Mellowing Out Your Requests in Spanish:

How to Say Things in Spanish… Politely

Just as in English, in Spanish there are ways to mellow out your requests. Of course, intonation and body language are important when you want to appear friendly and amable (amiable). In addition, certain ways of speaking can help you to say things in Spanish that are really requests or commands, but at the same time show that you are muy amable (very nice).

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Lets begin with querer (to want). You may have learned the present tense conjugation:

(yo) quiero — (I) want
(tú) quieres — (you) want (familiar)
el, ella, usted quiere — he, she wants and you want (formal)
nosotros queremos — we want
ellos, ellas, ustedes quieren — they want and you [plural] want

In a restaurant you might say:

Quiero una limonada. — I want a glass of lemonade.

If a friend asks if she can offer you something, you might say:

Quisiera un vaso de agua. — I might like a glass of water.

[quisiera is a past subjunctive form: quisiera, quisieras, quisiera, quisiéramos, quisieran]

If what you want is not a thing, but for the other person to do something, a similar strategy may be used by putting the request in question form:

¿Quieres pasarme (alcanzarme) la salsa (por favor)? — Will you pass (reach me) the salsa, please?
¿Quieres acompañarme al cine? — Will you go with me to a movie?

To be even mellower, use the conditional form of querer [conjugation: quería, querías, quería, queríamos, querían]:

¿Querías pasarme la salsa? — Would you like to pass me the salsa?
¿Querías acompañarme al cine? — Would you mind going to a movie with me?

Another way to soften a request is with a lead-in:

A ver si... — Let's see if...
Hágame el favor de... — Do me the favor of...
Favor de... — Please...

Try these Spanish sentences:

A ver si me traes una cerveza. — Let's see if you could bring me a beer.
Hágame el favor de cerrar la ventana. — Do me the favor of closing the window.
Favor de pagar la cuenta en la caja. — Please pay the bill at the cash register.

And here’s how to say things in Spanish even to a complete stranger:

Disculpe la molestia pero... — Forgive the bother, but...

More Spanish sentences:

Disculpe la molestia, pero creo que este es mi asiento asignado. — Pardon me, but I think this is my assigned seat.
Disculpe la molestia, pero quiero ir a la Plaza Central. — Pardon me, but I want to go the Central Plaza [and I don't know how to get there - implied].

A third way to say things in Spanish with amabilidad (kindness) is to tack something on the end, such as ¿no?, ¿eh?, ¿se puede? (can it be done?), ¿puedes? (do you want to?):

Vamos a tomar un cafecito, ¿se puede? — Let's get a cup of coffee, okay?
Préstame tu diccionario, ¿puedes? — Lend me your dictionary, will you?
Manejas, ¿no? — You're going to drive, okay?
No grites, ¿eh? — Don't shout, okay?

Finally, remember that the diminutive suffix on nouns doesn’t just convey smallness, but possibly also endearment or softening of a request for something. For example, all over the Spanish speaking world, people are being asked to wait with this utterance:

¡Espere un momentito! — [Please] wait just a moment!
¡Compre estas galletitas riquísimas! — Buy these extraordinarily delicious cookies!

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¡Hasta lueguito!

How Do You Say “Hello” in Spanish?

Hola

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How do you say “hello” in Spanish? It depends; if it’s an informal greeting, such as, saying “hi” to a friend, you would say:

Hola — Hello or, Hi

Or…

Qué tal? — What's up?

However, if you want to make a good impression to a new friend’s parents — whom you have not yet met — for example, you would say:

In the morning…

Buenos días — Good morning

In the afternoon…

Buenas tardes — Good afternoon

In the evening…

Buenas noches — Good evening

Note the spelling of “good” in Spanish; día is masculine, tarde and noche are feminine. So, use the correct gender of bueno.

If you want to meet someone and need a little more to go on that just “hola,” you must be thinking “how to introduce myself in Spanish?” — an interesting “scenario” article.

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Spanish Prepositions: Possession and Properties

In other words: whose is it and what is it made of?

Spanish, like English, has a limited number of prepositions conveying information of the sort “from, of, to, at, for, with, toward” and so on. The problem for the learner is that these terms do not have a one-to-one correspondence from one language to the other. Today’s topic is the preposition de in two of its uses.

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De has many functions. First, we’ll show how to use it to indicate possession. In English, when something belongs to someone, the owner is indicated by adding ‘s. (Of course no sound is signaled by the written apostrophe, which is a large literacy problem!)

  • Lulu’s doll
  • the boy’s bike
  • Mr. Smith’s job

This even works for inanimate possessors:

  • the item’s price
  • the book’s cover

In English, if the possessor is something inanimate, the full prepositional phrase tends to be used for it unless the possessor is being emphasized. For example, you would probably say:

The color of the paint is too dark for this room.

But you might say:

The paint’s color clashes with the sofa’s color.

However, in Spanish, the possessor is always expressed by de + noun phrase.

la muñeca de Lulu — Lulu's doll
la bicicleta del niño — the boy's bicycle
el trabajo del señor Smith — Mr. Smith's job
el precio del artículo — the item's price
el forro del libro — the book's cover

Note that del is a contraction of de + el “of the”. De la remain separate words used if the owner is a feminine gender noun.

el color de la pintura — the paint's color
la manga de la chaqueta — the jacket's sleeve.

Another use of de, which may be useful to the Spanish learner who is going shopping or traveling, is to express the name of the material from which something is made.

el suéter de lana — the wool sweater
una pulsera de oro — a gold bracelet
unos aretes de plata — some silver earrings
las ollas de barro — the clay pots
una chaqueta de cuero — a leather jacket

Note that in this use of de, corresponding to “of”, there is no article before the noun specifying the material of which something is made.

Now that you can answer the questions:

¿De quién es? — Whose is it?
¿De qué está hecho? — Of what is it made?

…let’s try some mini-dialogues:

Q: ¿De quién es esta chaqueta? — Whose is this jacket?
A: La chaqueta de cuero es de Juan. La de lana es de Antonio. — The leather jacket is Juan's. The wool one is Antonio's.

Q: ¿Qué clase de joyería desea ver, señorita? — What sort of jewelry would you like to see, Miss?
A: Quisiera ver las pulseras y los aretes de plata por favor. — I would like to see the silver bracelets and earrings, please.

Q: ¿Estos platos son de barro o de porcelana, señor? — Are these earthenware or porcelain plates, sir?
A: Los platos son de porcelana y los plateles son de barro muy fino. — The plates are of porcelain and the platters are of very fine earthenware.

Q: ¿De qué son las canastas? — What are the baskets (made) of?
A: Algunas son de totora y otras son de mimbre. — Some are of reed and others are of wicker.

Espero que todo esto es…¡de utilidad!

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