Bad Spanish

Sign at a Title Max location in Dallas that I saw last time I was in town.

After almost 3 months in Costa Rica, I would love to be telling you a funny story about how I called someone’s father a potato because I used the word papa instead of papá or mentioned some friends’ nether-regions when I meant to ask their age as in anos vs años…No, unfortunately I am not there but I CAN discuss saying hello and goodbye, although nothing can really follow that greeting from me – good thing I am normally walking at good pace.

So to start are the 3 main greetings; just like in the US you have Good Morning (Buenos Días), Good Afternoon – Buenas Tardes and good night – Buenas Noches – although this last one is used only as a greeting and not as, in the US, a way of saying I am going to sleep/bed.


Clearly, there are more greetings like Hola and Cómo está but these typically elicit a longer conversation that I am not quite prepared for.

So, you pass someone on the street and say Buenos Días, they have a couple of ways to respond. They can answer in kind with Buenos Días or with a shortened version (as Tico’s love to shorten words) of what you just said; so they can respond with just “Buenos”. Sometimes, and this may just be a speed thing, they will respond with Buenas – the feminine version of the word good, that belongs with Tardes and Noches only, when it is morning and the shortened greeting should be Buenos. And oddly, sometimes if you just say Buenos as greeting; which is completely acceptable, the Tico response will be Dias or (once again it may be the speed thing) they may just be saying Adios quickly.

You say Goodbye, I Say Hello

Growing up in Texas, you pick up a bit of Spanglish. Some of which is not used or not used in the same way here. “De Nada”, for example, used in Mexico and Texas as a response to Thank You (Gracias) to convey, “you are welcome”. Here the Spanish used in this instance is “con mucho gusto” meaning “with much pleasure”. Well, I had learned that Adios means “good bye” or “see you later” and that is it. While that is true, Adios is also used to say “Hello” – say what? Yes, Adios can mean Buenos Dias or be a response to that. It took me a long while to actually say Adios as a greeting as it seemed very foreign to me (haha – see what I did there), but now it comes without effort.

To Recap

Greeting                                                        Response

Buenos or Buenos Días                                 Buenos Días, Buenos, Buenas, Adios

Buenas or Buenas Tardes/Noches              Buenas Tardes/Noches, Buenos, Buenas, or Adios

Adios                                                               Buenas Tardes/Noches, Buenos Días, Buenos, Buenas, or Adios

Bonus – use Beun Día to say “have a good day”.

And I am sure you, awesome reader, will let me know if I got something wrong and when/if you do, please do so in the comments and not on Face Book so that everyone can see what I got wrong.


Adios, Ciao,


Ugly American on American
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