in favor of vocab tests that hammer classroom words like geografía or pupitre into your head.

At the very least, with the list below you’ll be able to fake knowing what’s going on when you really have no idea what a group of people are talking about. Responses like ¡hala! and ¡qué morro tiene! will do wonders for your Spanish if you’re currently just sitting there quietly smiling and nodding.

  • Algo así – something like that
  • ¡Anda! – alright!
  • Así que – so (that) (subordinating conjunction); ex., Casi no llego a fin de mes, así que no salgo esta noche (“I’m trying to make ends meet this month, so I won’t be able to go out tonight”)
  • Avisar – to let (someone) know; ex. Avísame cuando puedas hablar (“Let me know when you can talk”) (use this construction instead of the word-for-word *Déjame saber)
  • ¡Ay! – ugh!
  • ¡Buah! – meh…/yikes! ex. Buah, se me pasó fatal el finde (“Meh, my weekend sucked”) or Se me ha derramado el vino // ¡Buah! (“I spilled my wine // Yikes!”)
  • Buenas – generalized informal afternoon greeting, shortened from buenas tardes/noches
  • Bueno – well (as a filler word); ex., Bueno, él no me cae muy bien (“Well, I don’t like him that much”); Pero bueno – but anyways; ¡Bueno! – come now! ex., Andalucía es tierra de vagos // ¡Buenooo! (“Everyone’s so lazy in the region of Andalucía // Watch it!”)
  • ¡Buf! – oof!
  • ¡Chau! – common way to say goodbye, especially in Galicia (derived from Italian ciao)
  • Claro – of course/right, shortened from claro que sí
  • ¿Cómo se dice…? – how do you say…?
  • ¿Cómo se escribe…? – how do you spell…? (lit. “write”)
  • ¿Cómo? – come again?/I’m sorry, what? (polite)
  • Con permiso – excuse me (con often omitted) (when squeezing past someone)
  • Convenir bien – to work well (for someone); ex., ¿Te conviene bien quedar a las ocho? (“Does meeting up at 8 work well for you?”)
  • ¿De verdad? – really?/is that so? (de often omitted)
  • Digamos – let’s say/if you will
  • Dime – hello (when answering the phone)/how can I help you? (when helping a customer) (lit. “tell me”)
  • Disculpa – excuse me (when asking a stranger a question)
  • ¿Eh? – huh? (very impolite/informal)
  • En fin – anyways (used to break up an awkward silence) (lit., “in the end”)
  • En plan – like/as/in this way (used very frequently as a crutch/filler word by young Spaniards); ex., Algún día tenemos que hacer una comida en plan…picnic (“Someday we oughta plan a, uh, picnic-style dinner”)
  • ¿En serio? – for real?/are you serious?
  • Escucha – listen; ex., Escúchame—yo no voy a hacer nada de nada (“Listen—I ain’t gonna do nothin’ ”)
  • Espera — wait; espérate — hold on
  • Fulano – so-and-so/what’s-his-name; ex., Pasaba por Malasaña cuando se me encontré con fulanito, el del bar de abajo (“I was walking around Madrid’s neighborhood of Malasaña when I ran into what’s-his-name from the ground-floor bar”)
  • ¡Genial! – awesome!/nice!
  • Hacer falta - to be lacking (more natural-sounding than the very direct necesitar); ex., Nos hace falta el cubierto (“We need some silverware”)
  • ¡Hala! – let’s go!/wow!/heck yeah!; ex., ¡Hala Madrid! (“Let’s go Real Madrid!”) or ¡Saqué un 10 en el examen! // ¡Hala! (“I aced my test! // Nice going!”)
  • ¡Hasta luego! – see you later/bye (used instead of adiós, which implies it’s goodbye forever)
  • ¡Hombre! – mmhmm/you’re telling me/it’s not quite like that (lit. “man”); ex., ¡Los recortes nos van a machacar! // Hombre… (“The government’s budget cuts are gonna crush us! // Yep… [implied: and we knew this would happen because the governing party is the worst]”) or Los caracoles me dan un asco que vomito // Hombre, no están tan horribles (“Escargot makes me throw up, they’re that disgusting // C’mon man, they’re not so bad”)
  • ¡Huy! – ope! (said when stumbling in a crack in the sidewalk, dropping something, etc.)
  • Lo que pasa es que… – the thing is…/what had happened was… (useful when stalling for time to think up an excuse) (lit. “that which happens is that”); ex., ¿¡Qué has hecho!? // Lo que pasa es que… (“What have you done? // So, the thing is…”)
  • Lo siento – I’m sorry (lit. “I feel it”); Siento que… – I’m sorry that + subjunctive; ex., Siento mucho que se muriera tu gato anoche (“I’m really sorry that your cat passed away last night”)
  • Madre mía – omigosh (lit., “Mother of mine”)
  • Mira – look; ex., Mira, la culpa no es mía, que tú lavabas los platos el día anterior (“Look, it’s not my fault, since you were doing the dishes the other day”)
  • Molar – to be cool; ¿Mola mucho, eh? – pretty cool, right? ex., Tus tenis nuevos molan mucho (“Your new tennis shoes are really cool”)
  • Montón/mogollón – a lot; ex., He traído conmigo un mogollón de camisas por si acaso quiero cambiarme el look (“I packed a ton of shirts just in case I feel like changing up my outfit”)
  • No me importa – I don’t care (lit. “it’s not important to me”)
  • No sé qué, no sé cuánto – blah blah blah (lit., “I don’t know what, I don’t know how much”); ex., Me estaba dando la lata toda la tarde, preguntándome no sé qué no sé cuánto (“He was getting on my nerves all afternoon long, asking all sorts of stuff I can’t even remember”)
