Building up your vocabulary is an essential part of the language learning process, but figuring out where to start can sometimes be overwhelming.
So, what are the most common Spanish words you should learn first when you are starting to pick up the language? Luckily, the Royal Spanish Academy (an official institution responsible for monitoring the Spanish language) has analyzed a corpus of written texts from all over the Spanish world to find out what the most common Spanish words are. Ready to see the list?
Short Words: Prepositions, Conjunctions and More
It shouldn't come as a surprise that many of the words high on the list aren't things like cellphone or computer, but shorter, more functional words like the ones you'll find below:
Prepositions are short words that express a relationship between two other words or clauses. These are the most common ones in Spanish:
- de - of or from
- en - in, on or at
- a - to or at
- por - for or by
- con - with
- para - for or in order to
- sin - without
- sobre - about, on or over
- entre - between
- hasta - until
- desde - from
- durante - during
- según - according to
- contra - against
- del - a contraction formed by the preposition de and the article el
- al - a contraction formed by the preposition a and the article el
See our guide to prepositions for more on how to use them in context.
Articles are short words that go together with nouns. In English, these are the, a and an. In Spanish, the most common ones are:
- un - the masculine singular indefinite article
- una - the feminine singular indefinite article
- la - the feminine singular definite article
- las - the feminine plural definite article
- el - the masculine singular definite article
- los - the masculine plural definite article
- lo - a word that can act as both a neutral singular definite article and a pronoun
Conjunctions are used to join sentences, phrases or even words together. Some common conjunctions in English are and, but and or. Below are the most common Spanish conjunctions:
- y - a conjunction meaning and
- e - a form of y used when the following word starts with i
- o - a conjunction meaning or
- ni - a conjunction meaning nor
- si - a conjunction meaning if
- pero - a conjunction meaning but
- aunque - a conjunction meaning although
- porque - a conjunction meaning because
- sino - a conjunction meaning but rather or but also
Pronouns are short words that substitute for nouns or nouns phrases. Personal pronouns refer to a specific grammatical person.
- yo - I
- él - he
- ella - she
- me - the first person singular direct and indirect object pronoun
- te - the second person singular direct and indirect object pronoun
- nos - the first person singular direct and indirect object pronoun
- se - a pronoun that, among other uses, stands in for the indirect object and forms passive and reflexive phrases
- le - a personal pronoun that often translates to him, her or it when describing and indirect object
- mi - my
- su - depending on context: her, his, its or your (singular)
- sus - depending on context: your (plural) or their
- que - when used as a pronoun, it can mean who, which or that:
- El hotel que está en la esquina. - The hotel that is in the corner.
- La casa, que es grande, está en Madrid. - The house, which is big, is in Madrid.
- El guía que habla inglés. - The guide who speaks English.
- qué - an interrogative pronoun or adjective meaning what or which
- ¿Qué hora es? - What time is it?
It can also work as an adverb meaning how
- ¡Qué tarde! - Literally: how late!
- eso - that.
- Eso es rojo. - That is red.
- nada - nothing, anything
Verbs are very important words, as they are considered to be the core that holds a sentence together by indicating the action or happening. These are the most common verbs in Spanish:
- Ser - to be.
- Estar - to be.
The distinction between ser and estar is one of the most complicated issues for English speakers. Many people use the acronym PLACE to remember that, as a general rule, estar is used for position, location, action, condition and emotion.
- Haber - mostly used as to have; it can also be used as an auxiliary verb in some tenses
- Tener - to have. to own or possess
Although both verbs technically mean to have, haber mostly works as an auxiliary verb, and can also be used to mean there is or there are.
- Ir - to go
- Poder - to be able to, can
- Hacer - to do or to make
- Decir - to say or to tell
Even though all these verbs are irregular, their conjugations are worth memorizing, as you will be using them in conversation all the time. In fact, we can already start putting the words in this list together to make phrases or sentences:
- Él dice eso. - He says that.
- Eso es de ella. - That is hers.
- Porque él nos dijo. - Because he told us
Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. This might sound complicated at first, but it includes things as simple as saying yes or no. Here are the most common adverbs in Spanish:
- no - no
- sí - yes
- ya - right now or already
- ¿Ya comiste? - Did you already eat?
- Necesito terminarlo ya. - I need to finish it right now.
- ahora - now
- cuando - when
- como - like
- Es alto como su padre. - He is tall like his father.
- donde - where
- más - more
- bien - well, ok
- Estoy bien. - I'm doing well.
It can also be used as a noun meaning good.
- también - also
- muy - very
- tan - so or such; when paired with como it can mean as
- Estoy tan feliz. - I am so happy.
