Understanding “¿Cómo estás?” in Spanish: A Comprehensive Guide

“¿Cómo estás?” is a fundamental Spanish phrase meaning “How are you?”.

Commonly used in both formal and informal settings, understanding its nuances is key to mastering everyday conversations in Spain, especially in culturally rich regions like Valencia.

  • Formal vs Informal:
    • ¿Cómo está usted?” is a formal way of asking how someone is feeling.
    • ¿Cómo estás?” is more informal and used among friends or peers

In Spanish, generally, the use of “usted“, instead of ““, implies a formal tone.

¿cómo está usted?

¿cómo estás? ()

But how do we answer this question?

Expressing Your Feelings

  • Using “estar” for Physical and Emotional States:
    • Responses like “Estoy bien, gracias” (I’m fine, thanks) and “Estoy mal” (I do not feel well) are common.
    • Avoid using “ser” in this context, as it implies a permanent state.

WARNING: We do not use the verb SER. You can read in this article the differences between ‘Ser’ and ‘Estar’.

  • The Reflexive Verb “encontrarse”:
    • “Me encuentro bien, gracias” (I feel good, thanks) can be used for a more personal touch.
    • “No me encuentro bien” (I don’t feel good).
  • Expressing Physical Sensations with “tener”:
    • Use this verb for feelings like cold, heat, hunger, or thirst (e.g., “Tengo frío” – I’m cold).
    • -> Tengo frío (I’m cold).
    • -> Tengo calor (I’m hot).
    • -> Tengo hambre (I’m hungry).
    • -> Tengo sed (I’m thirsty).

Likewise, we use these SPANISH IDIOMS to say that we are good, bad, tired, etc.:

TENER UNA SALUD DE HIERRO: It is said of someone who is very healthy and never has any illnesses.

ESTAR COMO UN ROBLE: When a person is strong and healthy like an oak tree.

ESTAR COMO UNA ROSA: To have a very good appearance and a good colour in the face.

ESTAR REVENTADO: To be extremely tired. Usually used to talk about physical exhaustion.

ESTAR HECHO POLVO: To be very tired or sad for some reason.

ESTAR ALICAÍDO: To be tired, depressed or mentally exhausted.

TENER AGUJETAS: The pain felt after physical exercise. Usually when you are not used to it.

ESTAR PACHUCHO: Being unwell or slightly ill.

TENER MALA CARA: Looking bad. Dark circles under the eyes and pale skin due to illness or motion sickness.

QUEDARSE EN LOS HUESOS: Losing a lot of weight.

VER LAS ESTRELLAS: Severe pain after a blow, or being in a lot of pain due to illness.

ESTIRAR LA PATA: It means to die. It is a very informal expression.

Expanding Your Conversation Skills

  • Learn related phrases for greetings and farewells to enhance your conversational fluency in Spanish.

Greetings

  1. Buenos días – Good morning
  2. Buenas tardes – Good afternoon/evening
  3. Hola, ¿qué tal? – Hi, how are you?
  4. ¿Qué pasa? – What’s up? (Informal)
  5. Encantado/Encantada (de conocerte) – Pleased to meet you (for males/females)
  6. ¿Cómo van las cosas? – How are things going?

Farewells

  1. Adiós – Goodbye
  2. Hasta luego – See you later
  3. Hasta mañana – See you tomorrow
  4. Que tengas un buen día – Have a good day
  5. Nos vemos – See you (Informal)
  6. Cuidate – Take care (Informal)

These phrases can be used in various social contexts, ranging from formal to casual, and are essential for everyday conversations in Spanish-speaking environments.

Pragmatics of Conversation with “¿Cómo estás?”

