If you are learning Spanish or you’re just on vacation in one Spanish speaking country, it’s very likely that at some point you would need to buy something – be it a snack or a souvenir. In regards to the product they want to buy, some new-Spanish speakers have issues explaining what they are looking for. After all, when shopping, most of the time you need to describe and ask or answer many questions in order to get exactly what you are looking for, which isn’t easy if you are not using your own language.
In this article, we are going to discuss how to buy something and shop in Spanish. We’ll provide you with useful phrases and vocabulary so you can shop in different types of businesses. By the end, hopefully you would feel more confident when you find yourself in this type of conversation or situation.
Interacting with the Seller: The Questions They May Ask You
One thing you need to keep in mind when buying is that the phrases and expressions you use will vary depending on where you go shopping. Although you have the same purpose, going to a huge supermarket is not the same as going to a street market where the sellers have more opportunities to interact with the customers. So let’s see some of the most common phrases you may hear on street markets and small businesses.
¿Buscaba algo en especial? – Are you looking for something special?
This phrase is very common in small businesses and street vendors and is the direct translation for ‘Are you looking for something special?’. Just as in English, you may hear this phrase when buying clothes or souvenirs.
|El vendedor: Buenos días, ¿buscaba algo en especial?||The seller: Hi, are you looking for something special?|
|Tú: No, gracias. Sólo estoy mirando.||You: No, thanks. I’m just looking.|
¿Qué va a llevar? – How can I help you?
This Spanish phrase is commonly used in street and flea markets as well as corner stores. The direct translation of this phrase is ‘What are you going to buy?’. Even though this question may be considered rude in English, in Spanish it’s very common when shopping. If you wanted to translate ‘¿Qué va a llevar?’ into English, the closest phrase would be ‘How can I help you?’. Just keep in mind that when saying ‘¿Qué va a llevar?’ the clerk actually wants to know what product you are looking to buy.
|El dependiente: Buenos días, ¿qué va a llevar?||The Clerk: Good morning. How can I help you?|
|Tú: Buenos días, dos litros de leche por favor.||You: Good morning, I want 2 liters of milk.|
Since this question is very direct, you can answer by saying the name of the product you are looking for. Keep in mind that if you hear ‘¿Qué va a llevar?’ in a street market it could mean two things:
- Just as the corner store, they are asking you what product you want to buy.
- It can be an invitation to get closer to their stand so you can see their products and they can start the sale.
¿Qué le voy/vamos a dar? – How can I help you?
This is another informal phrase for ‘How can I help you?’. It’s very similar to ‘¿Qué va a llevar?’ in the sense that the seller wants to know what product you are looking for. It’s very common in flea markets or small stores. Just as ‘¿Qué va a llevar?’, you answer this question by saying the name of the product you want..
|El dependiente: Buenos días, ¿qué le voy a dar?||The Clerk: Good morning. How can I help you?|
|Tú: Buenos días, un kilo de manzanas, por favor.||You: Good morning, I want 1 kilo of apples, please.|
When selling in Spanish, it’s very common that the sellers or clerks conjugate the verbs in the plural form when talking to their clients. This doesn’t mean that they are talking to a huge number of customers, it’s just a casual way to speak Spanish.
|El dependiente: Buenos días, ¿qué le vamos a dar?||The Clerk: Good morning. How can we help you?|
|Tú: Buenos días, un kilo de manzanas, por favor.||You: Good morning, I want 1 kilo of apples, please.|
Describing What You are Looking For
Unless you always go to a store where you can find the things you want to buy on your own, you’ll need to be able to communicate with the clerk or the shop assistant to ask them for help. Buying in Spanish could be a lot easier if you knew how to describe the things you want to get. Furthermore, it is also important to be able to ask questions about the product’s quality and characteristics. Below, you’ll find the most common questions and phrases you can use in this type of situation.
Getting What You Want: Asking for Characteristics
An important part is being able to ask questions about the product’s features or characteristics. As you can imagine, the questions you may want to ask will vary depending on the thing you’re looking to purchase. However, we are going to show you some common questions you could use and we are going to tell you in which situations you can use them.
Asking about Sizes
Although you might think that this section is just about clothes, you have to remember that there are a lot of products you might be interested in asking about the size and the color. Before jumping into examples, it’s important to mention some vocabulary mistakes you want to avoid.
