How to Say “Pen” in Spanish: Formal and Informal Ways

If you’re learning Spanish or planning to visit a Spanish-speaking country, knowing how to say “pen” is essential. Whether you want to buy one at a store, ask someone to borrow it, or simply expand your vocabulary, this guide will provide you with the formal and informal ways to say “pen” in Spanish. We’ll also touch on regional variations if necessary. So, let’s dive in and explore the various ways to express this common everyday item!

Formal Ways to Say “Pen” in Spanish

When it comes to formal situations, such as addressing someone you have just met, speaking to an authority figure, or using the language in an official setting, it’s important to use the appropriate vocabulary. Here are some formal ways to say “pen” in Spanish:

  1. Pluma: This is the most common and widely recognized term for “pen” in Spanish. It is used across many Spanish-speaking countries and regions. For example, you could say “¿Me prestas una pluma, por favor?” (Could you lend me a pen, please?) when asking for a pen in a formal context.
  2. Bolígrafo: This term is commonly used in Spain. It refers specifically to a ballpoint pen. So, if you are in Spain or conversing with someone from Spain, using “bolígrafo” would be appropriate. For instance, you may ask “¿Dónde puedo comprar un bolígrafo?” (Where can I buy a pen?) when looking for a pen in a formal setting.
  3. Instrumento de escritura: In some formal contexts, you may hear or read the phrase “instrumento de escritura,” which literally translates to “writing instrument.” While it sounds more formal and less commonly used in everyday conversations, it can be an alternative way to refer to a pen when required.

Informal Ways to Say “Pen” in Spanish

When interacting with friends, family, or in casual settings, you can use more relaxed and colloquial terms to refer to a pen. Here are some informal ways to say “pen” in Spanish:

  1. Pluma: Just like in formal situations, “pluma” is widely used in informal contexts as well. It’s the go-to word for most Spanish speakers, regardless of the level of formality. You can easily say “¡Oye, ¿me pasas una pluma?” (Hey, can you pass me a pen?) when speaking casually with someone.
  2. Boli: This colloquial abbreviation is more commonly used in Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries like Mexico. “Boli” is short for “bolígrafo” and is widely understood in informal conversations. You might say “Oye, ¿me prestas un boli?” (Hey, can you lend me a pen?) when talking casually with friends.
  3. Piloto: In countries like Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay, the term “piloto” is used to refer to a pen. It might not commonly be used in other Spanish-speaking regions, but it’s good to be aware of this variation in case you find yourself in one of these countries.

Examples and Usage Tips

Now that you have learned the formal and informal ways to say “pen” in Spanish, let’s explore some examples and usage tips to help you comprehend and use these terms effectively:

Example 1:
Formal: ¿Podría prestarme una pluma, por favor? (Could you lend me a pen, please?)
Informal: Oye, ¿me pasas una pluma? (Hey, can you pass me a pen?)
Usage Tip: “Podría” is a polite way to ask in the formal example, while “oye” represents a friendly tone in the informal example.

Pro Tip: When learning a new language, it’s important to practice speaking with native speakers or language exchange partners. They can provide guidance on the most appropriate way to say “pen” based on your specific situation.

Example 2:
Formal: ¿Dónde puedo adquirir un bolígrafo? (Where can I buy a pen?)
Informal: ¿Dónde puedo comprar un boli? (Where can I buy a pen?)
Usage Tip: “Adquirir” in the formal example sounds more refined, while “comprar” in the informal example is a simplified version regularly used in day-to-day speech.

Example 3:
Formal: Me dejé mi instrumento de escritura en casa. (I left my writing instrument at home.)
Informal: Se me olvidó mi boli en casa. (I forgot my pen at home.)
Usage Tip: “Dejé” in the formal example denotes leaving something behind deliberately, whereas “se me olvidó” in the informal example suggests forgetting without intention.


In summary, here are the various ways to say “pen” in Spanish, both formally and informally:

  • Formal:
    • Pluma
    • Bolígrafo
    • Instrumento de escritura
  • Informal:
    • Pluma
    • Boli
    • Piloto (in some regions)

Remember to choose the appropriate term based on the level of formality and the regional variation you may encounter. So, whether you find yourself conversing formally or casually, you now have a range of options to comfortably talk about “pen” in Spanish. ¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)

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