  1. Casual Social Gatherings: In informal settings, such as meeting friends or at a casual social event, “¿Cómo estás?” is often used as a genuine inquiry into someone’s well-being. It can lead to more personal and extended conversations.
  2. Business and Formal Meetings: In more formal or professional contexts, the phrase might be used more sparingly and often followed by more formal conversation starters. It’s more about politeness and less about an invitation for a detailed personal update.
  3. First-time Encounters: When meeting someone for the first time, “¿Cómo estás?” can be a friendly ice-breaker. Depending on the context, it can set the tone for either a casual or a formal interaction.
  4. Cultural Sensitivity: Be aware of cultural nuances. For example, in some cultures, asking “¿Cómo estás?” might imply an expectation for a brief and polite response, while in others, it could invite a more detailed sharing of personal experiences.
  5. Response Expectations: If someone asks you “¿Cómo estás?”, it’s usually polite to reciprocate after responding. This shows interest in the other person’s well-being and fosters mutual conversation.
  6. Digital Communication: In texts or emails, “¿Cómo estás?” is often used to show friendliness and establish a cordial tone. However, the expectation for a detailed response might be less compared to face-to-face interactions.

Regional Idioms and Expressions: Understanding ‘¿Cómo estás?’ and Its Variations Across Spanish-Speaking Countries:

Here are more examples of regional idioms and expressions from various Spanish-speaking regions that are used similarly to “¿Cómo estás?”:

Argentina:

In Argentina, it’s common to hear “¿Cómo andás?” or “¿Todo bien?”. The use of “vos” instead of “tú” for informal ‘you’ is typical, so the phrase becomes “¿Cómo andás vos?”.

Colombia:

Colombians often use “¿Qué más?” or “¿Qué hubo?” as casual greetings, similar to “¿Cómo estás?”. These phrases are friendly and typically used among peers.

Spain:

In Spain, especially among the younger generation, “¿Qué pasa?” is a common informal greeting, equivalent to “What’s happening?” or “What’s up?” in English.

Chile:

In Chile, “¿Cómo estai?” is a common informal way of asking “How are you?”. The word “estai” is a Chilean informal form of “estás”.

Peru:

Peruvians might use “¿Cómo estás?” or “¿Qué tal?” for greetings. A more colloquial expression could be “¿Cómo va?”, which is similar to “How’s it going?”

Central America (e.g., Guatemala, Honduras):

In Central American countries, “¿Qué onda?” is also widely used, similar to Mexico. It’s a very informal and friendly way to greet someone.

Puerto Rico:

In Puerto Rico, you might hear “¿Qué es la que hay?”, which is a very informal way of saying “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?”

Venezuela:

Venezuelans might use “¿Qué más?” or “¿Cómo vas?” in casual conversations, similar to “How are you?”

Conclusion

“¿Cómo estás?” is more than just a simple inquiry – it’s a window into the expressive world of Spanish language and culture. By understanding and using these phrases appropriately, you’ll enrich your communication and connect more deeply with Spanish speakers. You can learn more Spanish in our onsite intensive courses or with our online lessons. Contact us for more info.

Listen

¡Hola! Soy Carlos. Hoy, voy a encontrarme con mi amiga María en el parque. Cuando la veo, le digo: ‘¡Hola, María! ¿Cómo estás?‘ Ella sonríe y responde: ‘¡Hola, Carlos! Estoy bien, gracias. ¿Y tú, cómo estás?‘ Yo respondo: ‘También estoy bien, gracias.‘ Después, caminamos juntos y hablamos sobre nuestros días.

¿Cómo estás?, practical exercises

Exercise 1: Conjugate the verb

Now that you know how to answer when someone asks you “¿cómo estás?”, complete the following sentences. Remember that you have to conjugate the verbs. For example:

Tener mala cara -> (yo) tengo mala cara. (tu) tienes mala cara.

Exercise 2: Choose the Correct Response

Let’s see if you know how to respond and express how you feel. Find the right answer in each situation.

Exercise 3: Match the Feeling with the Phrase

Match the Spanish phrases with the correct feeling or situation:

