How to Use ‘Como’ in Spanish Like a Native Speaker
Do you know what ¿cómo te llamas? means in Spanish? I’m almost 100% sure you do.
Como is everywhere, and it’s usually one of the first words you learn (especially so you can ask “what’s your name?”).
Now, there is much more to como than just being a question word!
It serves all sorts of functions.
Here’s a comprehensive overview to skyrocket your speaking and comprehension skills to native-like levels of usage of the ever-present word como.
Are you ready for your language upgrade? Let’s learn how to use como in Spanish!
What Does Como Mean in English?
I always tell my Spanish students that knowing the English translation of a Spanish word won’t necessarily take you very far. Why?
Let’s look at the translations of como in English:
- the way
- such as
- as soon as
- as if
I came up with 16 different translations and I could probably extend this list even more.
How is it even possible?
Well, como is one of these little Spanish words that can appear in a sentence as different parts of speech.
Just look at all the definitions in El Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy). It can be a conjunction, preposition, adverb, linking word, interjection, or a noun.
And of course, depending on the role of como in a sentence, you’ll translate it differently.
The key to how to use como in Spanish also lies in accent marks, which also change the word’s meaning.
Today, I’ll show you all the ways to use como.
Keep reading to see how easy and useful it is!
Como as an Adverb
Adverbs are words that give more information about verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
Como can be an adverb, too. When it appears in a sentence as one, you use it to express manner or approximations. Let’s see each one of these cases with examples, plus common phrases with como as an adverb.
Como to Express Manner
This is a common use that’s easy to understand. In this case, you’ll often translate it into “like,” “as,” “however,” or “how.”
Péinate como te digo.
Comb your hair as I say.
No todo es como tú lo quisieras.
Not everything is how you want it.
Te lo puedo hacer como tú prefieras.
I can do it however you prefer.
No me gusta como me hablas.
I don’t like how you talk to me.
Como to Express Approximation and Estimation
You also use como to say that something is not exact in weight, amount, time, or distance. You translate it into “around,” “about,” or “kind of.”
Bailé como tres horas.
I danced for about three hours.
Mi casa está como a un kilómetro de aquí.
My house is about a kilometer from here.
Estás como enojada, ¿qué pasa?
You’re kind of mad, what’s wrong?
Como to Give an Example
You also use como as an adverb instead of the expression por ejemplo (for example):
Visitaremos varias ciudades, como Tulum, Cancún y Mérida.
We’ll visit several cities, for example Tulum, Cancun, and Merida.
Como as a Conjunction
Conjunctions are Spanish connector words that combine other words, clauses, and sentences. Sometimes we talk about conjunction expressions that consist of two or more words that act as conjunctions.
Como is also a conjunction, and you’ll use it to express comparison, cause, or condition.
Como as Causal Conjunction
You use como to introduce a cause, and in this case, you’ll translate it into “because,” “since,” or “as.”
Como a Pedro no le gusta caminar, siempre viaja en carro.
Since Pedro doesn’t like to walk, he always travels by car.
Como me cortaron la luz, no pude terminar la tarea.
Because the power was cut off, I couldn’t finish my homework.
Como era de noche, no encontramos el camino.
As it was night, we did not find our way.
Como as Conjunction of Comparison
You also use como to compare people and things. Como in these cases often combines with tan and tanto in comparative expressions in Spanish.
Ella es tan guapa como inteligente.
She’s as beautiful as she is smart.
Tengo tantas ganas de comer como tú.
I’m as hungry as you are.
Es rubio como su padre.
He’s blond like his father.
Como as a Conditional Conjunction
When como starts a sentence, it can also introduce a condition. Watch out as you must use the subjunctive afterward! In this case, translate it to “if.”
Como llegues tarde, no habrá pastel.
If you are late, there will be no cake.
Como puedas, vendrás.
If you can, you will come.
