5 Ways to Say What in Spanish – Don’t say QUÉ, say these words and phrases instead!

DON'T Say QUÉ When You Don't Understand Something In Spanish, Say THIS Instead!

If you’re learning Spanish, probably you know how to say WHAT in Spanish: QUÉ. And if you’re a beginner, perhaps you’ve been using QUÉ whenever you haven’t understood something… That’s okay, PERO puedes mejorar (but you can do better)… 

Spanish native speakers typically say “what” as “¿qué?” in Spanish. They use it similarly to English speakers, to ask for information, clarification, or repetition. It can be used in various contexts, such as inquiring about something unknown, asking for a repetition of something not heard clearly, or seeking clarification on a point.

In this article you will learn 5 different ways to react when we don’t understand what was said to you. 

This is especially useful if you already speak enough Spanish that you’re daring to strike up conversations with Spanish speakers. Once people see that you can speak Spanish, they start speaking super fast and you’re like, ¡Nooooo! ¡Espérenme! ¡No tan rápido!! (Wait for me! Not so fast!)

1. ¿Perdón? or ¿Disculpa? (Pardon? or Excuse me?)

It’s like “pardon” or “excuse me”. It works better than qué because it’s more polite. 

So, you’re with your friend and they say: 

  • Te invito a comer huaraches. (I invite you to eat huaraches.)

You’re like… Invito… invite, comer.. to eat.. Hua… what?! Please resist the urge to say: !¿QUÉ?! Say “Disculpa” instead.

what in spanish, say disculpa or perdon text with female teacher in the background

Your friend will most likely repeat the whole phrase: 

  • Te invito a comer unos huaraches. (I invite you to eat some huaraches.)

Humm… You still don’t get it… So, you say…

2. ¿Podrías repetirlo, pero más despacio, por favor? (Could you repeat that more slowly, please?)

This means “Could you repeat that more slowly, please?” and your friend —who’s been trying to take you out for lunch for the last hour— is going to say, “Oh, sure!” 


You still don’t get it. Uh oh! Haha, ¡No te preocupes!… We’ve still got:

3. ¿Qué significa? (What does something mean?)  

So, you understood the first part, but you still don’t know what huaraches means. You can always use: 

¿Qué significa? (What does something mean?)  

  • Te invito a comer unos huaraches. (I invite you to eat some huaraches.)
  • ¿Qué significa “huaraches”? (What does “huaraches” mean?)

¡Ahh! Los huaraches son un antojito mexicano. Es como una tortilla gruesa de maíz, que lleva carne, crema, queso, salsa… 

  • ¿Qué significa “antojito”? (What does “antojito” mean?)
  • Oh, it’s like street food. 

Alright, alright…

4. No entendí (I didn’t understand)

Don’t be afraid of being clear and direct. This phrase is great because of its simplicity, and you can make it even better by adding 

  1. la última parte (the last part):
    No entendí la última parte. (I did not understand the last part.)
  1. La parte de… (That bit about…):
    No entendí la parte de… (I didn’t understand the part about…)
what in spanish, no entendí text with female teacher in background

Same example:

  • Te invito a comer unos huaraches. (I invite you to eat some huaraches.)
  • No entendí la parte de unos huaraches. (I didn’t understand the part about huaraches.)
  • ¡Ahh! Unos huaraches… It’s a Mexican dish… 

5. A combination of all of the above

If you’re in a tough situation, you can, of course, use all of the above to clear out any misunderstanding you might encounter!

Perdón, ¿podrías repetir?
Sorry, could you repeat?
Disculpa, ¿qué dijiste?
Sorry, what did you say?
Perdón, no entendí.
Sorry, I didn’t understand.
Disculpa, ¿podrías repetir la última parte?
Excuse me, could you repeat the last part?
Perdón, ¿podrías repetir la parte de . . . ?
Excuse me, could you repeat the part of . . . ?

Practice what in Spanish with FREE Spanish training

¡Muy bien! Now you have 5 alternatives to QUÉ when you want to let someone know that, despite your intelligence and amazing level of Spanish, ¡¡¡no les entendiste!!! (you didn’t understand them!!!) 

Let me know in the comments if you found these tips helpful. Is there anything that you find particularly difficult about learning Spanish? 

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