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

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

If you’re learning Spanish, probablemente (probably) you know how to say WHAT en español: 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)… 

En este artículo vas a aprender (in this article you will learn) 5 diferentes maneras (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? 

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. 

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

Your friend will most likely repeat the whole phrase: 

Te invito a comer unos huaraches.

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

2. ¿Podrías repetirlo, pero más despacio, por favor?

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. 
  • ¿Qué significa “huaraches”? 

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

  • ¿Qué significa “antojito”? 
  • 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.
  1. La parte de… (That bit about…): No entendí la parte de…

Same example:

  • Te invito a comer unos huaraches.
  • No entendí la parte de unos huaraches. 
  • ¡Ahh! Unos huaraches… It’s a Mexican dish… 

5. A combination of all of the above

  1. Perdón, ¿podrías repetir? 
  2. Disculpa, ¿qué dijiste? 
  3. Perdón, no entendí. 
  4. Disculpa, ¿podrías repetir la última parte? 
  5. Perdón, ¿podrías repetir la parte de  . . . ? 

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¡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? 

If you want to keep learning Spanish in way that’s efficient, fast and natural, make sure you check out our free Spanish training

Sign up for our free Spanish training to find out the method that we use at the Spring Spanish Academy to teach our students to speak fluent Spanish through Conversation Based Chunking… without having to memorize word lists and grammar rules! You also get some free sample Spanish lessons that come directly from the Academy!

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