While in English ‘size’ is used to express the dimensions of many objects such as people, clothes, shoes, and objects, in Spanish we have two different words.
- Talla: is the Spanish word for ‘size’ but you only use it for clothes and shoes.
- Tamaño: also means ‘size’ but you use it to describe objects and people. Use this in situations where you discuss products that aren’t apparel.
Here are some examples:
¿Qué talla es tu camisa? What’s your t-shirt size?
¿Cuál es el tamaño de la mochila? What’s the size of the backpack?
Since in English, you can use the same word in both situations, non-Spanish speakers tend to use ‘tamaño’ the whole time. Although people might understand you, it’s better for your Spanish if you learn the difference and use the correct word. Now that you know the difference between ‘talla’ and ‘tamaño’ you can start asking your questions.
When talking about sizes, the most common question is:
¿Qué tallas/tamaños tienes? What sizes do you have?
However, if you are looking for a specific size, you would say:
¿Tiene + talla/tamaño + sizes?
|¿Tiene tamaño chico?||Do you have a size small?|
|¿Tiene talla 38?||Do you have a size 38?|
Quiero + este + product + en talla + sizes
Quiero estos zapatos en talla 35 I want these shoes size 35
Take Note: Notice that ‘este’ is a demonstrative adjective and it needs to change to match the noun’s gender and number.
Quiero esta bolsa en tamaño chico I want this bag size small
Vocabulary for describing sizes
|Extra grande||Extra large|
In Spanish, the sizes must match in gender and number with the subject. For example:
Mi camisa es talla chica My shirt size is small
Uso calcetines extra grandes I wear extra large socks
Asking about Colors
Asking about your product’s color is as important as asking about the size. In this case, the questions are very similar to the questions related to the size. Let’s see some examples.
If you just want to know about the different types of colors your product comes in, you would ask:
|¿Qué colores tiene?||What colors do you have?|
¿Tiene en diferentes colores? Do you have it in different colors?
If you already know what color you are looking for, then you need to change your question a little bit:
¿Tiene en + color + azul/rosa/morado…?
|¿Tiene en color azul?||Do you have it in blue?|
These previous examples don’t mention the product because sometimes it’s clear for you and the clerk what’s the product you are talking about. But if this is not the case, you could just add it to the previous structure:
¿Tiene esta camisa en color negro? Do you have this t-shirt in black?
Instead of asking, you could say directly what you want:
Quiero esta chamarra en color azul I want this jacket in blue
Buying According to your Budget
When buying, there will be sometimes where either you have to stick to a budget or the store/stand has different prices for you to choose. If this is your case, the following phrases would help to buy within your budget.
Hay desde… – The prices start at…
Sometimes it happens that you find a store or stand that has the same product with different characteristics and, therefore, different prices. In these cases, after you ask the prices, the clerk or seller will let you know the price range by telling you:
Hay + desde + amount
Tengo/Tenemos + desde + amount
This simple phrase expresses that the prices start at a certain price and it’s up to you to choose the best option.
|Tú: ¿Qué precio tienen las bolsas?||You: How much are the purses?|
|Vendedor: Hay desde 200 pesos.||Clerk: They start at 200 pesos.|
|Tú: ¿Qué precio tienen los llaveros?||You: How much are the key-rings?|
|Vendedor: Tengo desde 20 pesos.||Clerk: They start at 20 pesos.|
It could also happen that you see the prices in a sign, in that case, you would see something like:
Precios desde + amount
|Precios desde 150 pesos||Prices start from 150 pesos|
The Clerk Asks You About Your Budget
If the store has different prices, it’s also very likely that instead of giving you the price range, the clerk will ask you about the amount of money you are willing to spend. The following phrases are the Spanish form for ‘Do you have a budget in mind?’ or ‘What’s your budget?’:
- ¿Buscaba algún precio en especial?
- ¿De cuánto es su presupuesto?
- ¿Tiene algún precio en mente?
