Spanish Basics: As Easy As Uno, Dos, Tres

spanishbasics¡Bienvenido! Welcome! If you didn’t already know, Spanish is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world and it is also known as a romance language. Fortunately, Spanish is very phonetic, meaning you can typically pronounce a word just by reading it and sounding out each letter. For more of the fundamentals, we offer this excellent language course, Spanish for Beginners. Are you ready to learn some Spanish basics today? Tres, dos, uno, here we go!

Greetings

  • Hello → Hola
  • Good morning → Buenos días
  • Good afternoon → Buenas tardes
  • Good evening → Buenas noches

You will often hear people say just “buenos” or “buenas” instead of the full statement. You can say buenos to greet someone in the morning and buenas during the afternoon and beyond. Now, when you are speaking to someone directly, you may need to determine whether you should use formal spanish or informal spanish. In some Spanish speaking countries, using the incorrect form is disrespectful or awkward, whereas in other countries, the two forms are nearly interchangeable. The formal language is used to show respect to someone who you just met, someone who is older, or someone who is in a more senior position than you. Informal language is generally for friends, family (sometimes), and people much younger than you. Once you’ve greeted the person, there are quite a few ways to continue the conversation and end it gracefully. I have listed just a few of them below.

  • How are things? → ¿Que tal?
  • How are you? → ¿Cómo está/estás?
  • I am well. And you? → Estoy bien. ¿Y tú/usted?
  • So-so. → Asi, asi.
  • What is your name? → ¿Cómo se llama?
  • My name is Eva. → Me llamo Eva/Mi nombre es Eva.
  • Bye → Adios
  • See you later → Hasta luego
  • See you in the morning → Hasta mañana.
  • Nos vemos → We will see each other.

Pronouns

Before you can begin forming sentences and speaking or writing, you must learn the personal pronouns of the language. The vosotros form is used only in certain Spanish speaking countries, but for the most part, you would be using nosotros, ustedes or ellos to describe a group of people.

  • I → Yo
  • You (informal) → Tú
  • He/She → Él/Ella
  • You (formal) → Usted
  • We → Nosotros/Nosotras
  • You all → Vosotros/Vosotras
  • He/She (plural) → Ellos/Ellas
  • They (formal) → Ustedes

Verbs

In Spanish, verbs in their infinitive form typically end in -ar, -er, or -ir, and they usually follow a similar pattern when being conjugated. Let’s conjugate some regular verbs to see how conjugating works.

Hablar: To speak.

  • I speak Spanish→ Yo hablo español.
  • You speak Spanish → Tú hablas español
  • You speak Spanish?→ ¿Usted habla español?
  • We speak Spanish very well.→ Nosotros hablamos español muy bien.
  • You all speak Spanish? → ¿Vosotros habláis español?
  • They speak Spanish → Ellos hablan español

Comer: To eat.

  • I eat pizza → Yo como pizza.
  • You eat pizza? → ¿Tú comes pizza?
  • You eat pizza? → ¿Usted come pizza?
  • We eat pizza → Nosotros comemos pizza
  • You all eat pizza? ¿Vosotros coméis pizza?
  • They eat pizza → Ellos comen pizza.

Escribir: To write.

  • I write books → Yo escribo libros.
  • You write books? → ¿Tú escribes libros?
  • You write books. → Usted escribe libros.
  • We write books. → Nosotros escribimos libros.
  • You all write books? → ¿Vosotros escríbs libros?
  • They write books → Ellos escriben libros.

Now, you can try conjugating a few crucial verbs that you will find very helpful in your day to day use of the language. “Querer” is to want, “comprender” is to understand, “necesitar” is to need, “estudiar” is to study, “visitar” is to visit, “decidir” is to decide and “vivir” is to live.

Next, we will challenge ourselves with a couple of common irregular verbs, ser and estar. In English, they both translate to the phrase “to be,” but in Spanish, they have different meanings. Ser is generally used to describe a permanent situation, whereas Estar is typically more temporary. However, a couple major exceptions to that idea is that ser is used to describe time, and estar is used to describe death.

Ser v. Estar

Estar: To be.

  • I am tired → Estoy cansado.
  • You are tired → Estás cansado.
  • You are tired → Está cansado.
  • We are tired → Estamos cansados.
  • You all are tired → Estáis cansados.
  • They are tired → Están cansados.

Ser: To be.

  • I am tall. → Soy alto
  • You are tall → Eres alto
  • You are tall → Es alto
  • We are tall → Somos altos
  • You all are tall → Sois altos
  • They are tall → Son altos

To distinguish the two, take a look at the following examples.

Estar

  • I am tired. → Estoy cansado.
  • We are in California → Estamos en California.
  • My cat is dead → Mi gato está muerto.

Ser

  • I am a tired person → Soy cansado.
  • We are from California → Somos de California
  • It’s 3 in the afternoon → Son las 3 de la tarde.

Finally, we will cover some basic words and phrases in Spanish that will be useful in just about any situation. These phrases are commonly used and very helpful if you need to communicate a basic message in a Spanish speaking area. Once you get the hang of the words and phrases, you can start to mix and match! If you’re trying to get into more advanced statements for that trip to Cancún, take a look at our Conversational Spanish course.

Spanish Words & Phrases

  • Yes → Sí
  • No → No
  • Please → Por favor
  • Thank you → Gracias
  • You’re welcome → De nada
  • Excuse me → Disculpe
  • Do you speak English? → ¿Habla usted inglés?
  • I don’t understand → No entiendo
  • I don’t know → No lo sé
  • Sorry → Perdón
  • That’s fine → Está bien
  • Good luck → Buena suerte
  • Welcome! → ¡Bienvenido!
  • Where? → ¿Dónde?
  • When? → ¿Cuándo?
  • Why? → ¿Por qué?
  • Who? → ¿Quién?
  • Which? → ¿Cuál?
  • Ok → De acuerdo
  • I want → Yo quiero
  • I would like → Me gustaría

Try looking at this basic conversation below and see if you can make sense of what is going on and the relationship between the two people. Then, create your own dialogues with the words and phrases you learned above. Have some conversations be formal and others informal. Make sure you have multiple people involved in some scenarios so you can practice the different verb forms.

  • Juan: ¡Luisa, hola!
  • Luisa: Juan, buenos. Comó estas?
  • Juan: Muy bien, gracias. Y tu?
  • Luisa: Así, así. Yo estudio para un examen.
  • Juan: Cuál examen?
  • Luisa: Las matemáticas
  • Juan: ¡Buena suerte!
  • Luisa: Gracias, hasta luego.

Once you’ve got the Spanish basics down, move onto an intermediate or advanced course. Our Spanish Tutorial comes in four different lessons for beginners, intermediate, and advanced learners to get you speaking Spanish in no time! If you’re limited on time, but still want to improve your Spanish, we have an excellent course focused on understanding and speaking the language, Quick Spanish. The best approach to learning a language is always immersion. If you cannot travel to the country to full immerse yourself, try creating a Spanish language environment for yourself. You can watch movies and tv in Spanish and label your favorite items around the house with Spanish cue cards! ¡Gracias muchachos y buena suerte! Thank you and good luck!