Common Spanish Shopping Vocabulary

What you want, the Spanish-speaking world has got it. But money won’t get you everything you’ve been dreaming of—you need the right words and phrases to get you to the right shops (and to get you the right prices), such as mercado (market) and ¿Cuánto cuesta? (How much is it?).

Until you learn how to shop in Spanish like the locals do, you may find yourself getting treated (and priced) as a tourist, so read on to read on to find out more. 


Ir de compras — Going shopping


Ready to go shopping in Spanish? Let’s begin!

And just so you don’t make a fool of yourself by angrily forcing the doors in the wrong direction:

Las tiendas — The shops


Need to know where to buy things? You’ll need to ask for the right type of store.

¿Dónde comprar? — Where to buy?

If you only know what you want to buy, but you don’t know where it might be, ask either of the following questions:

Now, if you want some local opinions to factor into your decision-making, strike up a conversation with somebody and ask:

You can even get more specific and explain what kinds of qualities you hope for this place to have, using a question like:

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All you have to do is insert another kind of store aside from tienda de ropa and you’ll be ready to ask about anything.

When you’re faced with a couple of good options but don’t know which one might be best, ask somebody:

Cositas — Little things


You’re going to want to be able to say all kinds of things. If you’re looking for food and restaurant vocabulary, we’ve already got you covered. Soccer equipment? Covered. Here, I’ll explore artisanal and textile items, since this is a lot of what you’ll encounter at street markets.

Textiles — Textiles


Before you even start discussing prices, pin down what it is you’re buying.

Cómo pedir — How to ask


Should you be super polite? I mean, that saleslady seems really, really nice. Asking for things can be a challenge for Spanish learners. With older people, you can always choose to err on the side of caution, use polite grammar (third person) and phrases. Check out the following polite phrases to use during interactions with vendors:

You can also use doña when speaking to elderly women, to show ever greater respect. In more casual encounters, you’re generally free to use less formal language. In fact, I’d encourage less formal language in the interest of sounding more local. Here are some typical informal phrases for shopping situations:

Now, here are some ways to explain to people what you like and dislike. This will help them figure out which items you do and don’t have an interest in.

You can’t always get what you want. Sometimes stores run out of what you’re looking for! Here’s what you might hear when you’re out of luck:

Calidad — Quality


My perfectionist Ecuadorian fiancé has repeatedly taught me the most critical lesson in buying anything, anywhere. The goal is to find Los Tres B  (The Three B’s): bueno, bonito y barato  (good, nice and cheap). Repeat that to yourself—let it become your new mantra when shopping in Spanish.

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Here are some words you’ll need to talk about the quality of an item:

When you’re leaving it up to the shopkeeper to choose your items for you, you’ll want to make sure they know you’re paying attention:

If you get a damaged or lower quality item (for example, one egg out of a dozen is broken), pass it to the shopkeeper and say:

Tamaños y tallas — Sizes


Have you figured out the difference between a tamaño and a talla yet? They both mean size, but refer to different types of objects. This is a sneaky one. Basically, talla is for clothes and shoes while tamaño is for everything else.

While we’re on the topic of sizes, be sure to translate your sizes into European sizes before you start shopping, or you’ll have to go through some trial and error to figure out what fits. You’ll probably end up trying on a bunch of stuff anyway, because clothes and shoes are cut a bit differently in different parts of the world. In Latin America, shoes are often smaller and narrower, and pants are often cut for shorter legs.

Hablar del precio — Talking about prices


Making the actual purchase can often become a bit of a fiasco in small shops and markets. Unless the place is well-equipped for a high volume of shoppers or tourists, chances are good that absolutely nobody will have change.

Once you have agreed on a fair price and are ready to pay, you can ask the shopkeeper, ¿Me puede cambiar un billete de 20? (Can you give me change for a 20?) If you get a sigh or an exasperated head shake, then you know you’re about to go on a journey to acquire change.

