The 8 Spanish Question Words You Need to Know
When using Spanish question words, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
First of all Questions in Spanish don’t always look like they do in English. In English, we add words like “do” and “does” to turn statements into questions. In Spanish, it’s much simpler. For example, if you wanted to ask if someone has a job, you just literally take the statement “él tiene trabajo” (he has a job) but say it as a question “¿él tiene trabajo” (does he have a job?).
Remember that in Spanish questions have two question marks: one at the beginning of the sentence and one at the end. So, now that you know how to construct a do/does question, let’s look at some essential question words used in other scenarios in Spanish.
8 Spanish Question Words
This is probably the most common question word you will come across. “Qué” means “what.” It can be used in a number of ways and is very useful.
¿Qué haces? – What are you doing?
¿Qué es eso? – What is that?
¿Qué significa? – What does it mean?
Be careful though, because we don’t always use it in the same way we do in English. “Cuál” There are a lot of times when we would use “what” in English, instead of using “qué,” we use “cuál.”
Other than asking “what” questions, “cuál” is used to ask which one. We use “cuál” instead of “qué” when there is more than one option to choose from, like if you want to ask what someone’s favorite band is or what the address is. You would use “cuál” in these cases, because there are many bands and many addresses. Remember that “cuál” has to agree with what you are asking about, so if you are asking about something that is plural, you will use “cuáles.”
¿Cuál es tu número telefónico? – What is your phone number? (could be used as part of your Spanish pick-up line too!)
¿Cuál es tu color favorito? – What is your favorite color? (literally which is your favorite color)
¿Cuál te gusta más? – Which do you like best?
¿Cuáles son las mejores tiendas? – Which are the best stores?
For the word “who,” we use “quién” and “quiénes.” Remember that this word has to agree with the number of people that you are asking about, so “quién” is used for singular subjects and “quiénes” is used for plural. When you want to ask about whose something is, you use “de quién.”
¿Quién va a la fiesta? – Who is going to the party?
¿Quiénes son tus primos? – Who are your cousins?
¿De quién es esta mochila? – Whose backpack is this?
This is the word we use to ask when something happens. It is pretty straightforward, but remember that if you want to ask about a specific time, use “a qué hora” to ask what time.
¿Cuándo nos vemos? – When will we see each other?
¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? – When is your birthday?
We use “cómo” the same way we use the word “how” in English. It is used to ask the way in which someone does something.
¿Cómo llegaste aquí? – How did you get here?
¿Cómo estás? – How are you?
¿Cómo te llamas? – What’s your name? (literally how do you call yourself)
“Dónde” means where. We use it to ask where things are. If you want to ask “from where,” use “de dónde” and if you want to ask “to where,” use “adónde.”
¿Dónde vives? – Where do you live?
¿Dónde está el aeropuerto? – Where is the airport?
¿De dónde eres? – Where are you from?
¿Adónde vas? – Where are you going?
¿Por qué? ¿Para qué?
Both of these phrases come in handy when asking why in Spanish. They are slightly different, so pay attention! “Por qué” deals more with cause, while “para qué” is more about purpose, meaning closer to “what for.”
¿Por qué lo hiciste? – Why did you do it?
¿Para qué lo hiciste? – What did you do it for?/Why did you do it?
¿Cuánto? ¿Cuántos? ¿Cuánta? ¿Cuántas?
All of these mean “how many.” These words always have to agree with the gender of what you are asking about, so if the word is feminine, use “cuánta” and for masculine words, use “cuánto.” It can also be made plural, making the words “cuántas” for feminine plurals and “cuántos” for masculine plurals.
¿Cuántos años tienes? – How old are you? (literally how many years do you have)
¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much does it cost?
¿Cuánta agua tienen? – How much water do they have?
¿Cuántas veces has ido al parque? – How many times have you been to the park?
Now you’ve seen many different ways to use Spanish question words. Did you notice something about all of these question words? All Spanish question words have accent marks. All of these words can be used in other contexts when making statements, but in those instances do not have accent marks. We put accent marks on question words to differentiate them from their statement sisters which use the same spelling.
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Nicole DeFuria is a language fanatic from Seattle, Washington. She is fluent in Spanish, having studied it for over ten years and lived abroad. She is also currently studying Italian and Nahuatl.