I need to know common Spanish phrases for informal conversation.
February 1, 2010 4:15 PM   Subscribe

Can you tell me some common phrases in spanish that are used in everyday conversation? For example, the other day I asked a friend how to say "That works for me" in informal conversational spanish. He said that "sale," "orale," and "ya esta" are all roughly synonymous with the English phrase I used. One obvious point is that none of these is a direct translation. I'm looking for that sort of thing.

I have a decent grasp of Spanish grammar, but I want to know how to communicate in a friendly, informal fashion with Spanish speakers. Can you help me by pointing out some indispensible informal phrases? The sort of thing I'm thinking of is:

- "yeah, whatever."
- "time's up!"
- "shoot the shit"
- "have a good time"
- "no problem"
- "i'll bring it over right away"
- "definitely"
- "hang out"
- "too late"
- "dealbreaker"

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of what I'm looking for. I'd also love to know any longer phrases that bring your conversations together. Really, anything you can think of would help my Spanish. If you find yourself using it a lot, I promise I will use it too. I just want to sound like a human being instead of a robot. Also, I guess I'd rather sound like a Mexican and/or Central American human being than a Spanish one.

posted by kensington314 to Human Relations (24 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Before the answers start flooding in, I would suggest you provide context (e.g. use it in a sentence) to each of the phrases you have asked about. As I'm sure you know, figures of speech vary greatly even with a very subtle change in usage.
posted by randomstriker at 4:20 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh and this is a great blog: Effective Swearing in D.F.
posted by randomstriker at 4:24 PM on February 1, 2010 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Hm. I guess I should clarify that while those are English phrases whose Spanish counterparts I would like to know, it's not out of a specific context or need for those phrases. Maybe some of them don't even have counterparts.

More specifically, I just want to know some common phrases and their rough equivalents in English.

But I don't have limits or context beyond that. Any figure of speech would help me out.
posted by kensington314 at 4:28 PM on February 1, 2010

Response by poster: That is an awesome blog, randomstriker.
posted by kensington314 at 4:30 PM on February 1, 2010

- "yeah, whatever."
Could be: "sí, lo que sea" which is pretty literal or "no importa" meaning: it doesn't matter

- "time's up!"
"Se acabó el tiempo" which is literal but can be shortened to "¡Se acabó!"

- "shoot the shit"
"Pendejeando" - this is extremely literall and informal since it's kind of a bad word. "Perdiendo el tiempo" - also means loosing time.

- "have a good time"
"Que la pases bien"

- "no problem"
"No hay problema" - english speakers for some reason end up saying "No problemo" a lot which sounds weird. You could also say "No te preocupes" which is "don't worry about it"

- "i'll bring it over right away"
"Ahorita te lo traigo" - "Ahorita" is a very important word in spanish ;-) it means in an undetermined time, but quite soon I will do x.

- "definitely"
"Definitivamente" or "Por supuesto" (of course)

- "hang out"
"Quieres juntarte" meaning, "do you want to meet up"

- "too late"
"Demasiado tarde"

- "dealbreaker"
Hmmm this is a hard one... You could say "eso rompe el trato" which literally means "that breaks the deal"

I'm a spanish speaker from Mexico btw. Except for "pendejeando" It's all pretty standard spanish.
posted by Omon Ra at 4:50 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I forgot to add to "shoot the shit". The normal conversation would go something like:

Q: ¿Qué estas haciendo?
A: Aquí, pendejeando

Q: What are you doing
A: I'm here, shooting the shit

Spanish speakers would be amused by that (tho as I said it's an idiom used with friends or acquaintances of your same peer group).
posted by Omon Ra at 4:53 PM on February 1, 2010

"No hay problema" - english speakers for some reason end up saying "No problemo" a lot which sounds weird.

You can blame Bart Simpson for that.
posted by birdherder at 5:04 PM on February 1, 2010

"Va pues." Couldn't give you an exact translation, but just about every Hispanic I know uses it to get off the phone and or wrap up goodbyes as they leave social visits/parties. Kind of the way you or I might say, "well, I'm off" or "well, gotta go."

In school I was taught "lo siento" as "I'm sorry." I get a blank look when I actually use it in my partner's social circles (mostly Central American, but with some Mexicans and Cubans). "Desculpa," or "desculpame" seems to be what they use --"forgive [me]" (less formal)/"forgive me" (for when you're more invested in the apology's acceptance).

