Here at ICO, we hope that you’ll learn just how much fun Spanish can be.  Like any language, Spanish is full of colorful slang expressions.  On Fridays, we’ll be teaching you a combination of useful everyday words and fun common colloquialisms.


Given the recent posts on market culture, it’s time to think about language to use in the market place.


If you’re going shopping, you need to be able to ask how much things cost.  You may have learned that ¿cuánto cuesta? means ‘how much does it cost?’ but this is actually the least natural of a half-dozen ways to ask this question.  In Mexico, the verb costar, although historically connected to English ‘cost’, almost never refers to price.  Instead, it typically refers to effort: me costó mucho trabajo llegar al aeropuerto means ‘it was difficult for me to get to the airport’ (literally ‘it cost me a lot of work to get to the airport’); me cuesta hablar inglés means ‘it’s difficult for me to speak English’ (literally ‘it costs me to speak English’).

Instead, you can ask the price in any of the following ways:
¿cuánto sale?
                     how much does it cost?
¿cuánto es?
                        how much is it?
¿qué precio tiene?
             what’s the price?
¿a cómo lo da(s)?
              how are you selling it? (literally ‘how do you give it?’)

Bargaining is common in markets throughout Mexico.  If you don’t like the price, you can ask for un descuento (‘a discount’), or nicely suggest ¿no me lo da a un poco menos? (‘won’t you give it to me a little cheaper?’).  If you like it so much you want more than one, you can try asking, ¿y si le compro dos? (‘what if I buy two?), which will sometimes get you a better bargain.

Other useful phrases:
es mucho
                           it’s a lot (i.e. expensive)
está un poco caro
             it’s a bit expensive
¿tiene cambio de cien?
    do you have change for a hundred?
sólo estoy mirando
           I’m just looking
voy a seguir mirando…    I’m going to keep looking
…pero tal vez regreso
      …but maybe I’ll come back

Want to know how to say something else?  Ask in the comments section!