‘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 abuela 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.

Other similar expressions


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, güey! ¿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!