The person making the sale usually assumes the responsibility of seeking out change from their friends and acquaintances nearby. They’ll be walking around asking ¿Tiene cambio? / ¿Tiene suelto? (Do you have any change?) or Présteme monedas  (Loan me some change!)

Regateo — Bargaining


Regateo (bargaining) is part of culture in Latin America. Even with their own countrymen, they’ll try to get the best possible price. You should never expect your money to leave your hand without a small debate first. This is normal and natural, and people don’t take offense when you try to low-ball them. It’s just part of the process of buying anything.

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*Warning: Don’t try bargaining at more formal establishments like supermarkets and department stores, only at smaller marketplaces and with individual salespeople.

You want to sound like a true local as you shop? Then whip out these phrases to show that you really know what you’re doing and that you mean business.

Getting a discount

First off, there’s one thing that any good shopkeeper will gladly do for you: Give you a package deal for buying more things. So whether you’re with your friends or alone buying multiple items, make sure as many purchases as possible happen in the same place.

  • ¿Me puede hacer un descuento si compro … ? Can you give me a discount if I buy … ?
    In the blank space, insert all the items that you want to buy. Make it sound casual, like you suddenly decided to buy two more things to save money. Once you get the inevitable, sí, then you can name your price.
  • Dame 3 por 20. — Give me three for $20.
    Let’s say you and your two friends each want to buy a lovely scarf from this particular cart. The man has already told you that each one costs $10. Outrageous! You can do better than that. Look at him confidently say this. Don’t frame this as a question. You’re still paying well—about $7 per scarf. He’ll probably agree to this price right away—he knows that somebody else might have tried for even lower.
  • Pero allá cuesta $12. / La señora de allá me lo dejó en $12.  — Over there it costs $12./The lady over there would give it to me for $12.
    You want to buy a gorgeous, handcrafted necklace. Another vendor had a similar necklace for $14 over there. But this joker is asking almost twice the usual price—$22! Are you just going to take that? No, you’re going to handle this like a local. Let him know that you’re asking around and comparing prices. You know the prices. You might either get a string of comments saying how much better this necklace is compared to the other one. Or you might get another price that’s in the ballpark.

Lowering the price even more

Let’s say after all this the seller decides to lower the price and says, Okay, te lo dejo en $15.  (Okay, I’ll give it to you for $15.)

Here are a few phrases you could try out now to get him down to the absolute lowest possible price:

A great way to learn these terms and more about bargaining and Spanish culture is by watching authentic Spanish videos. You can do this on YouTube or your favorite streaming program, or you can turn to a learning platform like FluentU.

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Whichever way you choose, immerse yourself in the language as natives use it and you’ll be able to pick up more words and phrases to use the next time you’re bargaining and shopping in Spanish.

Reasoning with the seller

Buying souvenirs and decorations is one thing. Now let’s say you’re at the produce market just trying to buy some delectable tropical fruits. You’ve seen prices elsewhere, and you’re hearing the locals pay cheaper. Or perhaps you’ve been living in this town for months now and are annoyed that people still can’t give you good prices for your daily items. Here are a few of my favorite go-to phrases for handling this situation:

  • ¡Vivo aquí y gano un sueldo ecuatoriano! I live here and earn an Ecuadorian salary!
    Of course, insert the country you’re bargaining in. When I was making a few hundred bucks a month (giving me about $100 for food monthly), I wasn’t ready to fork over an extra dollar for anything. If you feel that pain, you’ll come to love this phrase.
  • Amigo, yo sé cómo son los precios. Hey buddy, I know how the prices are.
  • Pero la semana pasada usted me lo dejó en … But last week you gave it to me for [price].
    Sometimes prices of things in the markets fluctuate when there’s a poor crop or when the seasons change. By using this phrase, you’re saying that you know the price (even insinuating that this person gave you the right price once before) and you’re wondering what happened. You might get a real answer, or you might get the appropriately lowered price.


When shopping in Spanish, don’t forget to end every transaction with a Muchas gracias  (thanks so much) or a muy amable  (thanks/you’re very kind).

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Soon, you’ll be negotiating with the best of ’em!

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