My top 20 Tagalog words or phrases

If you do get a chance to go to the Philippines, I suggest that you learn these 20 words and phrases. Because this blog is dedicated to Tagalog, you’ll be learning Tagalog terms instead of the other languages. I still encourage you to learn words and phrases from other Philippine languages like Bisaya but for the sake of this blog and article, we’ll stick to Tagalog.

I’m sure there are other blogs with something like this and their lists are different but this is based off what I believe is more useful or polite. These Tagalog words are basics for greeting, shopping, ordering or conversational usage.

Here are the 20 words or phrases in Tagalog you need the most. I’m not saying that I’m correct and the others are not. This is just my opinion on which phrases are useful. There is no particular order of rank although no.1 would be the most important.

  1. Salamat – Thank you. In almost every culture one needs to say Thank you to show gratitude and Philippine culture is no exception. Saying this word to a Filipino for doing a favour or to show appreciation will definitely melt his/her heart
  2. Pahingi – Please give me../I would like... Pronounced as /peng-ee/. Whenever you are at a restaurant or at a shop and you’re making an order, all you have to do is say this word plus the item after that and there you have it you’ve made a basic request. e.g. Pahingi isang manok. – Please serve one chicken.
  3. Mabuhay – Greetings This word has been promoted in a lot of promotional tourism materials of the Philippines. You can still try greeting someone with this.
  4. Kumusta – Hello, how are you? Technically this is mainly used in conversations more than Mabuhay when you are saying Hi to someone, but it’s good to familiarise both. If you hadn’t noticed, the word is a localisation of the Spanish greeting “Como esta” which means the same thing.
  5. Oo – Yes Pronounced as /oh-oh/ but very short and quick.
  6. Hindi – No. It’s self-explanatory. The stress is one the second syllable.
  7. May../Mayroon (Meron) – There is…/to have Pronounced as /my/ and /meron/ colloquially. Mayroon is considered formal. If you want to say that something exists or someone has something, this is what you say followed by the object. e.g. May kainan doon. – There is an eatery over there.
  8. Wala – There is none./Nothing If you want to say that there is none of or you don’t have any, you do not answer “Hindi”. You answer this. e.g. Walang kainan doon. – There is no eatery over there.
  9. Po – Sir/Madam Even such a short word can mean something very respectful. Mainly used when talking to older people or someone of higher distinction. Add this word after “Salamat” or “Kumusta” and you’ll make the phrase more formal. e.g. “Salamat, po“. “Kumusta, po“.
  10. Ano ang pangalan mo? – What’s your name? You’re going to need this when you meet new people and learn their names so that you can add them to your list of Facebook friends.
  11. Ako si …. – My name is…/I am …. When someone asks for your name, this is your reply plus your name afterwards. NOTE: This is not for saying like “I am a doctor”. This is only for saying what your name is. e.g. Ako si Jonny. – I am Jonny.
  12. Masarap – Delicious Hopefully you get a chance to try Filipino food. For first time travellers, I don’t recommend street food or inihaw. If you want to try Filipino food that’s safe, either eat at a Filipino party or at a Barrio Fiesta branch. There should be lots of them throughout the country. I hope you like the food too that you can say masarap.
  13. Maganda – Beautiful I hope that your stay in the Philippines is beautiful and fun. There are a lot of beautiful things to see here aside from the not-so-beautiful. Beautiful landscapes, beaches, fiestas and, yes, the women.
  14. Magkano – How much? You’re going to need this when you go shopping. NOTE: This does not mean “how many”. This is for when asking for a price.
  15. Ganito – Something like this This word may come in handy. This word denotes when you are comparing something near you. You can add this to the other words above. If you’re going shopping or talking about something, you can say “Meron pang ganito?” (Is something like this still available?) pointing to what you’re talking about. Amazing how one Tagalog word can substitute for three English words to mean one thing.
  16. Ingat na – Take care As said in a different post, the phrases for “Goodbye”, which you see in dictionaries are rarely spoken. However, when you’re leaving or they’re the ones leaving, it’s still good to say “Ingat” to let them know that you want them to be safe. This is probably the closest Tagalog word for “Goodbye”.
  17. Teka muna/Saglit lang/Sandali lang –  Wait for a moment. You have three choices. If you need a moment to do something and you need the other person to wait for a second, this is what you say.
  18. Saklolo/Tulong – Help! This is for emergency. If you get your wallet stolen, you’re being attacked, you need a doctor, a house is on fire, you just yell this out.
  19. Tama na – That’s it/That’s enough This can mean two things: “You’re correct” and “That will be all, I don’t need more”.
  20. Huwag na – Don’t do it.. This can be either a polite request or a strict demand to tell someone to not do something .

There are so many phrases in Tagalog that are just as important as the 20 above. If I have time I may make another list of just-as-important phrases. Hopefully you get to use these phrases during your trip to the Philippines and put a smile on their faces when you attempt to speak these.


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