Understanding the meaning of como estas in Spanish + 8 alternatives

STOP Saying "Cómo Estás", Say THIS Instead (8 Alternatives)

Today, I will be teaching you 8 different ways for you to ask someone “How are you?” in Spanish. I mean Como estas is a perfect way to ask that, but it is somewhat overused by Spanish learners.

Como estas is a common phrase in Spanish. It’s often combined with other Spanish greetings to ask about someone’s well-being. It’s used in formal, informal or friendly settings: to show respect, to engage with friends, family, or acquaintances.

So, if you want to stand out, you better start using some alternatives! – number 7 will come in handy if you want to sound like a local in Mexico!

I. Learn the Spanish alternatives to say como estas

As I have mentioned previously, I am going to give you 8 chunks you can use instead of ¿Cómo estás? because, well, if you have watched my videos before, you already know that I like to prepare you to impress native Spanish speakers.

Now let’s go over each of these possible alternatives.

I’ll explain the meanings and give you some examples to practice!

Let’s take a look!

1. ¿Qué tal? – What’s up?

This phrase could mean “What’s up?”, “How are you?” or “How are things?”

To use it in a sentence, you could say:

  • Hola, ¿cómo estás? (Hello, how are you?)
  • Yo, muy bien, ¿y tú qué tal? (I am very good, and you? What’s up?)
como estas screenshot from youtube video with a woman and spanish and english example sentences on the left side

2. ¿Cómo vas? – How’s it going?

Literally: How are you going?

Since vas comes from the verb IR (to go), and if you want to say something specific, like, “How are you going with something?”, then, you may say:

  • ¿Cómo vas con la mudanza? (How are you going with the move?)
  • Un poco cansada, pero vamos bien. (A little bit tired, but we are going good.)
como estas cómo vas screenshot from youtube video

3. ¿Qué hay de nuevo?  – What’s new?

This means “What’s new?” So, just like mi amigo Bugs Bunny said, this phrase is used when you haven’t seen your friend for a long time and, instead of popping a random ¿Cómo estás?, impress them by saying:

  • ¡Hace mucho que no te veo! ¿Qué hay de nuevo? (Long time no see! What’s new?)
como estas screenshot from youtube with teacher in foreground

4. ¿Qué cuentas? – What’s going on?

This phrase could be translated as “What’s your story?” or “What story can you tell me?”

This is a way of asking someone how are they doing by asking them a story about how their life has been like lately.

For example:

  • ¡Hola, Ana! Supe que te fuiste a vivir a Houston. ¿Qué cuentas? (Hello, Ana! I heard you moved to Houston. What’s up / What’s your story?)
como estas qué cuentas text from screenshot

5. ¿Cómo andas? – How are you?

This phrase also means “How are you?”, but let’s break it down:

The word cómo means how and andar, by itself, is the act of moving somewhere (by walking, going, hanging around).

Therefore, in English, it could have the following meaning:

How are you “dealing with this movement?” or “How are you moving?”

  • Estar fuera de casa puede ser difícil. ¿Cómo andas? (Being far away from home can be difficult. How are you?)
como estas cómo andas text

6. ¿Qué pasa? – What’s happening?

This one is somewhat popular: maybe you have heard it in movies or on the streets. Its literal translation is “What’s happening?”

So, you can apply it in the following way:

  • Hola, amigo, ¿qué pasa contigo? (Hello, my friend, what’s happening with you?)
  • Encontré un nuevo trabajo y estoy muy feliz, ¿y contigo? (I found a new job and I am very happy, and with you?)
como estas qué pasa text from screenshot

7. Say it the Mexican way: Qué onda? – What’s up?

Remember I told you, in the beginning, we have our own Mexican way of saying “What’s up” or “How you doing?” —yeah, once again, Mexicans and their nonsensical slang.

Mexicans say ¿Qué onda?, which literally translates into “What wave?”, but when used in context, it means “How are you doing?”.

