One of the biggest things students tend to neglect when they first start studying is Spanish question words. Maybe people think that there are other things that are more important at first, but the fact is, asking questions in Spanish is a huge part of the conversation.
How will you understand anything if you don’t understand the most crucial word in the question? So today, we’re going to go over everything you need to know about Spanish question words so that the next time someone asks you something, you don’t respond only with ¿qué?
What are the question words in Spanish?
Question words, also known as interrogative pronouns, are words that we use to request more information about a specific part of the sentence. In English, we refer to them as the 5 W’s – Who, What, Where, When, and Why.
Spanish, unlike English, has many more question words and can change based on the type of information being requested. They also always have an accent mark on them, so make sure you don’t forget that.
So let’s go over all the different ways you can ask questions in Spanish so that you’re prepared for anything.
Why is the Spanish question mark upside down?
A quick note before we get started – the upside-down question mark (¿). Many English speakers find this to be a bit strange at first, but for someone who is learning Spanish, it’s an incredibly convenient tool.
You always put an inverted question mark at the beginning of a question or interrogative clause. So for example:
- ¿Dónde está el baño? – Where’s the bathroom?
- Hoy la entrada es gratis, ¿verdad? – Entrance is free today, right?
This helps the reader know, right at the beginning, it’s a question. This can really help with comprehension. However, you’ll notice that people rarely do this when they’re texting or in very informal contexts.
8 Spanish question words
Great, now that we know that the inverted question mark is important, let’s get right into all the different question words in Spanish!
This is the first of the interrogative words that you’ll need to know. It means, “What?” and in most cases, is used similarly to English.
|¿Qué haces?||What are you doing?|
|¿Qué película quieres ver?||What movie do you want to watch?|
|¿Qué te gusta hacer?||What do you like to do?|
This usage of Qué is very easy since you are simply requesting more information about the subject of the sentences. Normally, you’ll give a specific response to these questions.
However, qué can also be used in conjunction with any preposition, making this one of the most useful Spanish question words.
|¿A qué hora quedamos?||What time are we hanging out?|
|¿De qué me hablas?||What are you talking about?|
|Si no tengo sartén, ¿con qué hago la cena?||
If I don’t have a pan, what do I make dinner with?
DID YOU KNOW…
Cuál / Cuáles
This word means “which” in English and, for the most part, it’s used in similar ways. You would use Cúal and Cuáles to ask for a specific noun when there is a limited number of options available. For example:
|¿Cuál es tu libro favorito?||Which book is your favorite?|
|¿Cuál te gusta más?||Which do you like better?|
|De estos zapatos, ¿cuáles son tuyos?||
Which of these shoes is yours?
When the noun you’re requesting is singular, then you would use Cuál, when it’s plural, then you would use Cuáles.
As you can see, you can use this when there’s a limited number of possibilities. For example, in the first sentence, “¿cuál es tu libro favorito?”, in theory, there’s a limited number of books, so we use this question word.
Usually, for Spanish questions about your favorite X, the correct question word is Cuál.
Cuánto / Cuánta / Cuántos / Cuántas
This is another great set of words to know for asking questions in Spanish. We use all of these question words to request information about a quantity or an amount.
Cuánto is for a singular masculine subject (that’s uncountable) or a verb, Cuánta is for a singular feminine subject (that’s uncountable), Cuántos is for a plural masculine subject, and Cuántas for a plural feminine subject.
- ¿Cuánto cuesta? How much does it cost?
- ¿Cuánta pasta tenemos en casa? – How much pasta de we have at home?
- ¿Cuántos días de vacaciones tienes? – How many vacation days do you have?
- ¿Cuántas manzanas quieres? – How many apples do you want?
This is another one of the most important words for asking questions in Spanish. It means “how”. This might have been the first Spanish question word that you learned, especially since ¿cómo te llamas? and ¿cómo estás? tend to be Day 1 topics.
- ¿Cómo se llega a la playa? – How do you get to the beach?
- ¿Cómo lo hago? – How do I do it?
- ¿Cómo te llamas? – What’s your name (How do you call yourself)?
- ¿Cómo estás? – How are you?
So this one is one of the easier ones, but here’s a pro tip: You can say ¿Cómo? if you want someone to repeat something. This usually is a better option than ¿Qué? since it can come off a little rude depending on how you say it.
