Common Phrases in Spanish to Survive a Conversation

If you’re planning to take a trip in a Spanish-speaking country and don’t know Spanish yet, it’s time to equip yourself with the basics — including courteous amenities. In Costa Rica, for example, the people are very open and patient with tourists, yet they still place value on being respectful and pleasant to everyone. Whether you’re traveling across the country or just passing through town, here are some common phrases in Spanish to survive a conversation.

  1. Use common greetings.

Even when meeting your peers informally, you’ll find that Costa Ricans use pleasant greetings:

  • Buenos días/ buen día / buenas tardes/ buenas noches: These greetings mean respectively ‘Good morning,’ ‘good afternoon,’ and ‘good day.’
  • Buenas: Local ticos use this abbreviated greeting at any time of the day.
  • Note: In Costa Rica, it’s common to use buenas or adiós both as a quick greeting and brief farewell when you’re are not intending to stop.
  1. Know the niceties.

Colloquialisms, slang, vulgarities, and other colorful aspects of informal speech shouldn’t be used in passing unless the moment specifically calls for it. So when you’re navigating your way around town, keep in mind general Costa Rican etiquette. Here are some phrases you’ll hear often in Costa Rica which convey the niceties:

  • Mil gracias / muchísimas gracias: many thanks (literally a thousand thanks).
  • (Con) mucho gusto / mucho, mucho gusto / muchísmo gusto: All these phrases mean ‘with great pleasure.’ In response to ‘thank you,’ it’s common to hear variants of mucho gusto in Costa Rica instead of de nada, the standard reply in other Spanish-speaking countries.
  • Disculpe: ‘Pardon me’ is frequently used when you approach someone to ask for something.
  1. Ask delicately.

When placing an order, avoid using straight-out commands like ‘give me…’ Here are the best options:

  • ¿Me puede dar …? Can you give me….
  • ¿Me podría dar …? Could you give me….
  • Quisiera:  I would like….  (Avoid the very direct quiero which means ‘I want….’)
  • Me gustaría: I would like (literally, ‘it would please me’).

For example:

  • Disculpe, ¿Cuánto cuesta? Excuse me, how much does [it] cost?
  • ¿Cuánto pide? How much are you asking for?
  • Disculpe, ¿me puede decir dónde está el restaurante?: Excuse me, can you tell me where the restaurant is?
  1. Saying goodbye 
  •  Adiós: This expression means goodbye when you’re not going to see somebody again.
  • Chao: This word is more familiar, but you hear it a lot in passing in Costa Rica.
  •  Hasta luego / nos vemos: These more informal phrases mean respectively ‘until later’ and ‘until we see each other.’ You may hear them frequently among young people in passing.

To learn more about how to have a conversation with someone in Costa Rica, enroll a Spanish total immersion program with the Costa Rican Language Academy (CRLA), one of the best Spanish language schools in Costa Rica. You’ll find:

  • Opportunities to make friends with students from all over
  • Expert instructors with degrees from the best Costa Rican universities
  • CRLA’s unique, proven teaching methodology
  • Homestay opportunities with experienced, successful host families
  • Service learning and volunteer opportunities
  • Cultural courses in dance and cooking
  • Customized courses with flexible schedules
  • Day excursions
  • Assistance with independent travel arrangements

For more information on how you can study abroad in Costa Rica with CRLA, please contact us.