9 Ways to Express Surprise in Spanish


Being able to express themselves properly is one of the main goals of many Spanish learners. Part of doing this is knowing how to express your feelings or thoughts about a situation. One good example of this is knowing how to express surprise in Spanish. 

Although most Spanish learners may know one or two phrases to show surprise, there are many expressions that you can use for this purpose. For that reason, in this article, I’ve compiled 10 popular phrases that you can use to express surprise in Spanish. 

In addition to providing you with examples, I’ll also include a short description for each phrase so you know the different situations where you can apply them. If you were wondering how to express surprise in Spanish, by the end of this article, you’ll have 10 fun and common phrases that you can use. 

1. Dios mío – Oh my God

In Spanish, Dios mío is a very popular phrase that people use to express their surprise. In addition to being a common expression, ‘Dios mío’ is suitable for both formal and casual situations. Since this expression is a standard term, you can also use it in different Spanish-speaking countries. 

Dios mío is the direct translation of ‘Oh my God’ and just like the English expression it has some variations that are also very popular in Spanish:

  • Ay, Dios Oh my God
  • ¡Dios bendito!Holy cow / Oh my God
  • ¡Santo Dios!Holy cow
  • ¡Dios santo!Good God / Holy cow

When it comes to different degrees of surprise, there’s no difference between these expressions. So you can use whichever you like the most. 

¡Ay, Dios! ¿Qué haces aquí?
Oh my God, what are you doing here?

¡Dios mío, te ves super bonita!
Oh my God, you look super pretty!

Santo Dios, ¿por qué compraste tanta comida?
Holy cow, why did you buy so much food

Take Note: Just like in English, in order to show surprise, you need to pay attention to your tone of voice. Keep in mind that these expressions may also be used in Spanish to express frustration or horror. 

2. ¡No me digas! – You don’t say! 

A very popular way to express surprise in Spanish is by using the phrase ¡No me digas! As a standard expression, this phrase can be used in different contexts. ‘¡No me digas!’ can be translated as: 

  • No way
  • Yeah, right!
  • You don’t say!
  • You must be kidding!

Like any other expression of surprise, No me digas is usually the answer to a previous statement or a situation that is clear to everybody: 

¡No me digas! Pero, ¿todos están bien?
You don’t say! But is everyone okay?

¿Aprendiste español tú solo? ¡No me digas!
Did you learn Spanish by yourself? No way!

SpanishEnglish
Tú: Renuncié a mi trabajoYou: I quit my job
Tu amigo: ¡No me digas! ¿Por qué? Your friend: You must be kidding! Why?

Here are some popular variations of this phrase:

  • ¡No inventes! – No way!
  • ¡Anda ya!  – Come on! Only used in Spain.
  • ¡No manches!No way! Only used in Mexico.
  • ¡No te creo! – You must be kidding / Shut up!

Take Note: No te creo is a variation of ‘no me digas’. However, with this particular expression, you need to be very careful of your tone of voice since it can also express that you don’t believe someone. 

3. ¿A poco? – Really?

If you’re learning Mexican Spanish, ¿a poco? is a very way to express surprise and disbelief in this country. Due to its informality, this phrase is more suitable for casual conversations. ¿A poco? is close in meaning to:

  • No way!
  • You’re kidding!
  • Really?
  • Seriously?
  • Shut up!
  • For real?

Here are some examples of how to use this phrase: 

¡¿A poco?! No sabía que habías vivido en España
No way! I didn’t know that you have lived in Spain

¿Te dieron el trabajo? ¡¿A poco?! ¡Sabía que te iba a ir bien!
Did you get the job? Really? I knew that you would do well!

Even though ¿a poco? can be used as a response to a previous statement, you can also use the following structure to refer to the action or event that surprised you: 

¿[A poco] + [verb conjugated]?

¿A poco no les gusta el chocolate?
Do you really don’t like chocolate?

Luisa, ¿a poco te vas a ir a vivir a España?
Are you seriously going to move to Spain, Luisa?

Take Note: In Mexican Spanish, a poco is a very rich word that can be used in a different range of situations. So, even though it’s very popular to express surprise, you may find that people apply it in other contexts. Here you can learn more about what does ‘a poco’ mean in Spanish

4. ¡Caray! – No way

As you may already know, ¡caray! is a very popular Spanish word that we can use to express different emotions such as surprise or anger. Even though this expression is well-known in Spanish-speaking countries, it’s more appropriate for informal situations. 

‘¡Caray’ can be translated as: no way!, jeez or wow. On top of this, it also has some other popular variations that you may want to keep in mind:

  • Ah caramba Heavens / Wow
  • ¡Changos! Jeez / Heavens. Mexican slang word.
  • ¡Ah Caray!No way / Jeez
  • Pa’ su mechaJeez / Heavens. Mexican slang expression. 

Here are some examples as well as a phrase structure that you can follow: 

[Expression] + [complement]

¡Ah caray! ¿Y este dinero? ¿Es tuyo?
Jeez! And this money? Is it yours?

¡Pa’su mecha! Manejas bien rápido
Heavens! You drive very fast

¡Caray! No sabía que el examen era hoy
No way! I didn’t know that the exam was today

5. ¿En serio? – Really?