I haven't heard "pendejeando," but I'd like to flag it as probably not appropriate for all settings: I'd bet dollars to donuts it comes from the word "pendejo," which seems to mean "dumbass," or something very similar. "Ese pendejo!" [that dumbass!] may be a term of endearment between friends when you're laughing about the "tonteras" [clowning? foolishness? practical jokes???] that went down on the job, but you might get a funny look if you use the word in polite company.

Let me also throw "burlando de [mi/el/ellos]" onto that list of horsing-around terms: It means "making fun of." Like the English version, this can range from anything from good times to downright taunting.
posted by Ys at 6:11 PM on February 1, 2010

When I lived in Spain, the word that I wasn't taught in school but was used a ton was "Vale!" It means ok. People use it a ton there, not sure about other spanish-speaking countries.
posted by kmavap at 6:24 PM on February 1, 2010

YS, yes, pendejeando does come from pendejo which is a very situational word. You would use it with friends in an informal casual conversation. If a friend called me asking what I had been doing all sunday afternoon (aimlessly surfing the web) I could say "Nada, pendejeando".
posted by Omon Ra at 6:30 PM on February 1, 2010

"Shoot the shit" means to just spend time chatting with someone without a specific topic. "Pendejeando" to me would mean something more along the lines of "farting around."

So maybe just something as simple as "platicando" for shooting the shit?
posted by Stewriffic at 6:53 PM on February 1, 2010

kmavap, you are right, "Vale!" is mostly used in Spain, not too much in Mexico, but it's understood. It will give you an European air ;)

kengsington314, most of the phrases you are looking for vary in each country. "Órale" is Mexican, and might not be used in Central/South America.

- "i'll bring it over right away"
"Ahorita te lo traigo" - "Ahorita" is a very important word in spanish ;-)

Absolutely true. Ahorita might mean right now or tomorrow. Many people say "orita" instead of "ahorita". It's also a way of saying whatever:

- Ve a sacar la basura
- Sí, ahorita (and then you never do it)

In Mexican Spanish, mostly DF slang:

- "yeah, whatever": sí, sí... Pronounced "sehh, sehh". It's what teens answer their mothers, it's kind of rude. "Ajá...", said with incredulity.

- "shoot the shit": "estar pendejeando" o "estar echando la hueva"

- "have a good time": "pásala bien" (normal), "pásala chido" (DF slang, not rude but not too classy), "pásala suave" (used in northern Mexico). You could also use "pásatela" or "que la pases..."

- "no problem": "no hay problema" (normal), "no hay pex/no hay pedo". Literally means "there's no fart", so don't use it in polite company. "No hay fijón" and "no hay bronca", both are informal but not rude.

- "hang out": I've heard the verb "hangear" in Puerto Rico. There's no exact equivalent in Spanish. I'd also use "juntarnos" or "hacer algo".

- "definitely": See "a huevo" and "añeñe".
posted by clearlydemon at 6:56 PM on February 1, 2010

My Spanish isn't so great anymore, but if it helps, what you're interested in is idioms.
posted by radioamy at 7:23 PM on February 1, 2010

My spanish is practically non-existent at this point, but when I was studying it years ago, I found the book Breaking Out of Beginner's Spanish very helpful for this sort of thing. I just grabbed it off of my bookshelf and while it's difficult for me to describe the set up, I think that you might find it useful. And as language books go, it's pretty interesting to read. I think that the major drawback is that it's been around for awhile so the slang expressions will not be as up to date as the Effective Swearing in DF. But it's good for those types of expressions that aid that flow of casual conversations. Basically it will help you sound less like you are parroting formal conversations from your average language tape.
posted by kaybdc at 7:37 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm thinking "hablando la verga" (hablando verga?) might be closer to "shooting the shit." I had to ask the girls what it meant, though, because every time I asked a guy they'd turn bright red & find an excuse to leave: it's "talking dick" more or less. Occasionally I hear it referred to as "vergeando," but according to my translator program that means "converging," so I'm not sure how legitimate that verb form is.
posted by Ys at 7:44 PM on February 1, 2010

"hangear": as in "Estamos hangeando" is something young Miami-Cubans would/might say.

Parent: Que vas hacer?
Kid: Voy a hangear con mis amigos.

(Then again, young Miami-Cubans take immense pleasure in speaking a kind of Spanglish in which you conjugate English words the Spanish way and vice versa. It drives the older generation on both sides of the culture-divide completely nuts.)

