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Easy Spanish Question Words: #1 Guide

July 15, 2022
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Questions help us improve our communication with others and continue learning daily. A conversation often begins with a question that turns into an answer, followed by another question. It would be impossible for you to speak with a Spanish-speaking person if you don't know the essential words to questions in Spanish.

Luckily for you, the way to ask in Spanish can have similitude and differences to how we ask questions in English. The vocabulary and some grammar points are what make it different. But those aren't complicated to learn, as we would say in Spanish slang: ¡Es facilito! (easy-peasy!). 

What, who, where, why, and how are the primary English inquiry terms that everyone must know to create interrogative sentences in this language. In Spanish and any other language, it is one of the first things you should learn to get familiar with the language and how to communicate with it. 

To understand how to use each term exactly, I will guide you through the meaning of each one with real-life examples. 

But before diving into the question words, let's learn some basics.

 

How To Say ‘Question’ In Spanish?

So, how would you say the word 'question' in Spanish?

'Pregunta'

Its plural would be 'Preguntas' (questions).

To remember the term, it would be best to inquire about its Latin origins. It comes from the prefix '-pre,' which is, in fact, one of the essential prefixes, and it means 'antes' (before). It also comes from the verb 'cunctari,' which means 'dudar' (to doubt) and 'demorar' (to delay).

So you can understand this term as an interrogative expression to obtain information or clarification about something.

What about the verb 'to ask'?

In Spanish, the verb is 'preguntar.' Conjugating this verb is easy! See the following guide:

PronounConjugationEnglishSound
YopreguntoI ask
TupreguntasYou ask
El/EllapreguntaHe/She asks
NosotrospreguntamosWe ask
UstedespreguntanYou ask (Plural)
Ellos/EllaspreguntanThey ask 

 

How To Use Question Marks In Spanish?

Did you know that Spanish is the only language that uses two question marks in interrogation sentences? Now you do! Writing questions in Spanish is not the same as you would in English.

question marks in spanish

In English, the rules are perhaps a bit simpler, as you only need one question mark at the end of the sentence. However, in Spanish, we have two. One at the beginning and the closing question mark at the end. See the example below:

  • ¿Cuál es tu nombre? (What is your name?)

The reason for this is straightforward, and it goes back to the XVIII century when it first appeared in the second edition of the Orthography of the Real Academia Española (Spanish Royal Academy).

The academics were unsure if the symbol should be included only at the end of the sentence or used both. They decided that long question sentences were quite confusing and needed a mark at the beginning to recognize that it was a question immediately. 

The rule of using it only for long sentences wasn't as apparent since many people were still not using the symbols correctly. So in 1870, the Real Academia Española, took another turn by making the rule even more strict and having everyone use both marks in all sentences regardless of the length. To avoid complications, they used the upside-down question mark at the beginning. 

That is the story of how we started to use two interrogative symbols in Spanish in both long and short sentences until today. Although, some of us are guilty of not using the symbol at the beginning sometimes! (¡Lo siento!). 

Nevertheless, I advise you to always use it, especially in academic writing

 

2 Grammar Points You Should Know First

Now let's get to know some quick basic grammar so that after scrolling down this article, you are ready to build some sentences on your own. 

When asking questions in Spanish…

  1. Personal pronouns are not always needed. 
  • El, ella, yo, tu, nosotros, vosotros, etc, can be omitted in many questions. For example: ¿Qué haces? (What are you doing?) — There is no 'tu' (you) in this sentence, but you can still understand that I am asking you.
  1. You don't need auxiliary verbs.
  • We don't use 'do' or 'will' like in English. 
    • English: Do you like my house? 
    • Spanish: ¿Te gusta mi casa?
      • Te: you (second-person pronoun)
        • Gusta: to like
        • Mi: my 
        • Casa: house 

 

All The Spanish Question Words 

question words in spanish

Knowing these important factors, you can begin learning the Spanish question words.

Don't forget that these words have a tilde (accent mark) to indicate that they are interrogations or exclamations.

