Spanish For Dummies
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Speaking Spanish requires you to keep tabs on all sorts of topics: essential words and phrases, basic Spanish questions, and the proper gender of articles. Plus, if you intend to travel, you want to be able to get help and give warnings in the case of an emergency.

Refer to this Cheat Sheet for your Spanish essentials.

Using essential Spanish words and phrases

As with any language, the number of Spanish words and phrases can be intimidating. If you’re just beginning to explore Spanish, you can feign fluency with these essential words and phrases until your Spanish is up to snuff.

  • ¡Hola! (¡oh-lah!) (Hello!)

  • Por favor. (pohr fah-bvohr.) (Please.)

  • Gracias. (grah-seeahs.) (Thank you.)

  • ¿Dónde está el baño? (¿dohn-deh ehs-tah ehl bvah-nyoh?) (Where is the bathroom?)

  • Lo siento. (loh seeehn-toh.) (Im sorry.)

  • ¿Habla usted inglés? (¿ah-bvlah oohs-tehd een-glehs?) (Do you speak English?)

  • No hablo mucho español. (no ah-bvloh mooh-choh ehs-pah-nyohl.) (I dont speak much Spanish.)

  • No sé. (noh seh.) (I dont know.)

  • Claro. (clah-roh.) (I understand. [Literally: Clear.])

  • Adiós. (ah-dee-ohs.) (Good-bye.)

Asking basic questions in Spanish

Knowing how to ask basic questions in Spanish — or any other language — is essential in a global society. To ask for information in Spanish, use these basic Spanish question words and example questions.

  • ¿Quién? (¿keeehn?) (Who?)

  • ¿Qué? (¿keh?) (What?)

  • ¿Dónde? (¿dohn-deh?) (Where?)

  • ¿Cuándo? (¿koohahn-doh?) (When?)

  • ¿Por qué? (¿pohr keh?) (Why?)

  • ¿Cuál? (¿koohahl?) (Which?)

  • ¿Cómo? (¿koh-moh?) (How?)

  • ¿Cuánto? (¿koohahn-toh?) (How much?)

The following are examples of these question words in action that you may find useful:

¿Quién es él? (¿keeehn ehs ehl?) (Who is he?)

¿Qué hace usted? (¿keh ah-seh oohs-tehd?) (What do you do?)

¿Dónde viven ustedes? (¿dohn-deh bvee-bvehn oohs-teh-dehs?) (Where do you live?)

¿Cuándo llegan ellos? (¿koohahn-doh yeh-gahn eh-yohs?) (When do they arrive?)

¿Por qué está usted aquí? (¿pohr keh ehs-tah oosh-tehd ah-kee?) (Why are you [formal] here?)

¿Cuál restaurante es mejor? (¿kooahl rehs-tahooh-rahn-teh ehs meh-Hohr?) (Which restaurant is better?)

¿Cómo es su casa? (¿koh-moh ehs sooh kah-sah?) (How is their house? or Whats their house like?)

¿Cuánto cuesta el boleto? (¿koohahn-toh koohehs-tah ehl bvoh-leh-toh?) (How much is the ticket?)

Distinguishing masculine and feminine articles in Spanish

Like many things in the Spanish language, Spanish articles have either a masculine or a feminine gender that must match the masculine or feminine gender of the Spanish nouns you pair them with. (For example, you say la blusa (lah bvlooh-sah) (the blouse) but el vestido (ehl bvehs-tee-doh) (the dress). Articles in Spanish include the (a definite article) and a, an, and some (indefinite articles).

English Spanish
Masculine Feminine
the (singular) el (ehl) la (lah)
the (plural) los (lohs) las (lahs)
a, an (singular) un (oohn) una (ooh-nah)
some (plural) unos (ooh-nohs) unas (ooh-nahs)

Getting emergency help and giving warnings in Spanish

Emergencies can happen whether you know Spanish or not, so if you’re in a Spanish-speaking area, you need to be prepared to warn others and/or get help in Spanish should an emergency situation arise. Following are some basic Spanish distress-signaling words:

  • ¡Socorro! (¡soh-koh-rroh!) (Help!)

  • ¡Auxilio! (¡ahoohk-see-leeoh!) (Help!)

  • ¡Ayúdeme! (¡ah-yooh-deh-meh?) (Help me!)

  • ¡Rápido! (¡rrah-pee-doh!) (Quick!)

  • ¡Apúrense! (¡ah-pooh-rehn-seh!) (Hurry!)

If you face some sort of disaster, use one of the following words:

  • ¡Incendio! (¡een-sehn-deeoh!) (Fire!)

  • ¡Inundación! (¡ee-noohn-dah-seeohn!) (Flood!)

  • ¡Temblor! (¡tehm-bvlohr!) (Earth tremor!)

  • ¡Terremoto! (¡teh-rreh-moh-toh!) (Earthquake!)

  • ¡Maremoto! (¡mah-reh-moh-toh!) (Tidal wave!)

When giving a warning, you have a choice. In Mexico shout

  • ¡Aguas! (¡ah-goohahs!) (Watch out!)

  • ¡Ojo! (¡oh-Hoh!) (Look out! [Literally: eye])

Everywhere else, yell ¡Cuidado! (koohee-dah-doh) (Watch out!).

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book authors:

Berlitz® has taught languages to millions of people for more than 130 years. Susana Wald is a writer and literary translator in Hungarian, Spanish, English, and French, and she has taught abroad in Chile and Canada. Cecie Kraynak, MA, has taught and tutored Spanish at the junior high school and college levels for more than 25 years. She is the author of Spanish Verbs For Dummies.

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