Learn Argentine Spanish Phrases

January 28, 2013 by · 9 Comments 

A General Overview of Basic Words and Phrases en Español

Basic Spanish Argentina

[Photo credit: Magalie L’Abbe’s Flickr/ /CC BY-NC 2.0]

…or better yet en castellano, as the Argentines call it, since the Spanish spoken today in Argentina could be traced back to Castilla, Spain.  Here are a few of the basics of communication to help facilitate interchange with the locals.   For ordering in cafes and restaurants, check out our Argentine Menu Reader.  And keep in mind that while English is spoken by many in Buenos Aires, saying hello and thank you in the local language is always appreciated.

Helpful words and phrases
Hello / Hi / Hey Hola
Good day / Good morning Buenos días or buen dí­a
Good afternoon Buenas tardes
Good evening Buenas noches
What's your name? ¿Cómo te llamás? / ¿Cómo es tu nombre?
My name is… Me llamo… / mi nombre es…
Nice to meet you. Mucho gusto.
Nice to meet you too. Igualmente.
How are you? ¿Cómo estás?
Fine thanks. Bien gracias.
And you? ¿Y vos?
What's up? ¿Qué tal?
It's all good / everything's good. Todo bien.
Thank you. Gracias.
You're welcome De nada.
Please Por favor
No No
Goodbye  "¡Chau!"
See you later  Hasta luego
Good luck! (Can be used with chau)  "¡Suerte!"

Note that Argentines, instead of asking you cómo estás, will often instead say cómo va (how’s it going), or todo bien? (everything good?).  The best response to both is, of course, todo bien (everything’s good, it’s all good).  Also, Argentines prefer to say goodbye to each other with their version the Italian salutation ciao (chau) instead of adiós, and the latter has a connotation of finality (as if you’ll never see the person again).  Fitting with their proud image, don’t be surprised if a porteño (someone from Buenos Aires) says no, no, por favor! (no, no, please!) after you’ve said gracias; they mean to say “it was nothing” or “my pleasure!”.

El Español

[Photo credit: powerplantop’s Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

Pronunciation Guide

Unlike in English, each vowel in Spanish thankfully makes only one kind of sound!

Vowel Sounds
A ah
E eh
I ee
O oh
U oo
Y ee

Most consonants are pronounced as in English, although a bit softer.  The following are the exceptions, and special combinations:

Consonant Sounds
ll / y sh or soft jhe
rr  rolled r formed by lifting the tongue to top of the palate and making a "purring" sound
r  soft r / a d between two vowels
j  hard h
h  silent
qu  k
ñ  as in canyon
v  somewhere between a v and a b
z  s

Some notes on Rioplatense Spanish

ponetelaspilasRioplatense refers to the region around the Río de la Plata river, and is used by linguists to describe the particular, regional Spanish spoken by most people in Argentina and Uruguay.  Influenced heavily by European immigration, this dialect may initially come as a surprise to even a traveler who is somewhat familiar with Spanish.  Especially interesting is the slang dialect Lunfardo, originally developed by the lower classes (many of them immigrants) and now used by all Argentines.

The most noticeable difference of Rioplatense Spanish is the use of the ll and the y, which is here pronounced as in the English word measure.  Thus calle (street) is pronounced cah-sheh instead of cai-yeh.

The next difference you’ll notice in the local Spanish is the use of the second person pronoun.  While in many places you is , here the second person pronoun is vos, and the formation of the tense changes from llamas (accent on the first a) to llamás (accent on the second a).  To form the vos verb form, take the infinitive (let’s say tener) drop the r, accent the vowel and add an s (vos tenés).  If you have never spoken Spanish, don’t worry too much about this — just focus on learning some useful phrases.  If you have, however, we recommend you take a quick Spanish lesson here in BA, just to get up to speed on this difference.  Or try Speak Spanish BA’s grammar vos breakdown.

Argentine Spanish is pretty informal.  As a result, the formal second person usted is used infrequently (only with the elderly, professors, or someone very distinguished).  You may be taken aback by an Argentine’s abruptness.  For example, when ordering food, they will simply say yo quiero… (I want) and hardly ever me gustaría or yo quisiera (I would like…).  This is not because they are rude, but instead straight forward.  Note also that Argentines gesticulate wildly when speaking, another remnant of the Italian legacy.

The Rio de la Plata region, where Rioplatense Spanish was born

[Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia’s Flickr / CC BY 2.0]

More Useful Words and Phrases

Some common phrases you’ll hear out of the mouth of an Argentine:

Argentine Phrases
che hey/you/dude/mate/friend. Universal interjection (also helpful when you can't remember someone's name)
buena onda good vibes. Can describe a nice person or just mean cool
tal cual exactly / good point
dale ok / great/ sounds good / come on
¿de donde sos? where are you from?
escucháme hey / listen to me


More basic Spanish phrases:

Useful Phrases
¿Donde está…? Where is…?
¿Cuanto sale? How much does it cost?
Yo quiero… I want… (good for ordering in a restaurant)
La cuenta por favor. Check please.
Salud Cheers / bless you (when someone sneezes)
Me gusta / no me gusta I like / don't like
Permiso Excuse me (may I pass?)
Perdón Excuse me (sorry / didn't hear you / can I have your attention?)
¿Hablás inglés? Do you speak English?
No hablo castellano I don't speak Spanish
¿Donde está el baño? Where's the restroom?

To study and review some Spanish before traveling, try some exercises on StudySpanish.com. For more on Rioplatense Spanish, the Wikipedia is actually pretty extensive.  For an alternative experience, try attending a social event with Spanglish Exchange – you never know, you might even make some great Argentine friends this way!

For those serious about learning the language, please consider taking some Spanish Lessons in Buenos Aires, with our teacher friend Patricio.

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