I'm looking for a phrase that would translate to "that sucks" or "aw man," but is more formal and not slang.

What would be a good expression in Spanish to respond to someone who says they're a little sick or tired?

I feel like "lo siento" isn't exactly what I'm trying to say, although that's the best I can think of for now.

  • 5
    The 2 answers so far are very good for Spain but won't work fully in hispanoamerica. Are you interested in any particular country/region? It would help if you add that to your question or add a regional tag.
    – DGaleano
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 13:29
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    I think that both fedorqui and Carlos Alejo's answers include slang expressions / words, whilst the OP explicitly asks for something "...**more formal and not slang.**"
    – user14029
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 14:41
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    @user I guess that may be because the phrases "that sucks" and "aw man" are themselves informal. Perhaps the OP is looking for something more along the lines of "I'm sorry to hear that" or "oh dear"?
    – Tom Fenech
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 15:14
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    Emily, would "I'm sorry to hear" or "Oh dear" or such fit as a better English wording? Having a good English phrase to work from probably helps people find the best answer :-D Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 0:55

5 Answers 5


Choices for "that sucks": choose a word from the first column and combine it with a word from the second (optional: end with a word from the third column):

qué        | putada (strong)      | ¿no? (asking for more information)
vaya       | jodienda (strong)    | ¿verdad? (expressing that you know the feeling)
menudo/a   | fastidio (mild)      |
           | disgusto (formal)    |

Choices for "aw, man":

vaya, hombre (formal)

jo (mild)       |  tío/a (colloquial)
joder (strong)  |

¡coño! (very strong, this word can express it all by itself)

Yes, you can use "hombre" even if the other person is a woman, as in this case it is used as an interjection to express surprise or astonishment (see meaning 8).

Now you can chain it all together:

Vaya, hombre, menudo disgusto, ¿verdad? (formal)

¡Joder, tío, vaya putada! (quite informal)


I think

¡Qué pena!

would suffice in most circumstances.


There are many ways to say this, but in Spain I would use some interjections of surprise like:



And then you can add something like:

Cuídate / Que te mejores / Descansa

In a very slang way you can say something quite strong, that it is out of scope for this question but I say it anyways for the sake of completeness:

Qué putada


Another option is ¡qué palo!. It's informal, but not too much, and means more or less the same thing as ¡qué contrariedad!, although the latter is much more formal.

12. m. coloq. Daño o perjuicio. Dar, llevar, recibir un palo. [RAE]

A disclaimer though — qué palo is used in Spain, but I'm not sure it will be understood in other countries. What is worse, palo is slang por penis in a few countries so you might inadvertently put yourself in an awkward position if used in the wrong place!

  • 1
    From the disclaimer in your answer, it is probably safer to avoid ¡qué palo! altogether !!
    – user14029
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 14:23
  • @user Kind of, yeah, ha ha ha. But anyway it is a well-known expression in Spain, where there's no risk of misunderstandings, so I think it's worth knowing it.
    – Yay
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 14:28
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    @Yay in Colombia we use "¡qué palo!" when an event has an unexpected result. i.e if the Cultural Leonesa wins against Real Madrid we would say _¡¡Uy qué palo!!
    – DGaleano
    Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 19:26

In Chile and probably in other Latin American countries we would say ¡Pucha! which is informal but not slang.

Pucha, mejórate...

¡Te resfriaste?... pucha, qué pena.

But beware, the expression has other vulgar meanings in some countries, particularly in Mexico where (I think) means "penis".

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