- Está tan frío como ayer. - It is as cold as it was yesterday.
- tanto - so much or so many; when paired with como it can mean as much/many
- ¡Hay tantas tiendas! - There are so many stores!
- Hay tantas tiendas como en Londres. - There are as many stores as in London.
- solo - only or just
- Quiero solo una habitación. - I want just one room.
- después - after or later
- antes - before or earlier
- siempre - always
Now that you have added some common adverbs to your vocabulary, you can form even more sentences, like the ones below:
- ¿De dónde eres? - Where are you from?
- ¿A dónde vas? - Where are you going?
- ¿Qué estás haciendo? - What are you doing?
- No digas eso. - Don't say that.
- Ella puede hacer eso, pero él no. - She can do that, but he can't.
- Yo siempre estoy bien. - I am always ok.
Typically, adjectives are used to modify nouns, but they can also be paired with verbs like ser or estar to form phrases. Take a look at the Spanish adjectives that are among the most common 100 Spanish words:
Demonstrative adjectives are words like this or that, which help distinguish things from other similar ones in their class.
- este - a masculine adjective meaning this
- esta - a feminine adjective meaning this
- ese - a masculine adjective meaning that
- esa - a feminine adjective meaning that
You can see these adjectives and how they compare in the following sentences:
- Este edificio es grande. - This building is big.
- Ese edificio es grande. - That building is big.
- Esta casa es pequeña. - This house is small.
- Esa casa es pequeña - That house is small.
- otro, otra, otros - other, another
- Quiero probar otros sabores. - I want to try other flavors.
- Tengo otra idea. - I have another idea.
It can also be used as a pronoun meaning another or another one:
- Comeré otro. - I will eat another one.
- todo, todos - whole, all or every
- Todo el grupo está cansado. - The whole group is tired.
- Vinieron todos mis amigos. - All my friends came.
- Todo estudiante es bienvenido. - Every student is welcome.
It can also work as a pronoun meaning everything or everyone:
- Vinieron todos. - Everyone came.
- cada - each or every
- Voy a la tienda cada dos días. - I go to the store every two days.
- Cada estudiante tiene un libro. - Each student has a book.
- así - like that/this; it can be used both as an adjective and an adverb
- Quiero un buzo así. - I want a sweater like this (one).
- mismo - same
- Vivimos en el mismo edificio. - We live in the same building.
- gran - large or great
- Es un gran amigo. - He is a great friend.
- Hay una gran cantidad de libros. - There is a large amount of books.
- poco - little, few or not a lot of
- Hay poco café - There is little coffee.
- menos - less, least, few or fewer
- Este hotel tiene menos habitaciones. - This hotel has fewer rooms.
- Es el hotel con menos habitaciones en Barcelona. - It is the hotel with the fewest rooms in Barcelona.
- general - general
Keep in mind that most Spanish adjectives change depending on the number and gender of the noun they modify. You can see this with otro, otra and otros, all three of which appear on the top 100 words list as separate entries, but are basically forms of the same adjective.
Finally, there are nouns. These are words that have functions such as serving as a subject and can commonly be paired with articles or other determiners. Let's look at the nouns that made it onto the list of most common Spanish words.
- uno - one
- dos - two
- tres - three
Although only three numbers made it to the list of most used Spanish words, you can find the rest on our guide to learning Spanish numbers.
- año - year
- día - day
- vez - time, as in turn or occasion
- tiempo - time, as in a period
- vida - life
- parte - part
- gobierno - government
- país - country
- mundo - world
- estado - state
- forma - shape or way
- caso - case
A hundred words may not seem like much, but you can put them together to form a lot of different phrases. Here are some more examples:
- ¿De qué país eres? - What country are you from?
- Él tiene menos de un año. - He is under one year old.
- ¿Hace cuánto tiempo que estás en este país? - How long have you been in this country?
- Estuve dos años de mi vida en otro país. - I spent two years of my life in another country.
- Puedes hacer eso y más. - You can do that, and more.
- Eres parte de mi vida. - You are a part of my life.
- Cada día tienes menos tiempo. - You have less time each day.
- Vamos a otro país todos los años. - We go to a different country every year.
Needless to say, this list is far from exhaustive, but you can use it as a stepping-stone on your way to learning Spanish.
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"100 Most Common Spanish Words." YourDictionary, n.d. Web. 23 May 2018. <http://spanish.yourdictionary.com/Spanish-language/learning-spanish/100-most-common-spanish-words.html>.
100 Most Common Spanish Words. (n.d.). Retrieved May 23rd, 2018, from http://spanish.yourdictionary.com/Spanish-language/learning-spanish/100-most-common-spanish-words.html