How Much Is This? A Guide On How to Ask for Prices in Spanish.
It’s no secret that foreigners often get snared in tourist traps, such as widely overpaying for food and lodging while on their travels. The attempt of learning and speaking Spanish might make the vendor in question have a warmer disposition towards you, perhaps even leading to a better price than what’s offered to other tourists.
"How much is it?" It is disputably one of, if not the most essential phrase to learn in any language. Whether your question pertains to the prices of everyday items such as food, clothing, or random knick-knacks, this phrase will nonetheless come in handy daily on your travels in a Spanish speaking country or neighborhood.
In this article, we’ll cover the numerous ways to ask for the price or value of something. There’s no need to rack your brain memorizing countless different variations. Learn at least one of the phrases below and stick to it.
Our Spanish Frequency Dictionaries are a great source if you want to learn new vocabulary effectively. You’ll get 10,000 most common Spanish words with example sentences translated into English. That makes it a great reading practice, too! Remember that vocabulary learned through context is remembered better.
How to Ask “How Much Is It?” in Spanish
- ¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much is it?
This is, by far, the most basic and common way to ask the ubiquitous question. It is fairly short and easy to pronounce even for absolute beginners. ¿Cuánto cuesta esa camisa? or “How much is that shirt?” is a typical scenario where you’d use this helpful phrase. Alternatively, “How much does it cost?” is a more literal translation of the phrase.
This phrase is most suitable for asking the price of one particular item, such as the price of a sandwich or a cup of coffee. Scenarios involving more than one of the particular items in question are better suited with the slight addition ¿Cuánto cuestan?
Let’s break down the moving parts of this phrase. It begins with the adverb cuánto, which means “How much.” It’s pronounced [ˈkwanto] in the IPA transcription.
It is then followed by the verb cuesta (pronounced [ˈkwes.ta]) which means "it costs." It is the 3rd person singular form of the verb costar, which means "to cost." Cuestan is the 3rd person plural form of the same verb.
- ¿Cuánto vale? – How much is it worth?
This is the most common alternative you're likely to hear around town, such as ¿Cuánto vale ese carro? or “How much is this car worth?” This phrase has a slight nuance that hints more towards the value of something, as opposed to the cost itself.
However, it is widely used interchangeably among native speakers. The verb vale is the 3rd person singular form of the verb valer, which means “to be worth.” It can also be altered to address many items with the suffix addition – ¿Cuánto valen esas casas? Or “How much are those houses worth?” in plain old English.
There's no need to worry if you fail to remember the plural suffix of the verb. Chances are the context of the situation will be clear to the person you're speaking with or better yet, they might even correct you. Never be afraid to make mistakes when speaking to native speakers. Take it as a free, real-world language lesson.
- ¿Cuánto es en dólares? – How much is it in dollars?
This phrase is typically reserved for scenarios when the currency needs to be mentioned in particular to clear any sort of ambiguity. You could simply swap the dollars at the end of the phrase for any other currency such as pesos, euros, etc.
In certain settings, the phrase can be shortened when the currency does not need to be specified. For example, the phrase ¿Cuánto es? which translates as “How much is it?” is a casual way to bring about the question.
This phrase uses the verb es, which is the 3rd person singular form of the verb estar, not to be confused, however, with the verb ser, which poses a real difficulty for learners of the Spanish language.
At this point, you've learned how to ask for the price or value of an item in a few different ways. However, of what use will it be if you can't fully understand the reply. Let's cover the basic figures you'll need to know to understand prices.
I'll assume you're well-acquainted with 1-10, at least, but that won't be sufficient. Let's cover the figures from 10-100 by the factor of 10:
- 10 – diez
- 20 – veinte
- 30 – treinta
- 40 – cuarenta
- 50 – cinquenta
- 60 – sesenta
- 70 – setenta
- 80 – ochenta
- 90 – noventa
- 100 – cien
If you can master these figures, then you’ll be well on your way to talking about prices and values fluently in Spanish.
Casual & Slang versions
As in many languages, there’s a natural tendency to shorten and condense words and sentences in everyday speech, especially in casual settings among friends. The Spanish language is no different.
Instead of saying Me voy para la playa, a native speaker would typically say Me voy pa' la playa. Another prime example includes how native speakers may simply say ¿Cuánto? when addressing someone with an item in hand.
Another common form of slang refers to the currency often addressed as palos, or how we would say ‘bucks’ instead of dollars. For example, you could encounter two natives speakers referring to an expensive car as ¿Cuánto palos vale ese carro?
Some helpful vocabulary might also include words associated with asking for prices such as:
- La cuenta – the bill (at a restaurant)
- La propina – the tip
- El cambio – the change
- El total – the total
- La factura – the bill
- Efectivo – cash
Incorporate these words into your vocabulary and watch the look of amazement on the faces of native speakers that didn't expect such a high level of Spanish being spoken by a ‘gringo.’
Don’t forget to look at our Spanish Frequency Dictionary series. You will find only practical vocabulary there used in real-life example sentences. It makes learning new vocabulary fun and easy!
This list covered the three main ways to ask, "How much is it?" in Spanish. Some phrases on the list are more common than others. However, rest assured that you’ll be easily understood in any case.
Language is inextricably linked with culture and heritage. It can be an express pathway to someone's heart, especially when they're not expecting it. As the Nelson Mandela quote states, “Speak to a man in his second language, and he'll respond with his head. Speak to him in his mother tongue, and he'll respond with his heart.”