Also, be careful with "Pendejo" in Cuba it's the word we use for pubic hair. Although the uses here are fine, it would be rude to use with anyone other than close friends. Use it only in settings in which you would be comfortable using "fucker" in English.

Right away: "Ahora mismo" (When Cubans say "orita" it almost certainly means in a little while, I've never heard a Cuban use it to mean "right now." Though I know plenty of Central and South Americans that use it that way.)

In some contexts "too late" would be "ya paso." You'd use it to mean "it already happened."

Definitely: I would use "seguro" or "seguro que si" or "por supuesto" or "claro"or "claro que si" (the last two meaning more like "of course")

You didn't ask for these, but they are similar.

To mean "I have no idea what you are talking about" you could say "Me la pusiste en chino." (literally "You put it in Chinese for me.So I don't understand/have no response.")

To mean something like "He's shameless and can lie to anyone with complete uncaring" you could say "Tiene cara dura" (Literally "He has a hard face"). It's not a compliment.
posted by oddman at 7:57 PM on February 1, 2010

I'm literally crying from laughter at the blog randomstriker linked to: Swearing in DF. It is perfect. The fact the the boy/girl in the mameluco example are called Elber González and Alma Marcela is just brilliant.

Oh, and regarding the actual question: Each city has its own set of answers to your phrases, which may or may not get you beat up, laughed at or gain you instant celebrity should you use them incorrectly. Tread wisely and use colloquial stuff as you learn in naturally.
posted by Cobalt at 8:08 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

What an awesome thread.

Just a note that Mexican TV shows, especially soap operas (telenovelas), are popular all over Latin America. So you will be understood (but not necessarily respected) using chilango slang anywhere.
posted by randomstriker at 12:26 AM on February 2, 2010

A Spaniard's answers, informal register but not really slang. I guess many of them are perfectly sensible in South American Spanish too:

- "that works for me": "por mí, bien", "por mí, estupendo"

- "i'll bring it over right away": "Ahora mismo te lo traigo"

- "yeah, whatever": "da igual", "me da igual", "da lo mismo", "me da lo mismo"
(literally: "it's the same" or "it's the same to me")

- "shoot the shit": "estar de charla" "estar charlando"

- "have a good time": in México it's "pasarla", in Spain it's "pasarlo": "pásalo bien" o "pásatelo bien".

- "no problem": "sin problema" or "no te apures" ("don't sweat it")

- "hang out": confusingly, "quedar" can mean both "to date someone" ("Juan no ha podido venir, ha quedado con su novia") or to meet anyone not romantically ("he quedado para ir al cine con la pandilla")

- "definitely": "seguro"
posted by kandinski at 12:56 AM on February 2, 2010

kadinski reminded me of another one. "me da igual" would be perfectly understood (and used) in Miami and Cuba.

However, we often use "me rosa" when we want to say something like "I couldn't care less." That is when we want to say "whatever" dismissively. (And young Miami-Cubans will say "me rose" first word is Spanish, second word English) to mean the same thing.)

"Me rosa," refers to the way water pours off from a duck's back. So, it's related to, but a bit more biting than, the English phrase "like water off a duck's back."
posted by oddman at 11:12 AM on February 2, 2010

It's a little over the top for day-to-day usage, but "Que suenyas conmigo" is a rather sweet way to say goodbye. I've may have the spelling totally mucked up, but it's a wish to meet in dreamland. Mexican. Literally: "May you dream with [of] me." It doesn't need to be romantically motivated.
posted by Ys at 5:54 PM on February 2, 2010

"Que sueñes conmigo" would be a bit strange coming from somebody other than a bf/gf. Otherwise it sounds a bit creepy. Some people do say "Que sueñes con los angelitos" (May you dream of angels) after somebody declares that they're going off to sleep.
posted by Omon Ra at 5:52 AM on February 4, 2010

I'll remember that, thanks :) A girlfriend said it to me first, but I don't remember the context. She may have been explaining something to me.
posted by Ys at 6:34 AM on February 6, 2010

FWIW: Almost all the cooler/weirder idioms in this thread are regional, and will not necessarily be understood outside of their regions. Mexican Spanish is by no means common in South America, I'd never heard many of the DF expressions listed here.
posted by signal at 12:29 PM on February 15, 2010

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