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.
¿Cómo estás? The Basics
- 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 “tú“, implies a formal tone.
¿cómo está usted?
¿cómo estás? (tú)
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.
- Buenos días – Good morning
- Buenas tardes – Good afternoon/evening
- Hola, ¿qué tal? – Hi, how are you?
- ¿Qué pasa? – What’s up? (Informal)
- Encantado/Encantada (de conocerte) – Pleased to meet you (for males/females)
- ¿Cómo van las cosas? – How are things going?
- Adiós – Goodbye
- Hasta luego – See you later
- Hasta mañana – See you tomorrow
- Que tengas un buen día – Have a good day
- Nos vemos – See you (Informal)
- 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?”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
“¿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.
¿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:
What is your level of Spanish?
Take the test to find out which course is best for you.
Do you want to improve your Spanish online?
Group lessons, tailored private lessons or private conversation lessons.
What do our students think of our Spanish courses?
These are some of the opinions of our students. You give us the prizes!