Qué Tal Vs Qué Pasa

Here, we will be comparing two commonly used Spanish phrases- or Questions- in every way we can think of; Qué Tal and Qué Pasa.

These phrases, as mentioned earlier, are commonly used so you may want to know what both expressions mean, how they are used, and how to respond to both of them when they are said to you. This should help your communication skills a bit. Proceed with the article.

Major Difference between Qué Tal and Qué Pasa

The major difference between the two Spanish expressions (Qué Tal and Qué Pasa) is in their meanings. Asides from the meaning of these two phrases, they are both similar in several ways.

 While Qué Tal means ‘How are you’ in English, Qué Pasa means ‘What’s up’. These are the best counterparts of the two spanish phrases, respectively. 

 While Qué Tal is basically a Question about a person and his or her well-being, Qué Pasa is often about the situation of things and can equally refer to a person.

The similarities between both phrases are as follows;

  1. Both are Questions
  2. Both can be greeting expressions
  3. Both are cliché
  4. Both can be formal and informal

Both are Questions

 Qué Tal asks a Question about how a person is doing. Qué Pasa asks a Question about what is happening or what the situation is with a person or in a place. When both expressions are said to you, you are required to answer a Question.

Both can be greeting expressions.

The two Spanish phrases are extremely similar to their English counterparts. Just like their English counterparts, they are often used to greet people and start conversations.

Instead of starting a conversation with Hello, some people choose to say How are you. Similarly, a Spanish-speaking person can greet you saying Qué Tal. In this case, you are not mandated to answer the Question. Rather, you are expected to greet back.

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 Just as an English-speaking person can choose to start a conversation with What’s up or What’s happening instead of saying Hello first, a Spanish person can say Qué Pasa when starting a conversation. Also, you are not mandated to answer the Question.

Both are cliché

The two Spanish phrases have been used so much that they have deviated from their original meanings. While the meanings of these expressions are actually clear, they are often used in a way that they are not intended to be. 

Just like What’s up and How are you have been asked so often at the start of conversations, Qué Tal and Qué Pasa have been asked at the start of conversations and people no longer respond honestly.

People often respond impulsively to these Questions because their responses no longer matter, even to the person asking.

Just as the Question comes out impulsively from someone who doesn’t really care, a positive answer come out impulsively from another person who doesn’t necessarily feel positive.

Both can be formal and informal

The Question of whether these expressions are formal or informal may depend on how they are used. The explanations for both Spanish phrases and how they can be formal and informal are below.

Is Qué Tal Formal or Informal?

Qué Tal translates to ‘How are you’ in English, therefore the two phrases- or Questions- can be judged equally. It is extremely rare to find informal Questions and, even if they existed, they wouldn’t be popularly used in workplaces.

Asides from that, informal expressions usually have underlying meanings which do not seem appropriate in official environments. Therefore, we can conclude that Qué Tal is a formal expression.

How is Qué Tal a formal expression? When Qué Tal is used in its original form, that is as a Question, it can be considered a formal expression. It is totally acceptable to ask about a person’s welfare in the office and Qué Tal is a civilized way to do it.

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However, Qué Tal can also be used informally. While some other formal words can also be used everywhere, Qué Tal is one which is often used differently from what it is meant to before.

How is Qué Tal an informal ? Qué Tal can be considered an informal expression when it is used as a form or greeting, rather than as a Question which it is meant to be. This informal expression also has cliché responses which are often not meant.

Is Qué Pasa Formal or Informal?

 Qué Pasa translates to ‘What’s up’ or ‘What’s happening’ in English language. The two Questions, being the same but of different languages, can be treated equally.

They can both be considered formal and informal for certain reasons. Qué Pasa in its original meaning should not be informal. Questions, in general, are simply Questions and should not be considered formal or informal.

However, some Questions are understandably inappropriate for formal situations. Qué Pasa is a Question about a person’s well-being or the situation of things. This is a Question that can be expected in an official environment.

Qué Pasa can be considered formal because it simply asks a Question that may be necessary in an office.

 It can also be considered an informal expression when it is not used as a Question like it is meant to.

While Qué Pasa as a greeting is not unacceptable in an official environment, it is still considered as an informal expression which only developed as a form of greeting due to the repeated use of the expression in starting conversations.

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How to use Qué Tal in sentences

The Spanish phrase, or Question, Qué Tal can be used in many different ways. While it is a Question about a person’s welfare, It is also an informal greeting. It can be used to ask how someone is doing or as an expression of surprise.

For example, you might say “Qué Tal?” when greeting a friend or “Qué Tal!” when expressing surprise at something or someone. In both instances, the phrase roughly translates to “How are you?” or “What’s up?”

Asides from functioning formally as a question of well-being and informally as a greeting and show of surprise, Qué tal can also function in a way that is not quite different from its English counterpart. Despite being a full sentence on its own, it can be part of other sentences.

When using it in sentences, Qué tal usually functions as a pronoun that is typically placed at the beginning of the sentence. For example: “Qué tal estás (How are you?)” and “Qué tal estuvo tu día (How was your day?).”

How to use Qué Pasa in sentences

The Spanish question, Qué Pasa, can function as both a question and as a greeting. In both cases, you do not need the addition of extra words. Like its English translation, What’s up, the Spanish phrase is a full sentence on its own.

You can simply say ‘Qué Pasa?’, to ask for the current situation of something. You can also just say ‘Qué Pasa!’ to greet a person or show your surprise to see a person.

However, this Spanish phrase can also function as a part of other sentences too. For example: “Qué Pasa Aqui (What happened here?)”, “Qué Pasa Contigo (What’s up with you?)” etc.

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