Learning a new language is really exciting, but it can be intimidating to know how to start putting all those words and grammar together into sentences! If you're learning Spanish, here are four useful phrases to help get you communicating right from the start. You can pair them easily with lots of the new vocabulary you're learning!
This small word that covers a lot of situations! Pronounced like the English word "I," the Spanish word hay means "there is" or "there are."
Use it with: nouns
- Hay una fiesta hoy. (There is a party today.)
- Hay dos camas en la habitación. (There are two beds in the room.)
- No hay tenedores. (There are no forks.)
- Hay un búho enorme en el comedor. (There is an enormous owl in the dining room.)
To make it a question: No change needed! Just raise your voice at the end like we do in English. So ¿Hay una fiesta hoy? means "Is there a party today?"
Behind the scenes: No matter how you look at it, hay is a weird word in Spanish! It doesn't conjugate like other verbs and it's always just hay in the present tense. As you can see in the examples, hay can be used with un and una or with plural words, but not with el or la!
Necesito is a verb that means "I need," and it's really useful because you can use it with nouns (for things that you need) or verbs (for things you need to do).
Use it with: nouns and verbs
- Necesito ayuda. (I need help.)
- Necesito más información. (I need more information.)
- No necesito un suéter. (I don't need a sweater.)
- Necesito caminar un poco más. (I need to walk a little more.)
To make it a question: To ask what someone else needs, you'll say necesitas for "do you need" or necesita if you need to be a little more polite. So, ¿Necesitas agua? means "Do you need water?"
Behind the scenes: The verb necesitar is from the group of Spanish verbs ending in -ar. Like all Spanish verbs, it drops that -ar ending and gets a new one to say who is doing the needing. In the above cases, we use the ending -o for "I," so necesit- + -o becomes necesito for "I need."
This phrase has two parts: tengo (I have) and que, which literally means "that." But when you put them together, this phrase means "I have to [verb]."
Use it with: verbs
- Tengo que regresar hoy. (I have to go back today.)
- Tengo que practicar español. (I have to practice Spanish.)
- No tengo que comer ahora mismo. (I don't have to eat right now.)
- Tengo que salir a las 4. (I have to leave at 4.)
To make it a question: To ask what someone else has to do, you'll use tienes que for "do you have to [verb]?" (or tiene que for the formal version). The question ¿Tienes que salir a las 4? means "Do you have to leave at 4?"
Behind the scenes: The verb tener (to have) is irregular in a few ways, so one way for learners to get the hang of it is to practice just a couple of forms at a time—like tengo for "I have" and tienes for "you have"!
This phrase means "I would like," and it might remind you of the similar phrase me gusta (I like). The ending on gustaría turns "like" into "would like," so it sounds just a bit more polite. That can be really helpful for new learners!
Use it with: verbs (and technically nouns, too, but more often with verbs)
- Me gustaría ir al centro. (I'd like to go downtown.)
- Me gustaría comprar un boleto. (I'd like to buy a ticket.)
- No me gustaría salir temprano. (I would not like to leave early.)
- Me gustaría conocer la ciudad. (I'd like to get to know the city.)
To make it a question: If you want to ask what someone else would like to do, you'll replace me with te for more casual interactions or le for more formal situations. So ¿Te gustaría ir al cine? means "Would you like to go to the movies?"
Behind the scenes: This short phrase actually has pretty complex grammar! Learners will eventually study all the parts of it, but it's definitely ok for beginners to use the phrase as a "chunk" and not worry about understanding the details. (And for you grammar nerds, the me is an indirect object pronoun and the -ía ending is one of the conditional verb endings.)
All the tools you need to get talking!
Look out for these phrases—and words you can use with them!—in your Duolingo lessons. You can also put them and our Spanish pronunciation tips to good use with other learners in Duolingo Classes. Check back for more tips to make the most of your learning!