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Basic Filipino Words and Phrases Foreigners Must Quickly Learn

List of Filipino Words for Foreigners Who Want to Learn Basic Tagalog

Basic Filipino Words and Phrases

LEARN: Filipino Words Every Foreigner Must Know before visiting the Philippines

Did you know that we Filipinos, actually rarely use “Mabuhay” in day-to-day life? It may come as a surprise because it’s usually the first word that Filipinos teach foreigners, but it’s only ever used for specific occasions–say when a visitor comes to the Philippines for the first time.

Basic Filipino Words and Phrases
Basic Filipino Words and Phrases

There are far more basic Filipino words that you should learn to make your trip here worthwhile and hassle-free. Knowing these common Tagalog words may just impress Filipinos–and who knows, you may find a friend when they know you can speak the language!

To make it easy, we’ve categorized some words for your understanding. Please note that these are Tagalog words–one of the most common languages in the Philippines. There are other languages such as Bisaya, Hiligaynon, Bicolano and more if you’re planning to spend most of your time in the Philippines away from Manila. Let’s learn!

Filipino Greetings

Magandang umaga = Good morning

Pronounced as ma-gan-dang oo-ma-gah

Use this if you’re greeting someone in the morning. It’s frequently used when meeting someone early in the day.

Example: You meet your workmate on the way to work. Say “magandang umaga” as an early morning greeting.

Magandang tanghali = Good Noon (12 pm)

Pronounced as ma-gan-dang tang-ha-lee

Use this if you’re greeting someone at noon.

Magandang hapon = Good afternoon

Pronounced as ma-gan-dang ha-pawn

This greeting is used from 2 pm to 5 pm.

Magandang gabi = Good evening

Pronounced as ma-gan-dang ga-bee

Say this when you want to greet someone in the evening.

Salamat = Thank you

Say this if you want to express gratitude.

Example: You asked someone for directions. Say “salamat” afterwards.

Paalam = Goodbye or farewell

Paalam is used when bidding farewells to a friend or colleague. In day-to-day conversations though, it’s not very common to say this as it sounds quite formal. More people use “babay” which is a variation of the english word “bye bye.” But if you want to sound quite formal, do so!

Example: You’re leaving the party and you want to greet your friend one last time. Say “Aalis na ako. Paalam!” means I’m going now. Goodbye!

Directions and Locations

Kaliwa = left

Pronounced as ka-lee-wa

Kanan = right

Pronounced as ka-nan

Taas = up

Pronounced as ta-as

Baba = down

Pronounced as bah-ba

These are often used in directions. Make sure to not interchange these four or else you might end up taking the wrong way!

Para = stop

Para is a word that is used when commuting. Say para! when you want the driver to make a stop. Para is most commonly used in public transportation such as jeepneys, tricycles, or sometimes, buses. It’s rarely used in taxis or private vehicles.

Example: You want to drop off at a certain location while commuting. Say “Manong, para!” (Manong means old man in Filipino.)

Asking Questions

Kamusta ka? = How are you?

Pronounced as: ka-moos-ta ka?

Example: You’re meeting a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. You may also use this when asking someone how he or she is feeling. “Kamusta ka na?” means “How are you or how have you been?”

Kailan = When

Kailan is used if you want to ask a question that is answerable by a point in time.

Example: “Kailan ka pupunta rito?” means “When are you coming here?”

Saan = Where

Saan is used if you want to ask a question that is answerable by a place.

Example: “Saan ka pupunta?” means “Where are you going?”

Paano = How

Paano is used to ask a question that is answerable by “in what way” or “manner.”

Example: Paano mo ginawa yan? means “How did you do that?”

Bakit = Why

Bakit is a question word that is used to ask a reason.

Example: Bakit ka nandito? Means “Why are you here?”

Magkano = How much?

Use magkano when asking about the price of an item.

Example: “Magkano ang mangga?” means “How much is the mango?”

Pwedeng magtanong? = May I ask a question?

Say this when you want to ask a question.

Example: You’re lost and you want to ask a stranger for directions. Say “pwedeng magtanong?” or “pwede po bang magtanong?” (polite way)

Anong pangalan mo? = What is your name?

Pronounced as ah-nong pa-nga-lan mo?

Say this when you want to ask for someone’s name.

Example: You’re meeting a new friend. You want to ask for his or her name. Say “Anong pangalan mo? Or “Ano pong pangalan niyo?” (polite way).

Anong oras na? = What time is it?