This is another easy question word that is used exactly the same way in the English language, too. This is translated as “when”.
- ¿Cuándo nos vamos? – When are we leaving?
- ¿Desde cuándo vives aquí? – Since when do you live here?
Dónde / De dónde / A dónde
These common Spanish question words keep getting easier and easier! This one should be pretty simple, as well. When you are requesting information about a location, you would use Dónde. And De dónde is the same thing, but when you need to include the preposition.
As you can see, in Spanish grammar, we prefer to include the preposition at the beginning, rather than at the end like in English.
- ¿Dónde está Susana? – Where is Susana?
- ¿De dónde eres tú? – Where are you from?
- ¿Dónde pongo la bolsa? – Where do I put the bag?
- ¿A dónde vas? – Where are you going (to)?
This is another one of the first question words that you probably learned. The first question in Spanish you might have learned is, “¿De dónde eres?”
Quién / Quiénes / De quién / A quién / Con quién
This set of Spanish question words functions similarly to Cuánto, Cuánta, etc. Depending on the answer, the question word can change. If the subject is singular, you’d use Quién. If the subject is plural, then you’ll use Quiénes. And if you’re asking for an object, you’ll use either De quién or A quién or Con quién depending on the question.
- ¿Quién te dijo eso? – Who told you that?
- ¿Quiénes son esas personas? – Who are those people?
- ¿De quién es este móvil? – Whose phone is this?
- ¿A quién vas a enviar esas flores? – Who are you sending those flowers to?
- ¿Con quién vas a salir? – Who are you going out with?
So as you can see in the last three examples, the use of a preposition + quién is requesting information about the object of the question, not the subject. This part can be a little tricky since, in English, we don’t really use this anymore.
In English you should say “To whom are you sending those flowers”, but we as English speakers have decided to evolve past that. But in Spanish, these prepositions with the right question word help you have more precise questions.
Por qué / Para qué
These two are often a bit difficult for people because they sound similar, but they have completely different meanings. Por qué means “why”, requesting the source reason for something. Whereas Para qué means “for what”, requesting information about the goal behind something. Let’s look at some examples:
- ¿Por qué quieres ir allí? – Why do you want to go there?
- ¿Por qué preguntas eso? – Why do you ask?
- ¿Para qué vas al supermercado si vas a pedir comida? – What do you go to the grocery store for if you’re going to order takeout?
- ¿Para qué le dices esas cosas? – What do you tell him these things for?
These two can be tricky because sometimes they can both be used in the same sentence, but the meanings change.
- ¿Por qué le pegaste?
- ¿Para qué le pegaste?
In a case like this, the first question is asking for the reason. For example, “¿Por qué estás en la cama? – Porque me siento mal”. In both of these cases, the answer should probably start with “porque”.
One of the most difficult parts of learning a language is when words that sound the same have different meanings. Check our guide on Porque vs. Por qué to understand the differences between the 4 Ways to say Porque in Spanish.
In the second sentence, the question is focusing on the goals of what happened. As in, “what did you hope to accomplish?”. The answer could be “Para que se callara” (So that he would shut up).
This last set of question words is definitely the most difficult because it has conceptual differences and in English, they’re both translated to “why”. So it just takes some practice seeing it in context and eventually, you’ll have an ah-ha! moment.
Other ways to ask questions
So just like in English, you can ask a question without actually using any Spanish question words. This may sound strange, but you probably do it all the time.
All you have to do is have a higher-pitched voice towards the end of the sentence, and you can ask a question in Spanish.
- ¿¡No tienes Instagram!? – You don’t have Instagram!? **
- Nos vemos a las 5, ¿no? – I’ll see you at 5, right?
- ¿Hemos visto esta película ya? – Have we already seen this movie?
So in all these examples, the only thing you need to do is raise the pitch of your voice towards the end of the sentence and it forms a question. In fact, you can do this with nearly any statement in Spanish to form a question.
The best part is that this intonation rule applies to questions with and without interrogatives, so this is something you should always be doing.
Now you’re going to notice that you do the same thing in English all the time.
** The punctuation can change here, you can put the exclamation points (!¡) before or after the question marks (¿?). It’s up to personal preference.
Sí, that’s it! Now you know everything there is about Spanish questions, question marks, accent marks, etc. And the best thing you can do with all this Spanish vocabulary is practice! Find a conversation partner and start playing Twenty Questions with them in Spanish!
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