30 First Words for Getting By in Spanish

You’ve got some vacation days to use, and you’re headed to a Spanish-speaking country. But you don’t speak any Spanish. While you’ve heard, “Oh, everyone will speak some English,” to be a truly thoughtful traveler, you shouldn’t expect people to accommodate you.  

Recognizing words on signs, reading menus, and being able to ask questions will make your time abroad more meaningful. If you’re not sure where to get started, here are 30 first words in Spanish that can help. You may know more than you think!

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1. gracias – thanks
2. bueno – good - if you’re enjoying your coffee at a local Spanish restaurant, you might say, “El cafe es bueno.” (The coffee is good.)
3. por favor – please – literally “for favor.” Be sure to use this one often!
4. ahora – now – If your fellow traveler is lollygagging at the hotel, you can yell, “¡Vamos ahora!” which means “Let’s go now!”
5. y – and – A good one to know. After all, how are you going to order “cervezas y tapas” if you don’t know that “y” means “and”?
6. que/qué – that/what
7. quién – who
8. porque – because
9. cuesta – cost - “¿Cuánto cuesta?” (how much?)
10. más – more
11. bien – well
12. aquí – here
13. hola – hello
14. dónde – where – This is a good one to know in case you need to ask for directions. You can ask, “Dónde está el metro?” (Where is the subway?)
15. mucho – much
16.cuando – when

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17. si – if – You may be asking yourself, “What’s the difference between ‘si’ and ‘sí’?” That accent mark on “sí” (yes) is used to differentiate it from this “si” (if) as they are pronounced the same. In speaking you will not hear a difference, but if you’re reading or writing it – that’s why you’ll see the accent mark.
18. sí – yes
19. otro – other
20. hora – hour - “¿Qué hora es?” (What time is it?)
21. hasta – until – You’ll often hear this with “Hasta luego” (See you later) and “Hasta mañana” (See you tomorrow.)
22. sin – without – Do you need to order your meal without peppers? Then tell your waitress, “Sin pimientos.”
23. adios – goodbye
24. tambíen – also/too – If your friend exclaims, “¡Me gusta aquí!” (I love it here!) you can chime in and say, “¡Yo tambíen!” (Me too!)
25. hombre – man
26. mujer – woman
27. baño – bathroom
28. grande/gran – big/great
29. pregunta – question
30. ya – already – When you arrive in Seville after visiting Madrid, you can say, “Ya visitamos Madrid.” (We visited Madrid already.)

These 50 words are a great foundation for Spanish, and there’s nothing like using them in real conversation.

Get some practice in Fluent City’s one-day Spanish Travel Workshop, now running in August and through the fall. This crash-course is designed for travelers who want to practice conversation and learn practical ways to get around. Learn more today.