Sometimes we just don’t know what to say. You know? Right? You see what I mean? Okay, I’ll stop. But really, I mean, you understand, yeah? Okay?
Spanish has its share of muletillas, and if you’re going to speak Spanish, it’s essential to learn (and use!) at least a few. Here are some of my favorites.
- Vale. Seriously, you must know vale. You simply cannot live in Spain without using it several times a day. (If you talk on the phone, multiply by three.) Vale comes from the verb valer, meaning “to cost, to be worth,” but has come to mean something like “fine” or “right” or—mainly—“okay.” So anytime you feel like saying “Okay,” don’t go with “Está bien,” but “Vale.”
- Venga. Another term used a lot in telephone conversations, venga reminds me of when I’m trying to end a conversation without explicitly telling the other person I’d like to end it. “Welppppp,” I’d say sometimes when trying to get off the phone as non-confrontationally as possible. “I’d better let you go.” It’s kind like of that. Of course, it has other uses. It can be used to try to get someone to hurry up: “Venga, que llegamos tarde” (“Come one, we’re going to be late”) or to express incredulity: “¡Venga ya! No me lo creo” (Yeah, right! I don’t believe it”).
- Bueno, pues. These two words can be used together or separately. Bueno usually means good, but in this context it’s more like “well,” as in, “Well, we better get going” and not as in “I’m doing well.” Pues is an especially versatile word. See the WordReference entry, which lists the following possibilities (among many):
- Pues eso—Right
- Así pues—So then
- Pues entonces—In that case
- Bueno pues—Okay then
- Vaya pues—All right already
- O sea. This is better pronounced as one word, osea. It’s kind of like “or rather,” but it has a life all its own. It is equivalent to “digo” and “quiero decir” in many cases. If you understand Spanish, please refer to this entry by a one Mr. Alberto Bustos.
- A ver. I love this phrase! I first heard it when studying abroad. It means something like “let’s see” or “let me see,” and you can use it alone or with other words. For instance, if you want to meet up with someone, you might say, “A ver si quedamos un día” (“Let’s see if we can meet up one day”). If you’re trying on a new dress, you could say, “A ver cómo me queda” (“Let’s see how it looks on me”). It’s quite the versatile phrase.