DON’T Say NO TAN BIEN, say THESE 6 Alternatives Instead!

DON’T Say NO TAN BIEN, say THESE 6 Alternatives Instead!

¿Tú cómo estás? (How are you?) Porque yo… no tan bien. (Because I… not so good.)

Don’t worry, I’m actually doing pretty good right now, but that’s definitely not always the case, and I do happen to be the type of person who likes to be real when answering “¿cómo estás?” (How are you?) In that case, here are 6 alternatives you can use to say you’re no tan bien (not so good).

I’m Maura, from Spring Spanish, and here’s your first alternative!  

1. Adjectives

ACTOR 1
Y, ¿cómo estás? ¿Qué tal todo?
(And, how are you? How’s everything?)

ACTOR 2
Malísimo.
(Very bad.)

ACTOR 2
Terrible.
(Terrible.)

ACTOR 2
Horrible.
(Horrible.)

So, malísimo, terrible y horrible (very bad, terrible, and horrible) are just adjectives, but very good adjectives to describe how you feel, especially if you feel particularly bad. On their own, these little words are powerful and more than enough to be a full answer.

“Malísimo” is actually the superlativo (superlative), meaning the “exaggeration” of “mal”, which you could also use if you don’t want to be as emphatic.

Terrible and horrible are pretty strong as they are. Also, quite easy to remember if you speak English because they are rather similar to the word in Spanish. Sin embargo, hay que trabajar en el sonido R para usarlos. (However, you do have to work on that R sound to use them.) But please don’t worry about that. When I was a little girl, I couldn’t make this sound and my mom had to get a speech therapist to help me out with it. And I’m a native. So, don’t sweat it!

And, if you stick around till the end, you can get one more alternative that would definitely impress natives if you use it because it is 100% insider slang!

2. Más o menos (more or less)

ACTOR 1
Y, ¿cómo estás? ¿Qué tal todo?
(And, how are you? How’s everything?)

ACTOR 2
Más o menos.
(More or less.)

ACTOR 1
¿Por qué? ¿Pasó algo malo?
(Why? Did something bad happen?)

ACTOR 2
Malo es poco.
(Bad is little.)

Más o menos (more or less) can work for many things. It can also be an answer to: ¿Te gusta? (Do you like it?) or ¿Entiendes? (Do you understand?). As well as anything that asks about the intensity of something like: ¿Está caliente? (Is it hot?) or ¿Está picante? (Is it spicy?)

In general, whatever the question, if your answer is “más o menos”, you’re staying in the middle. Specifically, if you’re answering this to ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?), it does incline more to the negative side. Meaning, if you weren’t doing at least a little bit bad, you wouldn’t say this.

Chunk Alert!

Malo es poco (bad is little) is a chunk you could possibly use in this context to specify that something, in this case malo (bad), is too small to describe how you feel or what happened. It doesn’t have to be something bad, though. This “es poco”  (is little) works after any other adjective, like:

  • bueno es poco (good is little)
  • frío es poco (cold is little)
  • difícil es poco (difficult is little)

Remember to check that link in the description to access our free Essential Spanish Chunking kit! Decir que es útil, es poco. (To say it’s useful, is little.)

3. Regular (regular)

ACTOR 1
Y, ¿cómo estás? ¿Qué tal todo?
(And, how are you? How’s everything?)

ACTOR 2
Regular.
(Regular.)

ACTOR 1
¿Por qué? ¿Pasó algo malo?
(Why? Did something bad happen?)

Ok, so, this “regular” (regular) might be a Venezuelan thing. I’m not quite sure if they use it in other regions as much as we do, para ser honesta (to be honest). That being said, it’s almost its last definition in the dictionary, but you can certainly find it to be defined as: “no tan bien”.  

It’s quite similar to “más o menos”, in the sense that though it might seem you’re not doing that bad when you say this, it actually means you are feeling at least a little bad. Y como siempre esperamos que los demás estén bien (And since we always expect others to be ok), it is enough to come out as a declaration of being somewhat bad.

4. Ahí, ahí (there, there)

Time for some slang:

ACTOR 1
Y, ¿cómo estás? ¿Qué tal todo?
(And, how are you? How’s everything?)

ACTOR 2
Ahí, ahí.
(There, there.)

Cuidado con la traducción de esta porque puede ser confusa. (Careful with the translation for this one because it might be confusing.) Also, pay attention to the intention with which you say it because it will make a difference. Ahí, ahí (There, there) is quite light. It’ll never make someone think you’re doing horrible (horrible), but that’s when the intonation comes into play.

You can say: ahí, ahí (there, there) in an even lighter tone and make it seem as if nothing too good or too bad is happening. Or you can keep it heavier as I did in the role play: ahí, ahí (there, there) and signal something a little annoying might be happening.

This is slang and I’m Venezuelan so…Dudo que alguien más lo use además de nosotros. (I doubt anyone else uses this besides us.) Nonetheless, I would never hesitate to use this when answering ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?). I trust the right context and the right intonation will take care of the comprehension part, no matter where the other Spanish speaker is from.  

Ahora que tienes unas cuantas opciones más para especificar cómo te sientes, vamos a repasarlas juntos: (Now that you have a few more options to specify how you feel, let’s review them together:)

If you’re doing very, very bad, you can use the following on their own:

  • Horrible (Horrible)
  • Terrible (Terrible)
  • Malísimo (Very bad)

If you’re at least a little bit bad, you can use:

  • Mas o menos (more or less)

Which you can also use to be actually neutral about the intensity of many things. And:

  • Regular (regular)

Which might only be a Venezuelan thing.

If you’re fine, but something annoying is happening, you can use:

  • Ahí, ahí (there, there)

Remember, tone plays a bigger role on this one than the others.

Now you know what to answer if you don’t feel well. But what if you do feel well? You could say “estoy bien” (I’m fine)… Or any of the 8 alternatives that Maria Fernanda has for you here.

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