If you’ve ever been to a Spanish-speaking country, I’d be willing to bet top dollar that you were on the receiving end of a ‘¿Qué tal?’ at some point or other.
In countries like Spain and Mexico, it’s sure to rear it´s (not-so-ugly) head at quite literally every turn, especially once you get to know a few of the locals!
Of course, this begs the questions, what does ‘qué tal’ mean and how (on earth!) do you respond …
Well, in this article I´m going to let you in on the very best responses to ‘qué tal’ in every (yes, every!) situation, so buckle up your seatbelt and let’s get into it!
‘Qué tal‘ can sometimes be nothing more than a mere greeting, in which case you just have to respond with ‘buenos días‘, ‘hola‘, etc.
Definitely check out our article on all the different ways to respond to ‘hola‘ if you’d like more ideas!
Vecino 1 – Qué tal, vecino.
Vecino 2 – Buenos días.
Neighbor 1 – Hey, neighbor.
Neighbor 2 – Morning.
(Hola), qué tal Meaning
‘Hola, qué tal’ (or a simple ‘qué tal’) has to be one of the most common phrases in the Spanish language, so it’s imperative that you understand what it means (and know how to reply!).
‘Hola’ translates to ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ (is ‘hello’ even that common a greeting in English?) and ‘qué tal’ to ‘how are you’. As such, ‘hola, qué tal’ is basically the Spanish equivalent of ‘hi, how are you’.
You can think of it as an informal way of greeting someone and asking how they are!
Here’s an example –
María está paseando sus perros cuando de repente ve a su vecina
María – Hola, Erika, ¿qué tal?
Erika – Hola, María.
Maria is walking her dogs when suddenly she sees her neighbor
María – Hey, Erika, how are you?
Erika – Hey, María!
Now you know what ‘qué tal’ means, let’s get into the various ways in which you can respond!
Muy bien, gracias
Obviously your response to ‘qué tal´ is going to depend on your mood and who exactly it is your conversing with.
I mean, I’m sure we´ve all said that we´re great when in actual fact we feel like we’ve just been sat on by a big, hairy buffalo because we don’t want to come across as whingey!
Anyway, ‘muy bien, gracias’ is the perfect response for when you’re feeling tip-top, on top of the world and every other positive emotion in between! It literally translates to ‘very well, thanks’ and can be used in the exact same way as its English equivalent.
Let’s have a look at an example –
Jimena y Diego están hablando por Facebook
Jimena – ¿Qué tal, Diego? ¡Hace mucho que no nos vemos!
Diego – ¡Muy bien, gracias! Si, es cierto…Hay que hacer algo pronto.
Jimena and Diego are speaking on Facebook
Jimena – How are you, Diego? We haven’t seen each other for ages!
Diego – I’m good, thanks! Yeah, it’s true … We need to do something soon!
A simple ‘todo bien’ can also be used to respond positively (i.e., when life is all rainbows and unicorns) to ‘qué tal’, but in a slightly more informal way; it´s English equivalent would be ‘all good’.
This is an extremely common response, just make sure not to use it in more formal situations (job interviews and the like)!
Here´s another example –
Janet y Isis están hablando por teléfono
Isis – ¡Hola, Janet! ¿Qué tal todo?
Janet – ¡Todo bien gracias!
Janet and Isis are speaking on the telephone
Isis – Hey, Janet! How’s everything?
Janet – All good, thanks!
This is an even more informal alternative to ‘todo bien’.
‘Chido’ is the ever-popular Mexican slang word for ‘cool’, so this one literally translates to ‘all cool’. Obviously ‘todo chido’ is best used with good friends or family (unless, of course, you want to ride that eternal hippy type of vibe).
Here comes another example!
Ernesto – ¿Qué onda? ¿Qué tal todo, wey?
Adriana – Todo chido. ¿Y tú?
Ernesto – What´s up? How´s everything, dude?
Adriana – All cool. And you?
A toda madre (wey)
Know the person you´re conversing with really, really well?
Well, if that’s the case and you’re in the mood for whipping out a fun little Mexican slang phrase, you can respond to ‘qué tal’ with ‘a toda madre (wey)’.
‘A toda madre’ is a decidedly more informal response as it’s Mexican slang at its finest, so make sure you only use it in slang-appropriate situations! It won´t go down at all well at the office or when first meeting ‘la suegra’ or ‘el suegro‘ (‘mother-in-law’ / ‘father-in-law‘).
It could be translated to something along the lines of ‘I´m awesome’ in English!
Eduardo – ¿Qué tal, wey?
Martín – ¡A toda madre, wey!
Eduardo – How´s it going, man?
Martín – Awesome, dude!
Erika´s top tip – in Mexico ‘wey’ (‘dude’) can be affixed to the end of a sentence according to personal preference, but if the intention is to really sound like a local, I’d probably advise slipping it in!
Ahí vamos / Ahí voy
These are two extremely useful phrases to have in your Spanish artillery box!
They’re basically the equivalent of the English ‘I’m ok’ or ‘I’m doing ok’, so they’re the perfect phrases to use if you’re not having the best of days but don´t want to sound like a complete killjoy!