If you’re ever lucky enough to visit Mexico and if you use this phrase, creéme (believe me), you will be speaking like a local!

For example:

  • ¡Hola, wey! ¿Qué onda? (Hello, dude! How you doing?)
  • Nada, estoy estudiando para mi examen de inglés, ¿y tú? (Nothing, I am just studying for my English exam, and you?)
como estas qué onda screenshot from youtube video with teacher in foreground

8. ¿Todo bien? – All good?

La forma más rápida y fácil de decir (the quickest and easiest way to say) “All good?”

So, fortunately, this phrase may be translated word for word from English.

Therefore, feel free to use it next time you are trying to talk to your Spanish-speaking friends.

  • ¡Hola, amigo! ¿Qué tal? ¿Todo bien con tu familia? (Hello, my friend! What’s up? All good with your family?)
  • Sí, amigo, muchas gracias. ¿Y tú qué onda? ¿Qué tal? (Yes, my friend! Thank you so much! And you? How you doing? How are you today?)
como estas todo bien screenshot from youtube video with example on the side and teacher on the right

II. Formal versions of como estas alternatives

The 8 alternatives I mentioned previously can all be considered either a neutral or informal way of addressing someone.

But of course, there are other ways to ask “how are you” in Spanish.

“Cómo estás” is considered an informal way to ask “how are you” in Spanish.

It is used in a more relaxed and friendly setting among friends, family, and people of similar age or status.

1. ¿Cómo está usted? – How are You doing?

Cómo está is the formal version of the same question for addressing someone with respect such as a CEO, an official, or other people of higher rank.

You could also say ¿Cómo está usted? because this is the most standard and formal way to ask someone how they’re doing.

Keep in mind that tú is the 2nd person singular and is used in informal situations while usted is used when you’re talking to a stranger, an official or you want to show respect to someone.

  • Buenos días, señora López. ¿Cómo está usted? (Good morning, Mrs. López. How are you?)

2. ¿Cómo se encuentra hoy? – How are you today?

A slightly more casual but still polite way to ask “how are you” in a formal context. You can use it in professional settings.

For example:

  • Hola, doctora Rodríguez. ¿Cómo le va en el trabajo? (Hello, Dr. Rodríguez. How are things going at work?)
como estas, a meeting between two people with a cup of coffee, a tablet, a laptop, a smartphone, a pen, a paper and a glass on table

3. ¿Cómo marcha todo? – How is everything going?

This is a chunk that literally translates to “How is everything going?”

It is used when you want to ask someone in a formal way about their well-being and of course, their overall situation in life.

  • Buenas tardes, señor Martínez. ¿Cómo marcha todo en su empresa? (Good afternoon, Mr. Martínez. How is everything going with your company?)

4. ¿Cómo se siente? – How are you feeling?

This formal chunk is focused more on asking about someone’s physical or emotional state.

  • Hola, señora Ramírez. ¿Cómo se siente después de su cirugía? (Hello, Mrs. Ramírez. How are you feeling after your surgery?)

III. Improve your Spanish Skills with FREE Spanish Training

So, mis amigos, did you know all of these chunks in Spanish to ask “how are you?” Or do you know any other chunks that can be used instead?

If that is the case, then let me know in the comments below! 

I really hope you have learned something new today and that you feel ready to take your Spanish to the next level. You can start by taking our FREE Spanish training, where we explain the chunk method we use to help you speak Spanish fluently without cramming word lists and grammar rules.

  • Cheat Sheet with 54 essential Spanish Chunks you’ll hear and use yourself in ANY Spanish conversation (and example sentences). Taken from our YouTube Teacher’s most popular videos!
  • 2 Bonus Cheat Sheets with Travel Chunks and Dating/Relationship Chunks
  • A Spanish Chunking Tutorial showing you the 1 technique that’ll help you make 100% of the Spanish from our videos roll off the tongue in just 5 minutes a day (you’re probably only using 50% of our lessons’ potential right now…)

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