Learn to speak like a porteño: 5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires

When you first move to another country everything seems so new and different: the streets, the houses, the people… and the language! However, if you start paying attention, it is incredible how people repeat the same expressions over and over again.

At least, this is what happened to me after a couple of months in Buenos Aires. Truth is that I'm a bit of a language nerd when it comes to Spanish.  By so far Argentina has fulfilled my eager to learn new words and phrases, however, it has also drawn my attention to a different use of words I already knew.

The porteños, e.g. the citizens of Buenos Aires, keep on saying the same expressions without even noticing. As if it was the most normal thing in the world because… Well, everyone else says it!

So here is my little guide to how you learn to speak like a porteños with 5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires:

5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires
1. Mira vos

Literally translated it means “look at you” but the meaning is not that you should take a look at yourself. It is better understood in the context where it is used.

Mira vos it used when a person is introduced to new and surprising piece of information but basically don’t really know how to respond to it. Sometimes it is also just used as a way of showing that you are paying attention to what the other person is saying.

It is a phrase of exclamation, and would properly be best translated to English as something like “no shit” or “you don’t say so”. Usually it is said with a good amount of surprise to add a little more attention or drama to the conversation.

Of course, the use of vos is a particular and common Argentine thing which just makes this one so much more porteño!


5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires
2. Qué sé yo

This phrase has to be pronounced in a slightly sprawling way with a strong emphasis on the last part: Qúe sé yooo. The English translation is “what do I know”, which also is its porteño meaning.

Generally, it is used when a person is not be too comfortable in his or her argument or wants to leave the conservation open for other to comment on.

At my classes at the university I hear it a lot when a student has tried to make a statement but aren't sure they got it right, then they add a qué sé yo to sort of soften up their discourse. Equally some of the teachers use it to make an opening for more debate.


5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires
3. Qué buena onda

The word onda can best be translated as “vibe”. However, even when knowing that, qué buena onda (e.g. how good vibe) does not make a lot of sense…

So better forget a bit about the literal translations. The expression is used when something is done with good intentions or in a good way. It can be anything: how your boss acted to the teacher giving you a good grade to the way the taxi driver drove.

Whereas, on the other hand qué mala onda is used when something is done in a negative way.

Well, you can decide whether this blog post is buena onda or mala onda?


5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires
4. ¿Viste?

¿Viste? the guy in the bike shop says to me as he fixs my bike. Es facil (e.g. it is easy), he adds.

¿Viste? is used as a way of underlining your point of view, and translated directly means “do you see?”. It is commonly used to end a phrase as a way of saying "do you see I was right".

It is a completely overused word in Argentina, so you can be more than sure to hear it at least a couple of times.


5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires
5. La puta que te parió

Let's finish off with a bad one! In general, Spanish – no matter country or region – is filled with all kinds of phrases for swearing, and Argentine Spanish is no exception!

A favorite in the streets of Buenos Aires seems to be la puta que te parió. Literally translated "the hore who gave birth to you". Truely, not a very nice phrase. And then it is just used for all kinds of swearing…


Now it is your turn; what is your favorite phrase from Buenos Aires? Which ones do I miss? Leave a comment below 🙂

5 phrases you will hear all the time in Buenos Aires
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  1. Eleonora Kiffer

    Saved as a favorite, I love your web site!|


    1. Rebecca

      So happy to hear that Eleonora! Thank you!


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