And what’s the difference between the two?
Well, ‘ahí vamos’ can also be used to refer to more than one person … so it’s useful if someone asks after your family, for example –
Fabian – ¿Y qué tal la familia?
Nacho – Pues, allí vamos.
Fabian – And how´s your family?
Nacho – We´re doing ok.
‘Ahí voy’, on the other hand, refers exclusively to the person speaking.
Confusingly, ‘ahí vamos’ can also be used to mean ‘I´m ok’. In this instance you’re essentially referring to yourself as ‘we’ in a more abstract sense of the word.
Ana – ¿Qué tal todo?
Mauricio – Ahí vamos / Ahí voy.
Ana – How´s everything?
Mauricio – I´m ok I suppose.
Ahí la llevamos / Ahí la llevo
‘Allí la llevamos’ and ‘Ahí la llevo’ are synonyms of ‘ahí vamos’ and ‘ahí voy’.
They can also be translated to ‘I’m ok’, ‘I’m doing ok’, ‘I’m surviving’, etc.
These phrases are very different to their English equivalents, so you´re going to sound really native-like if you put them into practice!
Here´s an example –
Ladislao – ¿Qué tal? ¡Luis ya me contó lo de tu esposo!
Gabriela – Pues, ahí la llevo, amigo. ¡Gracias por preguntar!
Ladislao – How are you? Louis already told me about your husband!
Gabriela – I’m ok thanks, man. Thanks so much for asking!
No me puedo quejar / No me quejo
This one literally translates to ‘I can’t complain’ and it can actually be both a negative and positive response!
Let’s be honest, life can throw us some real curveballs and don’t we all know it. So, if someone´s having a bad time of it, a ‘no me quejo’ probably means something along the lines of “well, things aren´t great but I´m not going to complain”.
Fernanda acaba de perder su trabajo
Juan Carlos – ¿Qué tal todo?
Fernanda – Pues, no me quejo.
Fernanda has just lost her job.
Juan Carlos – How’s everything?
Fernanda – Well, I can’t really complain.
Conversely, ‘no me quejo’ can also be used if things are going really well but you want to be modest –
A Erika le está yendo muy bien con su negocio
Juan Carlos – ¿Qué tal todo?
Erika – Pues, no me quejo.
Erika´s business is going really well
Juan Carlos – How´s everything?
Erika – Well, I can´t complain.
Pues, qué te digo
‘Pues, qué te digo’ is the perfect phrase to use if you’re not feeling tip-top and you’d like to let your interlocuter know!
It translates to ‘well, what can I say …’ in English and is normally followed by an explanation as to why you’re not feeling so great
Here´s an example –
Edgar – Hola, Maricela. ¿Qué tal?
Maricela – Pues, qué te digo, sigo sin trabajo.
Edgar – Hey, Maricela. How are you?
Maricela – Well, what can I say, I still don’t have a job.
La verdad, no muy bien
This one’s reserved for those days when you get out of bed on the wrong side, step outside in the pouring rain and get pooped on by your friendly neighborhood pigeon.
I´m obviously exaggerating, but if you´re really having a bad time of it and you want the world to know, you could do worse than responding ‘la verdad, no muy bien’ the next time your pal asks ‘qué tal’.
It literally translates to ‘honestly, I´m not great’ in English.
Let’s have a look at this one in action –
Juan – ¿Qué tal, amigo?
Oscár – La verdad, no muy bien. Mi novio me acaba de cortar.
Juan – How are you, man?
Oscár – Honestly, not great. My boyfriend just broke up with me.
If you’re in Mexico there are various other slang terms that can be used to express discontent –
La neta, no muy bien – ‘la neta’ is an extremely popular Mexican slang term meaning ‘honestly’ (amongst other things).
Estoy de la fregada / patada – these two phrases literally translate to ‘I’m terrible’.
This should be your go-to if you’re feeling under the weather and want to let your interlocuter know! It literally translates to ‘I’m sick’ … pretty easy, right?
Just remember to conjugate ‘estar’ according to the number of people you’re referring to (so, ‘we’re sick’ translates to ‘estamos enfermos’, etc.).
Here´s an example of ‘estoy enfermo’ in action –
Linda lleva todo el día tosiendo y se siente muy mal
Marcos – Hola, Linda. ¿Qué tal?
Linda – Pues, estoy un poco enfermo, llevo todo el día tosiendo.
Marcos – ¡Híjole! ¡Ojalé que te compangas rápido!
Linda has been coughing all day and she feels really bad
Marcos – Hey, Linda. How are you?
Linda – Actually I’m a bit sick, I’ve been coughing all day!
Marcos – That’s not good! I hope you feel better soon!
Now you’re sure to be able come up with a suitable answer to ‘qué tal’ no matter how you’re feeling! If you make use of some of the more colloquial phrases, you’re also sure to impress your Spanish speaking friends in the process!
If you’d like to further expand your Spanish lingo, feel free to check out my (pretty epic) article on 10 responses to ‘buenos días’!
Now go forth and practice!