Small talk in Spanish
When I was a junior in university way back in 2004, I went for a semester abroad at la Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain.
Since I grew up talking to my abuelitos in Chile on the phone, I figured I was fluent enough to make friends with my new Spanish classmates.
You can imagine my shock on the first day of school. I walked up to twenty students at the classroom door and totally froze. I didn’t know how to chit chat in Spanish at all.
Making small talk using Spanish phrases can be intimidating. Between talking about last weekend and plans for next weekend, I soon learned to pass the time exchanging simple phrases with a total stranger. I want to share what I learned because it helped me to make friends.
Here are 16 simple Spanish phrases that you can use to talk about time also.
3 Spanish phrases about the past
If you are on your study year abroad, your Spanish-speaking classmates will want to know about your past. Where have you travelled? What did we study in the lecture last Wednesday?
- the other day – el otro día
- someday – algún día
- it has been awhile since… – hace tiempo desde que…
Let’s put these together:
The other day I met up with my friend Laura at Retiro Park. She said that someday she wanted to visit Morocco. It’s been awhile since I went on holiday. We decided to buy tickets for next weekend. – El otro día encontré con mi amiga Laura en el Retiro. Ella dijo que algún día le gustaría visitar Marruecos. Hace tiempo desde que me fui de viaje. Decidimos comprar boletos para el próximo fin de semana.
3 Spanish phrases about the future
Your Spanish-speaking classmates might ask you ¿Qué haces después del semestre? What you will do after the semester is over? Here are some time phrases in Spanish to talk about the future.
- afterwards – después
- someday – algún día
- next week/month/year – la próxima semana, el próximo mes, el próximo año
Remember that Spanish requires article-noun agreement. This means that the phrase changes depending on a feminine (la semana) or masculine (el mes) noun. Don’t forget that día is a tricky word because it’s masculine even though it ends in –a: el día final, los últimos días, el día que nos graduemos, etc.
The 4 different meanings of “Después”
The word “después” is useful for talking about time in Spanish. It can also be confusing because it has multiple definitions. Here are the 4 different meanings with examples of when to use them.
- after – Lloré después de no pasar el examen. I cried after I didn’t pass the test.
- later – Iré al club después pero ahora tengo que estudiar. I’ll go to the club later, but now I need to study.
- afterwards – ¿Podemos ir al museo después? Ahora quiero disfrutar del sol. Can we go to the museum later? Now I want to enjoy the sunshine.
- then – use for sequential activity ¿Y después qué pasó? …And then what happened?
6 Words to describe frequency in Spanish
In Spanish, these are some adverbs you can use to describe the frequency of your activity.
- always – siempre
- a lot of the time – muchas veces
- sometimes – a veces
- rarely – rara vez
- never – nunca
Sometimes my friends and I go out for dinner, but we never go dancing at the clubs. – A veces mis amigos y yo salimos a cenar, pero nunca bailamos en el club.
Time is Relative
Talking about time is a good way to learn about culture too.
In Spain and Latin American countries, the “normal” time to do something is not the same as in Northern Europe or the United States. Arriving on time to social engagements might mean you will be sitting alone. In most Spanish-speaking countries, people tend to be fashionably late. Prime time television starts at 10 p.m. Dinners go past 11 p.m. Everything happens a little bit later than you might expect.
Whether you are shooting the breeze with new friends or navigating a new culture, talking about time in Spanish can help you to feel comfortable in a Spanish-speaking country.