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How do you say "by the way" in Spanish, as in:

By the way, what's your name?

By the way, where do you live now?

By the way, I met Javier the other day ...

Google Translate shows a propósito and de paso. Is any of the two more formal than the other or are there regional differences?

I also saw another question mentioning one possible translation is por cierto, but it doesn't mention "de paso", so is "de paso" really an expression to be used or did Google mis-translate the context?

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The most natural translation for "by the way" in those sentences is "por cierto" (at least in Spain). "A propósito" could come in handy too but is less likely. "De paso" makes no sense at all. –  user1025 Oct 27 '12 at 20:29
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2 Answers

up vote 9 down vote accepted

In Spanish from Spain, you would use either a propósito or por cierto in all of those sentences.

I would personally use the former for sentences where there is some kind of trigger for the sentence introduced with the expression (the previous sentence is related), and the latter when there is no trigger at all.

  • Where I come from, we often answer a question with another question. By the way, where are you from?
    • De donde vengo, solemos contestar a una pregunta con otra pregunta. A propósito, ¿tú de dónde eres?
  • I’m having a great time with you. By the way, where are you from?
    • Me lo estoy pasando muy bien contigo. Por cierto, ¿de dónde eres?

Also, por cierto feels to me like the right choice when the sentence introduced is not a question, like the third one you wrote.

Regarding de paso, it is usually used to translate something like while are at it. For example:

  • Could you please take out the trash? And while you are at it, see if we got any mail, please.
    • ¿Puedes sacar la basura y mirar de paso si tenemos correo?
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That is a very good question since it is not even easy for me to answer it. But I guess I'm in the correct way, so, here we go:

  1. A propósito: You use it when something comes up in your mind and it's related with the topic you were talking about. Example: "...y Laura ya se mejoró de su enfermedad. A propósito, ¿cómo está tu madre? ¿Se mejoró también?"

  2. Por cierto: I would say that it is almost the same than the first one. In my personal opinion and this a really hair-splitting observation, "por cierto" would be only used with ordinary things that come up to your mind, in more common situations of everyday life, for example: "[...] Por cierto, ¿tienes más cigarrillos?", while "a propósito" can be used for both: ordinary context and formal context.

  3. De paso: This one means something like to take advantage of the context or situation to do something. for example: "Fui a la casa de Manuel y de paso regué las plantas de su jardín."

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is that related to Spain or Latin American Spanish? –  kabaros Oct 27 '12 at 9:59
    
¡Bienvenido a Spanish.StackExchange! –  JoulSauron Oct 28 '12 at 12:33
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