Pronounced as “ah-nong o-ras na?”

Say this when you want to ask for a specific time.

Paano pumunta sa… = How do you get to…

Paano pumunta sa… are the first three words you say when asking for directions.

Example: “Paano pumunta sa palengke?” means “How do you get to the market?”

Ilang taon ka na? = How old are you? 

Ilang taon ka na is a question you ask if you’re asking for someone’s age.

Example: “Ilang taon ka na, Ann?” means “How old are you, Ann?”

Commonly used words and phrases

Po and opo

Po and opo are called honorifics. These are used when communicating with someone older than you, mostly to elders. Opo is a polite way of saying yes. The use of po and opo in a sentence varies, as it can be either in the middle or at the end of the sentence.

Example: You want to thank someone older than you for helping you. Say “salamat po.”

Oo and Hindi

Oo = yes

Hindi = no

Pronounced as: o-o and hin-dee

Oo and hindi are informal ways of saying yes and no. If you’re talking to someone older than you, use opo or hindi po.

Nakikiramay = condolences

Pronounced as na-kee-kee-ra-may

Nakikiramay or nakikiramay po (polite way) is used when sympathizing with the family or relatives of the dead. It’s what you use to express condolences.

Example: Your friend’s family member passed away. To sympathize with his loss, say “nakikiramay.”

Naiintindihan ko or Hindi ko naiintindihan

Naiintindihan ko means I understand. Hindi ko naiintindihan means I don’t understand.

Example: Someone is explaining a process to you, but you don’t understand what he’s saying. Say “hindi ko naiintindihan or hindi ko po naiintindihan (polite way). If you want to ask to kindly repeat it, say “Pwedeng pakiulit? Salamat!” which means: could you repeat that please? Thank you!

Sandali = wait or hold on

Pronounced as: san-da-lee

Sandali means wait quickly.

Example: You want for someone to wait for you while you address something else very quickly. Say “sandali lang or sandali lang po (polite way)” meaning “wait for a while!”

Meron = there is/have

Wala = none

Meron means there is or having it, while wala means none.

For example, someone asks you if you have an ID. Say meron or meron po if you have it. If you don’t, say wala or wala po.

Tara! = Come join me / us / let’s go

Say tara! When you want someone to come join you, or if you want to go now.

Example: You’re going for a trip and you want to go now. Say, “tara!”

Walang anuman = You’re welcome

Pronounced as wah-lang a-noo-man

Say “walang anuman” to respond to “thank you.”

Example: A friend thanks you for helping him with a task. Say “walang anuman!” after.

Gusto = Like/want

Ayaw = Dislike/don’t want

Say gusto ko (I like it) or ayaw ko (I don’t like it) when you want to express your likes or dislikes.


“Gusto ko ng spaghetti” means “I like/want spaghetti.”

“Ayaw kong kumain” means “I don’t want to eat.”

Saklolo! = Help me!

Saklolo! Is used as a cry for help during emergencies. It’s used when you need immediate help from something.

Example: “Saklolo! Tulungan niyo ako!” means “Help me, please!”

Kahapon = yesterday

Ngayon = today

Bukas = tomorrow

These three words are adverbs of time. Make sure not to mix these three up, especially when planning a schedule!


“Kahapon ako dumating dito” means “I arrived here yesterday.”

“Darating ba sila ngayon?” means “Are they coming over today?”

“Bukas ako uuwi” means “I’ll go home tomorrow.”

If you’re able to memorize and understand these Filipino words, you’re off to a good start! Just remember to not mix up the meanings of these words and phrases to avoid confusion. It also helps that you use these in daily conversations with a friend or officemate so you can practice.

The words and phrases listed above are commonly used in daily conversations, especially for first-timers here in the Philippines. If you want to learn more advanced Filipino phrases or sentences, we’ve got a few tips for you!

Converse with a friend in Filipino.

Buy Filipino books such as pocketbooks or dictionaries, or even newspapers to learn new words daily!
Watch Filipino movies or English movies with Filipino subtitles–you’ll learn from context clues!

Do you know any other Filipino words that are not on the list? Share it with us in the comment section below!

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Written by Melo Villareal

Melo Villareal is the Online Publisher of He is an Accountant by profession who left the corporate world at the age of 23 to explore his beautiful country and the rest of the world. Today, Melo works as a part-time Social Media Manager for local and international clients. His full-time work focuses on discovering interesting culture, explore different cuisines and take memorable photos from local and international destinations he's visiting.

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