How To Form Questions In Spanish

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When learning Spanish, one of the first things that learners want to know is how to form questions. This can be difficult for learners because they need to understand both what the question word means and how it should sound when spoken aloud. In this article we will show you all about forming questions in Spanish so that your conversations are more natural and fluent!

Using Intonation To Form Questions in Spanish

It is often possible in informal Spanish to turn a simple statement into a question simply by changing the intonation:

  • Tu mamá lo sabe. Your mother knows
  • ¿Tu mamá lo sabe? Does your mother know? (rising intonation)

Reversing Verb and Subject To Form Questions In Spanish

Alternatively, the order of the verb and its subject can be reversed:

  • ¿Lo sabe tu mamá? Does your mother know?
  • ¿Conoce Antonio a mi suegro? Does Antonio know my father-in-law?

List Of Spanish Question Words

Spanish has a series of words that correspond to our question words:

  • ¿cómo? how?
  • ¿cuál?/¿cuáles? which?
  • ¿cuándo? when?
  • ¿dónde? where?
  • ¿para qué? what for?
  • ¿por qué? why? (contrast with porque because)
  • ¿qué? what?/which?
  • ¿quién?/¿quiénes? Who?

These question words must be written with an accent and are pronounced as stressed words. This is the case in both Direct and Indirect Questions:

  • ¿Cuándo viene? When’s he coming? (Direct Question)
  • ¿Sabes cuándo va a venir? Do you know when he’s coming? (Indirect Question)

After these words the verb is put before the subject:

  • ¿Cómo van ustedes a Miami? How are you going to Miami?
  • ¿Por qué dice eso tu Jefe? Why does your boss say that?

Who? must be translated by quiénes if we are certain that more than one person is involved:

  • ¿Quién lo hizo? Who did it?
  • ¿Quiénes lo hicieron? Which persons did it?

Translating what? Into Spanish

When the English word “what” is followed by nothing, the Spanish word is qué :

Tenemos que hacer algo, pero no sabemos qué. We have to do something, but we don’t know what.

The English what + to be is translated cuál + ser , except when what is? really means what is the definition of? or how many?

  • ¿Cuál fue la solución que él propuso? What was the solution that he suggested?
  • ¿Cuál es su profesión? What's your profession?

but

  • ¿Qué hora es? What's the time?
  • ¿Qué es un agujero negro? What is (the definition of) a Black Hole?

When the English what precedes a verb other than ser it is translated lo que , but before an Infinitive by qué :

  • No sé lo que quieres. I don’t know what you want.
  • No sé qué decirles. / don’t know what to say to them.

When what stands before a noun, it is translated qué :

  • Dinero? ¿Qué dinero? Money? What money?
  • No sé en qué canal es. I don’t know what/which channel it’s on.

Many Latin-Americans use cuál in such sentences, e.g.

¿A cuáles libros te refieres? for ¿A qué libros te refieres? What books are you referring to?, but this is not done in Spain and is not the case in every Latin-American country.

Translating which? In Spanish

When which stands alone, it is translated cuál , plural cuáles (although quién , plural quienes is more appropriate for human beings):

  • He leído alguno de estos libros, pero no recuerdo cuál. I’ve read one or other of these books, but I can’t remember which.

Which of? is cuál de , plural cuáles de. When which is an abbreviated form of which of themcuál/cuáles must also be used:

  • Puedes elegir tres de estos. ¿Cuáles prefieres? You can choose three of these. Which (ones of them) do you prefer?

When which can be replaced by what it should be translated qué .

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