This article sets out key Spanish Language phrases you need for holidays, including how to ask for items in shops, asking directions, ordering food in restaurants and more.

It provides the core phrases you need for any holiday to Spain (or a Spanish speaking country in South America).

Key Spanish Language Phrases for holidays

1. Common Greetings in Spanish

Knowing how to say "hello", "hi" and "goodbye" in the Spanish language is essential for holidays in Spain and the Spanish speaking world. Common greetings are set out below:

  • Hola = Hello/Hi (Pronounced "ola")
  • Buenos días = Good morning
  • Buenas tardes = Good afternoon/evening
  • Buenas noches = Good night
  • Encantado = Nice to meet you (You say this if you are a male)
  • Encantada = Nice to meet you (You say this if you are a female)
  • Mucho gusto = Pleased to meet you
  • Hasta luego = See you later
  • Adiós = Goodbye

If you only have limited time just learn "Hola" and "Hasta luego".

2. Asking how someone is in Spanish

In Spanish, to ask someone "How are you?" you normally ask:

  • To one friend: ¿Cómo estás?
  • To one stranger: ¿Cómo está?

To answer this question as "Well, thanks and you?":

  • When answering one friend you say: bien, gracias ¿y tú?
  • When answering one stranger you say: bien, gracias ¿y usted?

It may seem a little strange that above there are two ways of saying "you" and "How are you?". In Spanish there are in fact four versions of "you", "your", "yourself", etc. It all depends on whether you are talking to one or more than one person and whether you are talking in a formal way or not. For ease of use, questions in this article assume you are asking with one person only.

The above is based on usage in Spain, but will be understood in other Spanish speaking countries too.

There is also the Spanish expression ¿Qué tal? which is very informal. It is the Spanish equivalent of "What´s up?".

3. Asking someone´s name

For information, when you say someone´s name you usually use the verb "llamarse" which translates as "to call oneself".

To ask someone "What is your name?" in Spanish:

  • To one friend you ask: ¿Cómo te llamas? (Literally: How yourself you call?)
  • To one stranger you ask: ¿Cómo se llama? (Literally: How yourself you call?)

As before, the above is based on usage in Spain, but will be understood in other Spanish speaking countries too.

The answer is:

  • Me llamo.... = My name is.... (Literally: I call myself....)

Do not use "me", "te" or "se" in other contexts as "my" or "your". Essentially:

  • "me" means "myself"
  • "te" means "yourself"
  • "se" here also means "yourself", but could also mean "himself", "herself", "themselves" or "yourselves" in some circumstances.

4. Thank you, please and you´ve welcome

The following are useful to know:

  • Thank you/Thanks = Gracias
  • Please = Por favor
  • You´re welcome = De nada*

"De nada" literally translates as  "Of nothing" and is said when someone says "Gracias" to you. It means that it is of no effort.

5. Asking for items in shops

Knowing how to ask for things in Spanish is useful for shopping situations. In shops the following phrases may be useful for you to use:

  • ¿Vende….? = Do you sell….?
  • ¿Tiene….? = Do you have….?
  • Busco…. = I am looking for….
  • Quisiera…. = I would like….
  • ¿Dónde puedo comprar….? = Where can I buy….?
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta?/¿Cuánto vale? = How much does it cost?
  • ¿Cuánto cuestan?/¿Cuánto valen? = How much do they cost?
  • Cuesta/Cuestan…. euros = It costs/They cost….
  • Es demasiado caro/a = It’s too expensive
  • Son demasiado caros/as = They are too expensive
  • Sólo miro = I'm just looking*

* "Sólo miro" is said when you are asked whether you need help (e.g. ¿Puedo ayudarle? = Can I help you?) and you want to say that you are just browsing.

On a separate note "Quisiera" (I would like) could also be used with other verbs, such as:

  • Quisiera pagar = I would like to pay
  • Quisiera mirar(lo) = I would like to look (at it)
  • Quisiera ir a.... = I would like to go to....

As an alternative you could use "¿Puedo? (Can I?):

  • ¿Puedo mirar(lo)? = Can I/May I look (at it)?

6. Useful vocabulary for eating out

Knowing how to order food in a Spanish restruant is useful. Some key Spanish language vocabulary for restaurant situations are:

  • ¿Tiene una mesa libre? = Do you have a table free?
  • Quisiera…. = I would like….
  • De primero, quisiera…. = For the first course I would like….
  • De segundo, quisiera…. = For the second course I would like….
  • De postre, quisiera…. = For dessert I would like….
  • Para beber, quisiera…. = To drink, I would like….
  • La carta, por favor = The menu, please
  • La lista de vinos, por favor = The wine list, please
  • Necesito un tenedor/un cuchillo/una cuchara = I need a fork/knife/a spoon
  • La cuenta, por favor = The bill, please
  • Es una propina = It is a tip

If you are a meat eater, you will be asked at some point how you wish your meat done. This is usually along the lines of:

  • ¿Cómo quiere el bistec/solomillo? = How do you want the steak/sirloin?

To answer how well cooked you want your meat in Spanish you would say one of the following options:

  • vuelta y vuelta = rare
  • poco hecho = medium rare
  • al punto con sangre = medium
  • al punto sin sangre = medium well
  • muy hecho = well done

7. Asking directions

For asking directions in the Spanish language, the most important phrase is “¿Dónde está…?” which means “Where is…?”

Some useful places to learn in Spanish are:

  • El/Un banco (the/a bank)
  • El/Un bar (the/a bar)
  • La/Una estación de tren (the/a railway station)
  • La/Una estación de autobús (the/a bus station)
  • La/Una farmacia (the/a pharmacy)
  • El/Un hotel (the/a hotel)
  • El/Un supermercado (the/a supermarket)

As well as "¿Dónde está?" discussed above, you could alternatively ask "Is there?/Are there?" which in Spanish is ¿Hay? (pronounced approximately as "ay").

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