Learn more about Spanish connector words: The Essential Guide to Spanish Linking Words
Como as a Preposition
Como can also work as a preposition and connect elements in a sentence. In this case, it usually comes before nouns or pronouns and relates them to other words.
Como as a preposition indicates a function, use, role, or position.
Me fui al corte como testigo.
I went to court as a witness.
Usan sillas como mesas.
They use chairs as tables.
If you need more practice with como, check out this Spanish website with 50 example sentences with como.
Cómo With an Accent Mark
Who would say that such a small thing can change so much? Cómo with an accent is almost a totally new story. It’s a question word—¿Cómo te llamas?.
Cómo with the accent mark starts direct and indirect questions or is an interjection in exclamations.
You can use cómo as an adverb to start a direct or indirect question. You’ll usually translate it into “why?” or “how?”.
How did you get in?
¿Cómo no me llamaste?
Why didn’t you call me?
¿Cómo se llama tu hermana?
What’s your sister’s name?
See also: The Ultimate Guide to Question Words in Spanish.
Just one important thing—watch out with the following questions:
¿Cómo es Juan?
What’s Juan like? / What does Juan look like?
¿Cómo está Juan?
How is Juan?
Can you see how your choice of the “to be” verb can change the meaning? If you need help with ser and estar, check out Ser vs Estar vs Tener: All the Ways to Say ‘I am’ in Spanish.
You also use cómo with an accent mark in interjections. If you use it to express surprise, you’ll translate it to “what?”. If you use it to emphasize a statement, it’s difficult to come up with a single translation.
-¡Mi hermana acaba de tener un bebé!
-¡Cómo! ¡Si ya tiene tres!
-My sister has just had her baby!
-What? She already has three!
¡Cómo me gustan los tacos!
Oh, how I love tacos!
¡Cómo tarda el profe en explicar las cosas!
The teacher takes so long to explain things
For a refresher on accent marks, read How to Write and Pronounce Spanish Accent Marks.
Common Phrases to Use with Como and Cómo
There are ready-to-go expressions that you may use in any conversation both with como and cómo. You don’t need to worry what part of a sentence they are, just learn them and use them in your next Spanish conversation.
1. Como mínimo
This expression means “at least.”
Me lavo los dientes, como mínimo tres veces al día.
I brush my teeth at least three times a day.
Tienes que aprobar como mínimo 10 materias para pasar el año.
You have to pass at least 10 subjects to be promoted.
2. Tan como and tanto como
Tanto como and tan como in English could be translated into “as (blank) as,” and you use it to compare things and people.
Mi gato es tan blanco como la nieve.
My cat is as white as snow.
Yo no gano tanto como piensas.
I don’t earn as much as you think.
3. Tal como
Use it to indicate the way you do or did something.
Mi viaje fue exactamente tal como lo había planeado.
My trip went exactly as I had planned.
When you need somebody to repeat something, ask ¿Cómo?
¿Cómo? Perdí lo que acabas de decir.
Sorry? I didn’t hear what you said.
2. ¡Cómo no!
This one is a bit tricky. Depending on your tone of voice it expresses agreement or disbelief.
Of course! – to express agreement
-¡Sí cómo no!
-Can I get in?
-Yes, of course!
Yeah, right! – to express disbelief
-Lo hice yo solito.
-Ay sí, ¡cómo no!
-I did it all myself.
Start Using Como in Spanish Now
Congratulations! You’ve learned how to use como in Spanish in many contexts—with and without an accent. You’ve learned useful phrases, so you should start using them right now to retain your new knowledge and challenge yourself. Practice makes perfect.
I know it’s hard to maintain constant motivation for regular practice but just think of all the benefits being bilingual brings. It’s about traveling and meeting new people at home and abroad, plus being bilingual translates into palpable perks. Did you know that according to a study conducted by The Economist, a person can earn anywhere from $50,000 to $125,000 extra just by knowing a foreign language alone?
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