‘¿Qué?’ When Translations Offend

One day during speaking practise, a Spanish speaking friend didn’t understand something and responded with “What?”

I know that in Spanish, “¿Qué?” is a perfectly acceptable response, and this is also true in other languages. However not all words translate well and you need to know which of these situations may offend.

In English, “What?” sounds a little blunt (too direct and harsh).

In fact, when I said “What?” as a child, I was reprimanded by my grandmother for being rude. Try these responses instead:

  • Pardon?
  • Excuse me?
  • Sorry?
  • What did you say?
  • Can you repeat that please?
  • You will hear “huh?” in common conversations, but it’s not actually a word. Therefore in my opinion it makes people sound like a Neanderthal without proper use of their own language.

Note: When you see a word coloured orange, this is new and commonly used vocabulary to learn.

Common mistakes is one of my favourite things to teach, probably because they are always accompanied by awkward situations and hilarious stories (at the expense of the storytellers, of course!)

Comment below with your funny mistakes and as I create more posts about mistakes, you might get featured!

Hasta luego,

The Cookie Chef



  • I thought that in english we also can say , what ? Because in Spanish language we usually use , que ? Of a common way.
    It is of big help.


    • Thanks Cesar for commenting, I’m glad it helped you!
      We do often say “What?” if we are shocked at something. That is because we are TRYING to be harsh in our reaction.
      For example:
      TV reporter: “Donald Trump won the election.”
      Me: “What?!!”
      We definitely want to yell this reaction.


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