‘Qué hay’ – Meaning / In English

In short ‘qué hay’ is an informal expression that can often be translated to ‘what’s up’ in English. It can also be used to find out more about a previous statement AND as part of a longer question.

‘Qué hay’ is composed of two words:

‘Qué’ is an interrogative pronoun, which is basically a word used to form questions. Its equivalent in English is normally ‘what‘.

‘Hay’ is an impersonal form of the verb ‘haber’ (so you don’t have to worry about gender and number, yay!); it translates to ‘there is’ or ‘‍there are’ in English.

Got it?

Good! Let’s get into the nitty gritty!




Uses / Meanings of ‘Qué hay’ in Spanish

Qué hay’ can be used in following ways –

  • As a greeting

  • To find out more about a previous statement / question

  • As the first part of a question


As a greeting

‘Qué hay’ is a very common informal greeting and is used in a similar way to ‘what’s up’ in English.

It’s a very casual expression and the response you get will often be rather short / non-existent.

After being immersed in Mexican Spanish for a while (or any variant of Spanish, for that matter), you’ll likely notice that there are LOADS of different ways to say ‘what’s up’!

I’ve actually written an article on the 15 most popular, so be sure to check it out!

Saludando a un amigo

¡Qué hay, Daniel!

Todo bien, Renata, ¿tú qué tal?



Saying hi to a friend

What’s up, Daniel!

All good, Renata, how are you?


Enviando un mensaje

¡Qué hay, Julio! ¿Ya terminaste la tarea?

Hola, Mariana. No, todavía me falta un poco.



Sending a message

What’s up, Julio! Have you finished your homework?

Hi, Mariana. No, I’ve still got a bit left to do.

To find out more about a previous question / statement

‘¿Qué hay?’ is a common response to a statement / question; it’s normally used to find out more about what’s being asked.

It’s a common response to an invitation or request that’s not fully detailed.

Una madre a su hijo

Madre – Josué, ¿vas a comer?

Josué – ¿Qué hay?

Madre – Huevo con frijoles

Josué – No, ¡guácala!



A mother to her son

Mother – Josué, are you going to eat?

Josué – What is it?

Mother – Egg and beans

Josué – No, yuk!


Fernanda – ¿Quieres ir al cine?

Rodrigo – ¿Qué hay?

Fernanda – Top Gun.

Rodrigo – ¡Vamos!



Fernanda – Do you wanna go to the movies?

Rodrigo – What’s on?

Fernanda – Top Gun.

Rodrigo – Let’s go!

As the first part of a question

‘Qué hay’ is also used to form questions.

Here the use of question marks is necessary (well, duh … but don’t forget that we use TWO in Spanish)!

Luis – ¿Qué hay en la bodega?

Toni – Discos, juguetes y otras cosas de mi infancia.



Luis – What’s in the garage?

Toni – Some records, toys, and other stuff from my childhood.


Salvador – Además de la playa, ¿qué hay en Cancún?

Diego – Hay zonas arqueológicas, parques de atracciones y muchos antros.



Salvador – Besides the beach, what does Cancun have to offer?

Diego – There are archeological sites, theme parks, and a lot of nightclubs.


Qué hay’ pronunciation

This one’ll be rolling off your tongue in no time at all!

Qué’ is said like ‘keh’, and ‘hay‘ like ‘ay’.

/ keh ay /


Qué hay de nuevo’ meaning

‘Qué hay de nuevo’ can be used as either a greeting or a question.

This phrase was made famous by Bugs Bunny as ‘What’s up, Doc?’ was translated to ‘¿Qué hay de nuevo, viejo?’ on Spanish TV.

Perhaps a more accurate translation would be ‘What’s new?’.

Rafa – ¿Qué hay de nuevo?

Marlén – No mucho, mi abuelita sigue internada en el hospital.

Rafa – What’s new?

Marlén – Not much, my grandmother’s still in the hospital.



Priscila – ¿Qué hay de nuevo, Dani?

Daniel – Hola, Priscila. Ya terminamos la primera parte de la exposición; necesitamos que nos ayudes con las ilustraciones.

Priscila – What’s new, Dani?

Daniel – Hi, Priscila. We´ve finished the first part of the presentation; we need you to help us with the illustrations.


Similar expressions to ‘qué hay

Quiúbole

It might look like it´s from another planet, but ‘quiúbole’ is just another informal greeting in Mexican Spanish.

Be sure to check out our article on the various meanings of quiúbole if you’d like to find out more!

¡Quiúbole, wey! ¿cómo estás?

Bien, carnal. Hace un rato que no te veía.



What’s up, dude! How are you?

I’m fine, bro. I haven’t seen you in a while.

¡Qué pasó!

Although it literally translates to ‘what happened’, ‘¡qué pasó!’ can also be used as an informal greeting.

Guess what? Yes, we’ve written an article on qué pasó too!

Make sure you give it a quick once over (it’s a really useful phrase)!

¡Qué pasó! ¿cómo te fue con Alfredo?

¡Qué onda! Mal, no vuelvo a salir con él.



What´s up! How did it go with Alfredo?

What’s up! It didn’t go well, I’m not going out with him again.


Final thoughts

Although it’s a colloquial phrase, ‘qué hay‘ isn’t considered vulgar, so feel free to use it in a work environment.

It’s sure to come in handy on your next trip to Mexico … and if you don’t eat spicy food, don’t forget to ask ‘¿qué hay en la salsa?’ before drowning those tacos in salsa!

¡Hasta la próxima! 

Rupert's lived in Mexico for nearly a decade and has been working as a Spanish teacher for even longer (over 10 years now, wow!). He specializes in simple (yet effective) explanations and is a veritable grammar-whizz.

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