How to ask “Can I have” in Spanish has come up a few times recently with adult learners. As it’s such an obvious question that seems to be so massively misunderstood it definitely deserves some attention.
Asking “Can I have” in Spanish sounds simple right? In fact most beginner language-learners think they know how to do it. The general reply is;
“It’s puedo tener, right?”
Erm, no, lo siento, actually it’s not.
Although to be fair, puedo, means I can or Can I? and it does come from the verb poder which means to be able to in Spanish (aka “can”), and tener means to have. However putting them both together like this doesn’t make “can I have”.
The truth is, that Can I have, in Spanish doesn’t actually exist.
Asking if you can have something in Spanish is done differently depending on what it is you’re asking for. Below are a few examples:
“Can I have” as “can I?”
The easiest way to ask if you can have something, when referring to something specific is to point to it and ask ¿puedo? which means can I? You’d like to pick up one of the leaflets in the reception of your hotel so look over to the receptionist, point to the leaflet and simply ask ¿puedo? They’ll say sí, and you say….¡gracias!
“Can I have” as “I want”
Another way to indicate that you want something is to use the verb querer which means to want. It might sound demanding, but when used with gracias at the end it is a request not a demand.
“Can I have the prawns please?” is quiero las gambas por favor.
“Can I have” as “give me”
The verb to give in Spanish is dar and when used properly is a great way of saying that you want something. You need to be aware of your personal pronouns here! To say “give me please” is me da(s) por favor. Which literally translates to can you give me please. Da when you are addressing someone formally as usted and das when it’s someone you address informally as tú.
So, there you have it – how to ask “Can I have” in Spanish.
To hear how this sounds in spoken Spanish check out my YouTube video below.
Which will you be incorporating into your language – let me know in the comments.