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  • Judy Schulten

17. Stock up on useful phrases.

Updated: Jan 21

Learn the most common useful phrases. Any tourist book has many to choose from.

First, learn polite phrases:

  • Por favor and gracias.

  • Muy amable.—You are very kind.

  • Hasta luego, Nos vemos—two ways to say good-bye

  • Perdón—I beg your pardon

  • Disculpe—Excuse me

  • Con permiso—When leaving a room, a table or any gathering of people.



These are simple phrases, but important. The Spanish-speaking world takes more time for

everyday courtesies and values them more highly than we do. Greeting someone and saying good-bye in a courteous way is essential. I have to remind myself of this often when I’m in a “Let’s just get it done” frame of mind.

Meet my friend, Berta.

She is completely bilingual, a native speaker of Spanish. She reminds me that the formal “you,” which is “usted,” is always correct and that the familiar “tu” should be used only when the other person suggests it.''


Berta tells a story to illustrate the importance of polite acknowledgement of others: She was

taking her son to the doctor, to a Spanish-speaking doctor. The waiting room was full. When

they walked in the door, everyone in the waiting room greeted Berta and her son, who replied with their own “buenos días” before they sat down. As they left, they again acknowledged the other people in the room.


Learn phrases that are hooks to hang many different words from.


Quisiera ____________+ noun or verb infinitive—I would like______ Quisiera dormir. I would

like to sleep.


Me gusta/no me gusta_____—I like__________/don’t like________ Me gusta café. No me gusta Coca-Cola.


Tengo que _______+ verb infinitive- to have to do something. Tengo que lavar la ropa. I have to wash the clothes.


Tengo __________+ condition word, such as hambre, quince años - I am hungry, fifteen years old


Tengo dolor de___________+ body part, such as cabeza—I have a headache.


The questión words: como, cuanto, donde, cuando, quien, por que-how, how much, where, when, who, why


That doesn’t seem like much. But if you have that much, you can get along, especially if you’ve been learning vocabulary.


Meet Sr. Grosero.

He’s a busy person. He doesn’t waste time with polite greetings and small talk. And, no matter who it is, he calls everyone “tu” immediately. #17 is for Sr. Grosero.


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© 2013-2020 Judith D. Schulten