Are you heading to Argentina? But then suddenly you start to feel a bit anxious about the Spanish part… How was it? Ahola? Or Hola? Fear no longer! I have put this beginner guide to Spanish in Argentina together for you to get started on some of the basic Spanish words and phrases. In this post, we start out with greetings and other formalities.
It is no secret that I turned out to be a bit of a language nerd when it comes to Argentine Spanish as I have already written about some specific phrases in Argentine Spanish you should know before visiting (read more here) or words that will make you sound like a local porteño (read more here). But now, we are brushing up our basic Spanish as I imagine that most of you out there aren’t as crazy-freaky-Spanish-nerdies as me.
Most of the Spanish phrases here will work for other Spanish speaking countries. Even though, there might be a bit of variation in the expressions and way of using it. But well, well, since I happen to live and enjoy the Argentine version of Spanish every day, I decided to make this a special edition on greetings and formalities in Argentina:
Greetings in Argentina
- “Hola” – "Hi"
- “Buenos días” – "Good morning"
- “Buenas tardes” – "Good afternoon"
- “Buenas noches” – "Goodnight"
Just as in English, you will use “buenos días”, “buenas tardes” or “buenas noches” according to the time of the day. It is a bit different when the cut between “día” and “tarde” is. Some will say “buenas tardes” after midday, while other will not start using it until around 3 pm. Something similar happens between “tarde” and “noche”. Thus, usually, it is “noche” after sunset, which means that the afternoon in summer times in Buenos Aires stretches all until around 8 pm – not to speak of how it must be further south in Argentina.
“Hola” is a more standard greeting that can be used all day along. In many other Spanish speaking countries, “hola” is seen as an informal way of greeting, and will typically not be used when speaking to the older generations. However, at least in Buenos Aires, it is completely fine to use “hola” to anybody.
Usually, you will use one of the abovementioned terms when greeting somebody. However, sometimes you might also hear Argentines saying a combination of the “hola” and one of the other mentioned. For example, “Hola, buenos días”.
How to say “how are you” in Argentina?
A very common addition to either of the above-mentioned greetings is one of the following phrases:
- “¿Qué tal?” – "How are you?" or "What’s up?"
- ““¿Cómo estás?” – "How are you?"
- “¿Comó te va?” – "How are you doing?"
- “¿Comó andas?” – "How is it going (with you)?"
- “¿Todo bien?” – "Is everything good?"
- “¿Qué contas?” – "What is new?" or directly translated; "what do you have to tell?"
- “¿Qué haces?” – "What do you do?" or "How are you doing?"
As you can see most of these phrases are different ways of inquiring about someone’s wellbeing. Most of the times, they are used rhetorically as something you say when you walk into a store or jump into a taxi.
“Hola, qué tal?” is the most casual and common greeting, and properly the one you will hear the most not only in Argentina but all over the Spanish-speaking countries.
"Vos" versus "Usted"? What to use in Argentina?
In Spanish, we have to remember that there is a difference between using the informal or formal “you”. All the above mentioned are indirectly using the informal “you”, which in Argentina is “vos” (read more about the use of “vos” here), whereas in other Spanish-speaking countries it is “tú”.
The formal way of expressing “you” is “usted”, and the following phrases are the same as above thus just conjugated with the formal “usted”:
- “’¿Comó está (usted)?” – "How are you?" (formal)
- “¿Comó le va (usted)?” – "How are you doing?" (formal)
- “¿Comó anda (usted)?” – "How is it going with you?" (formal)
- “¿Qué cuenta (usted)?” – "What is new with you? "(formal)
- “¿Qué hace (usted)?” – "How are you doing?" (formal)
Can you see the difference?
Basically, in the informal “you” the verb will end on an s, whereas it formal “usted” doesn't. Nevertheless, especially “¿Comó andas?” and “¿Qué haces?” are more informal ways of addressing somebody, and will, therefore, tend to be used in the first form with the informal “you” (“vos”).
Generally, you will be just fine with sticking to the informal “vos” while in Argentina but it is good to know the difference between the two as some especially of the older generations will prefer to be addressed with the more formal “usted”.
Basic ways to answer a greeting in Spanish
So, when you have been asked in the local supermarket “Hola, buenos días, ¿Cómo te va?”, it is time for you to answer! Anyone of the below mentioned will work just perfectly fine, so it is just for you to choose the one, you feel fits the best:
- “Bien, gracias” – “Good, thanks/thank you”
- “Muy bien, gracias” – “Every good, thank you”
- “Todo bien, gracias” – “Everything is good, thank you”
- “Todo bien, por suerte” – “Everything is good, thankfully”
The last one “todo bien, por suerte” is especially a common way of answering for the older generations.
How to say goodbye in Argentina
You have now learned to greet someone, ask how they are and answer a greeting in Spanish. Now it is time to learn how to say goodbye in Argentina. There are many different ways to say goodbye in Spanish but the most common ones in Argentina are these ones:
- “Chau”– Bye
- “Adios” – Goodbye
- “Hasta luego” – See you later
The “chau” is principally used in Argentina and is a clear example of how the Italian language has been mixed with the Spanish through the many Italian immigrants. Even though, an Italian would spell it “ciao”, the pronunciation is the same.
Other good-to-know formalities in Spanish
Finally, here some other formalities which will help you get around in Spanish while in Argentina:
- “Gracias” – “Thank you” or “Thanks”
- “Muchas gracias” – “Thank you a lot” or ”Thanks a lot”
- “De nada” – “You are welcome” or “It was nothing” (directly translated)
- “Noo, por favor” – “No, please”
- “No te preocupes” or “no le preocupe” – “Don’t worry”
- “¿Permiso?” – “Permission” or “Can I get by?”
When you have said “gracias” or “muchas gracias” for something, most people will answer with “de nada” which actually means “it was nothing” but can better be translated into “you are welcome”. However, in Argentina, many tend to answer with a “no, por favor” which is more like a “no, please (don’t worry about that)”. Nice to know, right? 😉
When you are in a situation either on the street, in the subway or in a store, where you want to ask somebody to get by, you can say “permiso” to let them know that you would like to get by.