In this case, you could simply answer by saying the specific amount you want to spend or you could give them a range:
|Entre 250 y 1000 pesos||Between 250 and 1000 pesos|
You could also say what’s your limit:
Máximo 1000 pesos 1000 pesos, tops
Que no pase de 1000 pesos No more than 1000 pesos
Buying in a Supermarket or a Store: Asking for Help
In the previous sections, we saw some expressions and questions that will help you to describe the product you are looking for. However, there will be times when you don’t interact all the time with a clerk. Although this happens a lot when buying in a supermarket or a big store, it doesn’t mean that you may not talk at all. Unless you want to walk around the store until you find your product, you need to be able to ask for some instructions.
The following are some questions you could ask in this type of situations:
Asking if they sell a product:
¿Tiene/Vende + product?
Disculpe, ¿vende mermelada? Excuse me, do you have jam?
Disculpe, ¿tienen leche deslactosada? Excuse me, do you have lactose-free milk?
Asking where you can find your product:
Although some people may think that walking around the aisles can be very relaxing, the truth is that most of the time you just want to buy what you need. But if you are in a supermarket or a store that you don’t know, you may have issues finding what you want. If for some reason you are in this situation, here are some Spanish questions you can ask to get help.
¿Dónde están + plural product?
Disculpe, ¿dónde está los lácteos? Excuse me, where are the dairy products?
Or if you want to be more polite:
¿Dónde puedo encontrar + plural product?
Disculpe, ¿dónde puedo encontrar los lácteos? Excuse me, where can I find the dairy products?
Take Note: When asking about a product, we use the plural form because it’s more general. If you used the singular form, you would be asking for a specific brand.
Time to Pay up: Asking for Prices and More
This guide on how to buy and shop in Spanish wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t talk about paying and asking for the prices. Let’s star for the first: asking the price.
When learning Spanish, some new speakers tend to mix ‘¿Cuánto cuesta?’ and ‘¿Cuánto es?’. Although these two expressions can be translated into ‘How much is it?’, we don’t use them interchangeably. We’ll see how to use both below.
Ask for the price of one or multiple products:
When you are asking for the prices, you would use the following structure.
¿Cuánto cuesta + singular product?
|¿Cuánto cuesta la leche?||How much is the milk?|
Make sure the verb matches the number of products you are asking for:
¿Cuánto cuestan + plural product?
¿Cuánto cuestan los chocolates? How much are the chocolates?
Ask for the total cost:
Once you have gathered all the products you want to buy and you are ready to pay, then you would ask:
|¿Cuánto es?||How much is it in total?|
|¿Cuánto va a ser?||How much will it be?|
Do you accept credit cards?
It would be really bad to go through all the process of asking and describing your product, just to give the clerk your credit card and find out that they don’t accept this form of payment. To make sure you’re able to pay for your order, you could ask:
¿Qué formas de pago acepta? What forms of payment do you accept?
¿Acepta efectivo/tarjeta de crédito? Do you accept cash/credit card?
Useful Phrases and Vocabulary to Shopping in Spanish
Although in this article we tried to cover as much as possible on how to buy in Spanish, it wouldn’t be complete without some additional vocabulary and useful phrases.
- ¿Puedes mostrarme esa/ese…? → ‘Can you show me that…?’. Remember to change esa/ese to make them match with the noun.
- ¿Tiene cambio? → ‘Do you have change?’. Both you and the clerk can ask this.
- ¿Tiene un billete más chico? → ‘Do you have a smaller bill?’. This question is very common when buying in smaller businesses or stands.
- ¿Quiere una bolsa? → Do you want a bag?
- Sin bolsa → Without bag.
- ¿Me lo puedo probar? → ‘Can I try it on?’.
- Me queda muy grande/chico → ‘It’s too big/small on me’.
- ¿Puedes mostrarme otra talla?/tamaño? → ‘Can you show me another size?’.
- Me queda muy grande → It’s too loose.
- Me queda apretado → It’s too tight.
- No me queda bien → It doesn’t fit me well.
- ¿A qué hora cierra? → What time do you close?
- Solo estoy viendo, gracias → ‘I’m just looking, thanks’. This is a perfect answer when the clerk/shop assistant asks you ‘¿Qué va a llevar’ or ‘¿Buscaba algo en especial?’.
In this article, we discussed some different questions and expressions you can use depending on the place you are shopping in. You also learned some common phrases to describe what you want or to ask for help. Now that you know how to buy in Spanish it’s time for you to start applying these expressions.