12 Friendly Ways to Ask ‘What’s wrong?’ in Spanish

We all have bad days, so you’re sure to find even your most upbeat Spanish or Latin American pal looking mopey at some point or another. But how can you ask what’s troubling them in their native tongue?

Well, look no further than this list of ALL the different ways to say ‘What’s wrong?’ in Spanish!

Let’s get to it!

1 Qué pasa – What’s the matter

‘¿Qué pasa?’ literally translates as what’s happening? (or ‘what´s going on?’), but it can also mean ‘what’s the matter?’.

Vivian – ¿Qué pasa?

Fabricio – Nada…¿Por qué preguntas?

Vivian – What’s the matter?

Fabricio – Nothing … why do you ask?

*Rupert’s pro tip – in many Spanish-speaking countries ‘qué pasa doubles as an informal greeting, so make sure you pay attention to intonation and context!

2 Qué sucede – What’s the matter

A LOT of the phrases used to ask if something’s wrong also translate to ‘what’s happening’.

Such is the case with ‘¿qué sucede?’, which *normally* means (yep, you’ve guessed it!), ‘what’s happening?’.

Look at it this way: for Spanish speakers the phrases ‘what’s happening?’ and ‘what’s going on?’ are a great way to avoid asking someone if there’s a problem. So, instead of just saying ‘what’s wrong?’, many people plump for a (less direct!) ‘what’s happening?’!

Lore – Mamá, levántate y vámonos.

Jimena – ¿Qué sucede?

Lore – Está temblando, ven conmigo.

Lore – Mom, get up, let’s go.

Jimena – What’s wrong?

Lore – There’s an earthquake, come with me.

3 Qué ocurre – What’s the matter?

Next on the list we have ‘¿qué ocurre?’ … yet another way to say ‘what’s happening?AND what’s the matter?’ in Spanish!

A la hora de la comida

Madre – ¿Qué ocurre, Nico? ¡No has probado ni un bocado!

Nicolás – Reprobé el examen…

At lunchtime

Mother – What’s the matter, Nico? You haven’t eaten anything!

Nicolás – I failed the exam …

4 Qué tienes – What’s wrong

‘Qué tienes’ literally means ‘what do you have’, and it’s often part of a longer question, such as ‘¿qué tienes en la maleta?’ (or ‘what’s in your bag?’).

But when used on its own, ‘¿qué tienes?’ can also mean ‘what’s wrong?’.

Ben – ¡Hola! Qué gusto verte…¿Qué tienes?

Alexis – Ay, acabo de pelear con mis papás.

Ben – Hey! It’s so nice to see you … What’s wrong?

Alexis – Oh, I just had a fight with my parents.

5 Qué traes – What’s wrong

‘¿Qué traes?’ normally translates to ‘what are you carrying?’, but in Mexico it’s also a very popular way of saying ‘what’s wrong?’ – as if your interlocutor were “carrying” their troubles / predicaments around with them!

Un niño entra cabizbajo a su casa

Padre – ¿Qué traes? ¿Por qué estás chipil?

Hijo – Volé mi balón a casa del vecino gruñón…

A boy walks into his house looking glum

Father – What’s wrong? Why are you mopey?

Son – I kicked my ball over to the grumpy neighbor’s house …

6 Qué tranza – What’s the matter?

‘Qué tranza’ (also commonly spelled as ‘qué transa’) is Mexican slang for ‘what’s up’ and it’s mostly used as a casual greeting …

…but, just as with the phrases listed above, it can also mean ‘what’s wrong?’!

Dos vecinos se encuentran en el estacionamiento

Carlos – ¿Qué tranza, vecina? ¿No arranca el coche?

Paola – No, se descargó la batería. ¿Me podría pasar corriente de su auto?

Two neighbors meet in the parking lot

Carlos – What’s the matter, neighbor? Won’t the car start?

Paola – Nope, the battery’s dead. Could you help me jump-start it with yours?

Erika’s note – if you wanna know more about the meaning of ‘qué tranza’, make sure to check out our article on ALL the different ways to say what’s up’ in Spanish!

7 Todo bien – Is everything okay

It’s a rather straightforward option compared to some of the other phrases on this list, and (believe it or not!) it’s ALSO a common greeting amongst Spanish speakers!

Rodrigo – Hola, ¿todo bien contigo? Te ves triste.

Melisa – Sí, no te preocupes. Solo estoy cansada.

Rodrigo – Hey! Everything okay with you? You look sad.

Melisa – Yeah, don’t worry. I’m just tired.

And if you find yourself on the receiving end of ‘todo bien’ as a greeting, there are PLENTY of ways to respond that are sure to make you sound like a true native!

8 Cuál es el problema – What’s the problem

An unequivocal way to ask if someone’s having a rough time is by saying ‘cuál es el problema’, which literally means ‘what’s the problem’.

This one’s good if you wanna be super direct!

Una chica se encuentra a su exnovio en una fiesta

Katia – ¡No puede ser!

Valeria – ¿Cuál es el problema?

Katia – Ahí está Mateo, ¡me lo encuentro en todas partes!

A girl runs into her ex-boyfriend at a party

Katia – No way!

Valeria – What’s the problem?

Katia – There’s Mateo, I bump into him everywhere!

9 Algún problema – Is there a problem

You could also ask, ‘¿hay algún problema?’ (or the shorter version: ‘¿algún problema?’), which translates to ‘is there a problem?’ in English

En un restaurante

Esther – ¿Hay algún problema con la comida?

Óscar – No, para nada. Estoy tratando de recordar si dejé la estufa encendida.

At a restaurant

Esther – Is there a problem with the food?

Óscar – No, not at all. I’m just trying to remember if I left the stove on.

10 Pasa algo malo – Is something wrong

This would literally translate as ‘is something bad happening?’, but it´s actually more akin to asking ‘is something wrong?’.

Hugo – ¿Pasa algo malo? Te ves enojada.

Fabiana – ¡Qué bien me conoces! Sí, tuve una discusión con mi hermana…

Hugo – Is something wrong? You look angry.

Fabiana – You know me so well! Yeah, I had an argument with my sister …

11 Por qué esa cara larga – Why the long face

There’s actually an exact equivalent to the expression ‘why the long face?’ in Spanish: ‘¿por qué esa cara larga?’.

Polo – ¿Por qué esa cara larga?

Yael – Me robaron mi celular…

Polo – Why the long face?

Yael – Someone stole my phone …

12 Qué pedo contigo – What’s the matter with you

Finally, a bit of Mexican slang for you to enjoy!

‘Qué pedo’ is an extremely common way of saying ‘what’s up’ in Mexico. However (yup, you guessed it!), when accompanied by ‘contigo’ (or ‘with you’ in English), it means something the likes of ‘what’s the matter with you?’.

Butttt be careful!

Besides being overly informal, it’s more often used as a complaint (i.e., when someone’s out of sorts) than as a question of genuine concern.

En una llamada telefónica

Nacho – ¿Qué pedo contigo? ¡Te estuvimos esperando y nunca llegaste a la fiesta!

Toño – Perdón, wey. ¡Me tuvieron que extirpar el apéndice de emergencia!

In a phone call

Nacho – What’s the matter with you? We were waiting for you at the party, but you never showed up!

Toño – Sorry, bro. I had to have an emergency appendectomy!

Final thoughts

As you can see, it’s very important to nail the right tone when using most of the above phrases! Especially because the ones that double as greetings are also the most used!

Ready for more Spanish? Well, make sure to check out our list on all the different ways to reply to ‘hasta luego.

¡Nos vemos!

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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