In Spanish, ¿en serio? is a common expression that implies both surprise and disbelief. The advantage of this phrase is that, as a standard term, it’s popular in all Spanish-speaking countries and can be applied in formal and informal situations. 

¿En serio? can be translated as: 

  • Really? 
  • Seriously?
  • Are you serious? 

Like other expressions from this list, in order to use ‘¿en serio?’ correctly, the context needs to be clear enough. In other words, the thing that is surprising can be introduced by you or by a previous statement. 

[En serio] + [complement]

¿En serio te comiste 10 tacos?
Did you really eat 10 tacos?

Marta, ¿es en serio? ¿Qué pasó? Pensé que estabas bien
Martha, are you serious? What happened? I thought you were okay

SpanishEnglish
Tú: ¿Supiste que Luis se muda a Madrid?You: Did you know that Luis is moving to Madrid?
Tu amigo: ¿En serio? ¡No, no tenía ni idea! Your friend: Really? I had no idea 

Take Note: ¿De verdad? is a common variation that you can use instead of ‘¿en serio?’. This expression is also a standard term that you can use in both casual and formal situations. 

6. Guau – Wow

As the direct translation of ‘wow’, guau may be one of the most common ways to express surprise and admiration in Spanish. Despite its popularity, this word is more suitable for casual conversations.

Below there is a phrase structure that you can follow. But be aware that in this situation, Spanish is very flexible, so you can place guau either at the beginning or the end of the sentence.  

[Guau] + [complement]

¡Guau! ¡Te ves muy bien!
Wow! You look amazing!

¿El equipo de fútbol ganó? ¡Guau
Did the soccer team win? Wow!

¡Guau! Estos cuadros están increíbles, ¿tú los hiciste?
Wow, these paintings are amazing, did you paint them?

Take Note: As a single word, guau expresses surprise and admiration. But if you hear the expression guau guau beware that it’s being used as a cute way to call a dog in Spanish

7. ¡Hala! – Wow 

In Spain, ¡hala! is a popular and informal way to express your surprise. In this context, this expression can be translated as ‘wow’ and, like any other expression, you need to use a proper tone of voice to be able to show surprise. 

¡Hala! ¡Cuánto tráfico hay!
Wow! There is so much traffic!

¿Ese es tu coche! ¡Hala! Es muy bonito
Is that your car? Wow! It’s very pretty

¡Hala! ¡Qué gusto verlos, chicos!
Wow! It’s so nice to see you, guys!

Take Note: In informal Castilian Spanish, ¡hala! can also be used as a way to cheer people or teams. As a result, in this context, it would be translated as come on or go. 

¡Hala, Carmen! ¡Tú puedes!
Come on, Carmen! You can do it!

8. Híjole – Jeez!

Híjole is a colloquial term that people use as a way to show surprise for an action or an event. Due to its characteristics, this word is only used in informal situations. Additionally, híjole is only popular in the following Spanish speaking countries:

  • Mexico
  • El Salvador
  • Ecuador
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua

When used to express surprise, híjole is close in meaning to ‘jeez’, ‘wow!’ and ‘gosh’. Since this word also implies frustration or disappointment, your intonation is very important. Here are some examples of how to use this word:

[Híjole] + [complement]

¡Híjole! ¡Qué caros están los boletos!
Jeez! The tickets are very expensive

¿Ganaste la lotería? ¡Híjole! ¡Felicidades!
Did you win the lottery? Wow! Congratulations!

¡Híjole! Hace mucho que no te veía, ¡qué grandes están tus hijos!
Gosh! I haven’t seen you in a while, your kids are so big!

9. ¡Achis, achis, los mariachis! – Oh my God

Nowadays, ¡achis, achis, los mariachis! has become a very popular expression among young people to show both admiration and surprise. In addition to only being used in Mexico, ¡achis, achis, los mariachis! is a very cheerful and playful expression. As a result, it’s more appropriate for informal contexts. 

Although this expression doesn’t have a direct translation, it’s close in meaning to:

  • Geez!
  • I can’t believe it
  • Really?
  • Oh my God
  • Wow!

¡Achis, achis, los mariachis! ¿Qué haces aquí?
OMG, what are you doing here?

¿Esa es tu novia? ¡Achis, achis, los mariachis
Is that your girlfriend? Wow!

SpanishEnglish
Tú: ¿Sabías que Mayra y Liam se casaron?You: Did you know that Mayra and Liam got married?
Tu amigo: ¡Achis, achis, los mariachis! ¡No sabía! ¿Cuándo?Your friend: Really? I didn’t know! When?

Take Note: Unlike other expressions, ‘¡achis, achis, los mariachis!’ only expresses surprise. If you want a shorter version of this phrase, you can use achis piachis or simply achis.

Wrapping Up

Being able to express surprise in Spanish will allow you to improve your communication skills and sound more natural when speaking this language. For that reason, in this article, we’ve compiled a list of 9 common expressions that you can use to show surprise in Spanish. 

We also discussed the contexts where you should be using these expressions as well as some variations that you can use to expand your vocabulary. Hopefully, now you have a better idea of how to show your admiration or surprise in Spanish 🙂

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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