The Top 100 Spanish Words In Action

I want to show you why just knowing the top 100 Spanish words can be VERY powerful stuff!

Let’s recap the last few weeks:

  • I gave you the 100 most frequently used words in spoken Spanish.
  • I went through the verbs and took out not only the most often occurring infinitives, but more importantly, the verb forms themselves—estoy; haces; es; puedo; ect.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about or don’t know what a verb form is, you can watch these two videos before you dive in.

Video One

Video Two

The Challenge-making you believe in the top 100 Spanish words

Now you have all these words that I’m saying are THE most important ones. But,

How can I be sure?”, you wisely ask.

That’s easy! We can go through a list of sample sentences I’ve made.

Again, using only the top 100 words and nothing more, let’s start playing around with some basic sentences through a short scenario.

Scenario 1

Imagine you’re talking with a friend and you’re figuring out what to do that Saturday night.

So you ask,

“¿Qué quieres hacer?”
“What do you want to do?”

He says that his friend is having a party. And points to a house on the street where you’re walking.

So you ask,

“¿Y la casa es de ella?”
“And it’s her house?”

“Sí, esa de ella. Vamos, ¿o no quieres?”
“Yes, that’s hers. Let’s go. Or do you not want to?”

You then ask to confirm if that was the same girl who had that crazy party last year.

He says,

Sí, era ella.”
“Yes, that was her.”

You remember that party and without hesitation, and respond enthusiastically,

Sí, vamos!”
“Yeah, let’s go!”

A half hour before your planned meet up, you call your friend and say,

Ya voy. ¿Por dónde estás?”
“I’m coming; where are you?”

“Estoy en casa.”
“I’m at home.”

Then he asks what costume you have. You respond by saying you didn’t know it was a costume party.

He says,

Uff—Tengo que hacer todo!”
“Uff—I have to do everything.”

and begrudgingly tells you that he’s got an extra.

You rush over to his place to put on the extra costume he has and head off toward the house, walking the couple miles soon after.

You arrive, knock on the door, step back and are surprised to see her little brother answer it.

After your explanation, he still has no clue what you want, and says,

“Sabes que ella no está aquí, no?”
“You know that she isn’t here, right?”

Exhausted from the hike in costume, you say,

Ufff—no puede ser! ¿Cómo así? ¿Dónde está?”
“Uff—no way! What do you mean? Where is she?”

The little brother says,

No sé. Ella estaba aquí, pero se fue.”
“I don’t know. She was here, but she left.”

And then he abruptly closes the door, without another word.

Your friend stares blankly at the door a minute, then goes,

Me voy. Ya no quiero hacer nada.”
“I
’m leaving. I don’t want to do anything anymore.”

And he leaves you at the doorstep, just a guy in a costume, with no party to go to, confused, disappointed and noticeably sweaty.

Using a little to say a lot

Frankly, this story isn’t that great. But it does show you just a fraction of what you can say using only 100 of the most frequently occurring words.

We only used 38 unique words!

But, clearly there’s a lot of gaps because the most frequently used words are mostly function words:

  • Articles—el, la, un, una
  • Conjunctions—y, o, pero
  • Pronouns—él, ella, esta, eso, quien
  • Prepositions—a, de, del,
  • Other function words—que
  • A very limited number of nouns—this makes it difficult to talk about anything, really

If we add just a few more words—mostly nouns—we can build this out just a bit further and make it sound more natural.

Scenario 2

You ask,

“¿Qué quieres hacer?”
“What do you want to do?”

He points to a fancy looking house on the street that you’re walking by.

“Hay una fiesta de mi amiga esta noche.”
“There’s a party at my friend’s tonight.”

“¿Y la casa es de ella?”
“And it’s her house?”

“Sí, de ella. Vamos, ¿o no quieres?”
“Yeah, it’s her house. Let’s go. Or do you not want to?”

“¿La misma amiga del año pasado?”
“The same friend from last year?”

“Sí, era ella. La misma.”
“Yeah, that was her. The same one.”

“Ah era esa…me la pasó bien. Sí, vamos!”
“Ah, that was it…I had a good time. Yeah, let’s go!”

A half hour before your planned meet up, you call your friend.

“Ya voy. ¿Por dónde estás?”
“I’m coming. Where are you?”

“Estoy en casa. ¿Qué disfraz tienes?”
“I’m at home. What costume do you have?”

“No sabía que era una fiesta de disfraces.”
“I didn’t know it was a costume party.”

“Uff—tengo que hacer todo! No te preocupes. Yo lo tengo para ti.”
“Uff—I have to do everything! Don’t worry. I have one for you.”

You get over to his place in order to put on the costume before you show up at the party. Soon after that, you both head out.

Twenty minutes later you get there and knock on the door and are surprised to see her little brother answer it.

After your explanation, he still has no clue what you want, and says,

“Hola, saben que ella no está aquí, no?”
“Hi, you guys know she’s not here, right?”

You’re exhausted from the hike in your costume.

“Ufff—no puede ser! ¿Cómo así? ¿Dónde está?”
“Ufff—no way! What do you mean? Where is she?”

“No sé. Ella estaba aquí, pero se fue.”
“I don’t know. She was here, but she left.”

And he abruptly closes the door, without another word.

Your friend stares blankly at the door a moment, then turns around.

“Me voy. Ya no quiero hacer nada esta noche.”
“I’m leaving. I don’t want to do anything tonight anymore.”

Using a little more to say a lot more

Again, to keep it simple, I only added a few more words to help with the natural progression of the story and to eliminate weird pauses and some unnecessary narration.

In total, the second scenario has 53 unique words

  • 43/53 in the top 100
  • 51/53 in the top 1,000

All of the blue words are within the top 1,000.

In case you’re interested, here’s where the blue words rank:

  • noche– 138
  • pasó– 276
  • sabía– 303
  • saben– 451
  • misma– 470
  • fiesta– 486
  • preocupes– 503
  • amiga– 837
  • disfraz, disfraces-outside the top 3,000 for sure

How does this help you?

As you can see, we’re still staying relatively small in terms of overall numbers, using only 53 words.

The point is to demonstrate that you can have a real conversation while starting out, despite possessing a limited vocabulary.

The “trick” comes when you understand these words well, and can begin to manipulate them to fit many situations.

More on these stories

This post takes a practical look at Lesson 19 in the Beginner Series, where I explain the 1,000 most frequently used words and why it’s the most efficient way to start learning words in Spanish.

Then we go through Lesson 20 and construct 25 sentences using only the top 100 words,  much like we did here.