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Kelly Robinson
I had a fantastic experience at Taronja, I was only there a week, but cannot believe how much my Spanish has improved from a very basic level. Our professors, Pablo & Teresa were wonderful, they made the classes interactive and interesting, and were excellent at making everyone feel welcome. I am already planning my next trip!
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roseline2018
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Moderne en leuke manier van lesgeven Ik heb hier twee weken een cursus gevolgd en wat me vooral opviel is dat er op een moderne manier wordt les gegeven. Niet 'ouderwets' uit saaie boeken maar met steeds wisselende soorten oefeningen en gericht op de praktijk.
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un lugar donde ¡puedes sobresalir! Mi segunda estancia con Taronja solo duró una semana, pero, de nuevo, me di cuenta de que la calidad de los profesores (en mi caso, las profesoras, Desiré y Sara) es muy buena. Estaban dedicadas y profesionales.Tanto los profesores como los administradores son siempre muy amables. Intentan ayudarte y apoyarte todos los días. Y lo mejor, tienen paciencia y llevan una sonrisa. Muchísimas gracias a todos y por todo.
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Sehr positive Erfahrungen!
Ich habe die Spanisch-Sprachschule Taronja in Valencia 2018 für 4 Wochen und dann erneut 2019 für 3 Wochen besucht. Mein Eindruck ist absolut positiv und ich kann jedem meiner Freunde nur dazu raten, solltet ihr euch für eine kleine Sprachreise in Spanien interessieren.
Die Kurse bei Taronja sind inhaltlich super organisiert und der Lernfortschritt ist durch die recht kleinen Gruppengrößen (ca. 5 Personen plus/minus) immens. Sämtliches Lehrmaterial wird bereitgestellt. Alle Lehrer sind sehr kompetent, freundlich und engagiert. Die Unterrichtseinheiten sind zu 99,5% in spanisch.
Neben der klassischen Unterrichtsform wird auch mit Hilfe von Spielen gelehrt. Wir haben je Woche musiziert, gesungen, getanzt und gekocht. Die eingesetzten Medien (Youtube, Apps, Whiteboards, ...) sind sehr neumodisch. Wünsche oder Ideen der Schüler wurden aufgeschnappt und der Unterricht dementsprechend individuell angepasst.
Neben den eigentlichen Kursen bietet Taronja eine Vielzahl an zusätzlichen sozialen Aktivitäten am Abend an. Man hat wirklich das Gefühl in die spanische Kultur integriert zu werden.
Valencia hat als Stadt einiges zu bieten und es herrscht ein sehr angenehmes maritimes Klima.
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Very positive experience!
I visited the spanish language school Taronja in Valencia for 4 weeks in 2018 and for 3 weeks in 2019. My impression is absolutely positive and therefore I‘d like to encourage all of my friends in case you are interested in attending a language school in Spain.
The courses at Taronja are super organized and you can learn in a fast pace due to the small groups (around 5 students per class). All the learning material is provided by Taronja. All the teachers are very competent, friendly and motivated. Nearly 99,5% of the lessons are Spanish.
Besides the traditional style of classes, you also learn by playing games. Every week we plyed music, we danced, we sang and we cooked. They used innovative media (youtube, applications, whiteboards, ...). Student‘s wishes or ideas were considered and the lessons were adjusted accordingly.
In addition to the official lessons, Taronja offers a lot of social activities during the afternoon and evening. Thus you have the impression you become easily integrated to the Spanish culture.
Valencia as a town is very interesting and offers a lot of possibilities, combined with a maritime climate.
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¡Experiencias muy positivas!
Tuve clases de español en la escuela Taronja en Valencia durante 4 semanas en el 2018 y 3 semanas en el 2019. Mi impresión es absolutamente positiva y solo puedo aconsejar a cada uno de mis amigos si estás interesado en un pequeño viaje de idiomas en España.
Los cursos en Taronja son súper organizados. El progreso del aprendizaje es inmenso debido a los tamaños de grupos bastante pequeños (aproximadamente 5 personas más o menos). Se proporciona todo el material didáctico. Todos los profesores son muy competentes y además son muy amigables y motivados. 99,5% de las clases son en español.
Además de la forma de enseñanza clásica, también se enseña mediante juegos. Tocábamos música, cantábamos, bailábamos y cocinábamos cada semana. Los medios utilizados (youtube, aplicaciones, la pizarra técnica,...) son de última tecnología. También los profesores recogían los deseos o ideas de los estudiantes y adaptaban las clases en consecuencia.
Además de los cursos teóricos, Taronja ofrece una variedad de actividades sociales adicionales por la tarde / noche. Realmente tienes la sensación de estar integrado en la cultura española.
Valencia tiene mucho que ofrecer como ciudad y hay un clima marítimo muy agradable.
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