  • O sea – I mean/that is (lit., “or it may be”); ex., Hablo inglés—o sea, lo controlo bastante bien, pero la ortografía me fastidia (“I can speak English—I mean, I have a pretty good grasp on it, but I’m screwed when it comes to spelling”)
  • Ojalá – I hope so (lit., “oh Allah/God-willing”); Ojalá que… – I hope that + subjunctive; ex., Ojalá que puedas tomar algo con nosotros (“I hope you can grab a drink with us”)
  • ¡Oye! – hey! (trying to get a friend’s attention) (lit., “hear!”)
  • Perdón – sorry (for accidentally bumping into someone)/sorry (when confused) (lit., “forgiveness”)
  • ¿Perdona? – excuse me (when trying to get someone’s attention)/I beg your pardon?/well, excuuuse me (sarcastically) (lit., “forgive [me]”)
  • Pues – well/so (as a filler word)/then; ex., ¿Qué pasó al coche que te compraste hace un par de años? // Pueees, es un poco complicado (“Whatever happened to that car you bought a few years ago? // Sooo, it’s a little complicated”) or ¡Tengo muy buenas noticias! // ¡Pues, dímelas! (“I’ve got some great news! // Then tell me!”)
  • ¿Qué? – what? (impolite)
  • ¡Que aproveche! – bon appétit! (said as part of good manners whenever someone receives their meal at a restaurant or whenever you see someone eating)
  • ¡Qué asco! – gross/nasty! ex., He visto correr por el pasillo una decena de cucarachas // ¡Qué asco! (“I saw about ten cockroaches running down the hallway // Eww!”)
  • ¡Qué barbaridad! – that’s awful! (lit. “what barbarity!”); ex., Se murió un turista británico de visita en Mallorca en un acto de balconing // ¡Qué barbaridad! (“A British tourist on holiday in Mallorca died while jumping off a balcony into a pool // That’s just horrendous!”)
  • ¡Qué bueno! – great!
  • ¡Qué chulo! – sweet!
  • ¡Qué fuerte! – that’s crazy!/I’m shocked! (lit. “how strong!”); ex., He visto a mi ex dos veces en la calle hoy // ¡Qué fuerte, tía! (“I saw my ex two times while I was out and about today // Girl, that’s insane!”)
  • ¡Qué guay! – cool!
  • ¡Qué lástima! – what a shame/for Pete’s sake; ex., Se ha cerrado el súper temprano hoy // ¡Qué lástima—iba a hacer la compra antes de la fiesta! (“The supermarket closed early today // Aww, man! I was gonna buy some groceries before the holiday!”)
  • ¡Qué maravilloso! – wonderful!
  • ¡Qué morro tiene/tiene mucho morro! – they have some chutzpah/a lot of nerve; ex., ¡Nos han subido la factura de la luz en pleno verano! // ¡Qué morro tienen! (“They jacked up our electric bill in the middle of summer! // They got a lot of nerve doing that!”)
  • ¿Qué pasa/qué pasó? – what’s going on? (lit. “what’s happening/what happened”)
  • ¡Qué pena! – that’s too bad (lit. “what pain!”); ex. Dimite la jefa mañana // ¡Qué pena! Es muy maja (“Our boss is resigning tomorrow // That’s too bad—she’s such a great person”)
  • Que sí/que no – for sure/no way (when disagreeing with someone); ex., No hay una tintorería en esta ciudad // Que sí—está al lado de Correos (“There’s no dry cleaner in this city // Sure is; it’s right next door to the post office”) and Te voy a pedir otro chupito más // ¡Que nooo! (“I’m gonna order you another shot // No you’re not!”)
  • ¿Qué tal? – what’s up? ¿Qué tal…? – how’s…? ex., ¿Qué tal tu fin de semana? (“How was your weekend?”)
  • ¡Que te lo pases bien! – have a great time!
  • Quedar – to meet up; ex., Quedamos en el bar Manolo a las 8 y pico (“Let’s meet up at Bar Manolo a little after 8”)
  • Quería – I’d like (less stilted than quisiera, less roundabout than me gustaría)
  • Tal cosa – such-and-such (lit. “such a thing”)
  • Tener ganas – to feel like (when wanting something); ex., Tengo ganas de echarme una siestecilla (“I feel like taking a catnap”)
  • Tío/tía – dude/girl (when talking to someone) (lit. “uncle/aunt”)
  • ¡Toma! – get it! ex., Has ganado el premio // ¡Toma! (“You just won a prize // Alright!”)
  • Vale – O.K. (lit. “it’s worth it”); ex., Abrimos dentro de unos minutitos // Vale (“We’re opening in just a few minutes // Okay”) or Te corto las hojas del puerro, ¿vale? // Vale (“I’m gonna chop off the green parts of the leek for you, is that fine? // Sure”)
  • Vamos a ver – let’s see (vamos often omitted); ex., Vamos a ver, ¿dónde será ese boli que usaba hoy? (“Let’s see, now where did that pen I was using today run off to?”)
  • ¡Vaya! – wow/whoa/c’mon; ¡Vaya…! – what a… (pejorative); ex., ¡Vaya semana! (“What a week!”)
  • ¡Vaya tela! – what a nightmare!
  • Y todo eso – and all that/etc./and so on
  • Ya – yeah/uh-huh (active listening word) (lit. “now/already”); ex., Y me dijo—no van a soportarlo nunca más // Ya // Pero nunca (“And he said to me, ‘They aren’t gonna put up with that any longer’ // Uh-huh [nodding head in agreement] // And they mean it”)
  • ¿Yo qué sé? – but what do I know?/who knows?; ex., Tiene que estar en la calle sur, ¿pero yo qué sé? (“It’s most likely on the street to the south, but I don’t know for sure”)

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