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Qué tal – More than just an informal greeting

Qué tal – More than just an informal greeting
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You see the expression qué tal in Spanish books on occasion, but most of the time they just tell you it’s an informal greeting and case closed.  That hardly does the expression qué tal any justice, so I put together a podcast about some of the most common uses for this expression and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at some of its other uses.

But before we get to the podcast, if your goal is to become fluent and improve your conversational Spanish, then be sure to listen to all the episodes of the Real Life Spanish podcast series.  You can find the complete list by clicking here.

Also be sure to listen to the All About Spanish Verbs podcast series where we examine the most essential Spanish verbs and learn the most common uses of them in everyday speech through practical examples.

Now without further delay, posted below is the entire transcript of today’s podcast episode.

¡Que disfruten!

— Start of transcript —

Hi, this is Rodney and today I’m going to talk about the expression qué tal.

Qué tal is an informal expression that has several different uses.

Don’t bother trying to make a literal translation because it’s an idiomatic
expression and it just won’t make sense.

But don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it sounds.  Once you see how’s it’s used
you’ll realize how simple and useful this expression is.

Let’s take a look at some examples

The first and perhaps most common usage of qué tal is as a greeting that you can use any time of the day.

You can use it to address one person or a group people.

If you’re speaking directly with someone, you can say:

Hola, ¿qué tal?
Hi, what’s up?

Or simply ¿Qué tal?

While I translated qué tal as what’s up, that’s not really a literal translation.

It could also be translated as:

How are you?
How’s it going?
How’s everything?
How are you doing?

If you want to address a group of people you can say:

¿Qué tal todos?
How is everybody?

or

¿Qué tal chicos?
How are you guys doing?

You can also ask about a third person

¿Qué tal tu hermana?
How’s your sister?

¿Qué tal tu amiga Marta?
How’s your friend Marta?

You can even ask about animals

¿Qué tal tu gato?
How’s your cat doing?

In fact, you can use qué tal to ask about anything.

¿Qué tal todo?
How’s everything?

¿Qué tal el día?
How’s your day going?

¿Qué tal la comida?
How’s the food?

¿Qué tal tu trabajo?
How’s your job going?

¿Qué tal tu clase?
How’s your class going?

¿Qué tal el fin de semana?
How’s your weekend going?

Before we move on, did you notice that we didn’t use a verb in any of those examples?

¿Qué tal?
¿Qué tal tu hermana?
¿Qué tal la comida?
¿Qué tal el fin de semana?

So what’s going on here?

When you use qué tal to ask about how something or someone is you’re actually using the verb estar,
but it’s assumed and not explicitly mentioned.

¿Qué tal? is actually ¿Qué tal estás?
¿Qué tal chicos? is ¿Qué tal están chicos?
¿Qué tal tu hermana? is ¿Qué tal está tu hermana?
¿Qué tal la comida? is ¿Qué tal está la comida?

Now here’s the really nice thing about qué tal, you can also use it to ask about events in the past
with the exact same structure.

¿Qué tal el vuelo?
How was the flight?

¿Qué tal el fin de semana?
How was your weekend?

¿Qué tal la comida?
How was the food?

And just like in the present tense, the verb estar is understood.

¿Qué tal el vuelo? is  ¿Qué tal estuvo el vuelo?
¿Qué tal el fin de semana? is ¿Qué tal estuvo el fin de semana?
¿Qué tal la comida? is ¿Qué tal estuvo la comida?

Let’s talk about some more ways to use qué tal.

You can also use qué tal to make suggestions by saying “Qué tal si…”

which translates to “How about if”

And remember, this is “si” without an accent which means if

Let’s look at some examples.

¿Qué tal si vamos al cine?
How about if we go to the movies?

¿Qué tal si vamos todos a jugar billar?
How about if we all go shoot pool?

You can also use it to ask about someone’s personality or an objects
characteristics by using “es”, from the verb ser.

¿Qué tal es tu novia?
What’s your girlfriend like?

¿Qué tal es tu nuevo coche?
What’s your new car like?

And that’s it.

As you can see, qué tal is a very useful expression that allows us to ask about
things that occur in both the present and the past using a very simple
construction.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for listening and I look forward to seeing you in the next podcast.

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