Let's start with the primary terms. 

EnglishSpanishSound
Who?¿Quién?
Where?¿Dónde?
What?¿Qué?
When?¿Cuándo?
Why?¿Por qué?
How?¿Cómo?

Be A Pro In Making Questions In Spanish!

Now let's learn the meanings and some sentence examples to practice your newly acquired vocabulary.

¿Qué (What?)

This question word helps make questions about concrete or abstract things.

  • ¿Qué estás comiendo? (What are you eating?)  

¿Dónde? ( Where?)

You can use this term to express your doubt about the place where something is happening. 

  • ¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from?)
  • ¿En dónde estás ahora? (Where are you now?)
  • ¿Dónde está el baño? (Where is the bathroom?)

 ¿Cuándo? (When?)

Whenever you need to ask a question about the time in which something is situated or occurs, use the Spanish question word 'cuándo.' See the following example:

  • ¿Cuándo vas a venir? (When are you coming?)

¿Por qué? (Why?)

por qué why in spanish

This word can often confuse people because in Spanish, you will find 'por qué,' 'porque,' and 'por que.' All these terms have different meanings and are used in diverse situations. 

The term 'por qué' with tilde (accent) in the 'é' and the two words' por' and 'qué' separated is the only one used for questions. 

Writing in a question 'por que' without tilde (accent) or the two terms united as 'porque' will be a misspelling and cause misunderstandings. 

The term ‘por qué’ is a combination of a preposition ‘por’ (for) and an interrogative ‘qué’ (what). You can use this term to ask about the cause of something, and the English translation is 'why?' 

  • ¿Por qué estás triste? (Why are you sad?)

¿Cómo? (How?)

This term expresses a question about the way of happening or being of something. 

  • ¿Cómo vas a regresar a tu casa? (How are you going to get back home?)
  • ¿Cómo te llamas? (What is your name?)

In addition, you can use it to ask about the cause or reason for something. It is pretty popular among Spanish speakers to use 'cómo' as an exclamatory expression when where are surprised about something and require any explanation or justification about the matter. 

  • ¿Cómo no vas a comer toda la comida? (How come you will not eat all the food?)
    • The tone of voice you would use with such a phrase is of a question plus a bit of disappointment, sadness, or even anger. This is a typical phrase that a Latina mom would use to make you feel bad for not eating. 

¿Quién? (Who?) 

Use '¿quién?' to ask about a person's identity and whenever you want to know more information about someone else. 

This term has both singular and plural forms. 

Singular form: 

  • ¿Quién es el? (Who is he?)
  • ¿De quién estás hablando? (Who are you talking about?)

Plural form:

  • ¿Quiénes son ellos? (Who are they?)

More Question-Related Vocabulary!

EnglishSpanishSound
Which one?¿Cuál? (Singular)
Which?¿Cuáles?  (Plural)
How many?/How much?¿Cuánto? (Singular)
How many?¿Cuántos? (Plural)
Where to?¿Adónde?
How?¿Cuán?

 

Is It Possible To Ask Questions Without Using Question Words In Spanish?

The answer is yes! You can drop the interrogative words and add intonation to your voice that expresses that you are asking a question. 

Basically, you can convert a regular sentence into a question without adding question words simply by your intonation. 

For example: 

  • Estaba buena la pizza. (The pizza was good.) 

Ok, this sentence is a simple statement that the pizza is good. But! The whole meaning changes if I change my intonation into an interrogation tone.

  • ¿Estaba buena la pizza? (Was the pizza good?) 

Can you see the difference? There aren't any question words, but I still managed to make a question, just like in English!

In addition, these would be the questions where you can include personal pronouns. 

For instance, 

  • Tu sabes cocinar (You know how to cook.) - Statement 
  • ¿Tu sabes cocinar? (Do you know how to cook?) - Question 

 

Ready To Ask Questions In Spanish?

I think you are ready! Now you can ask any question in the Spanish language, which will help you not only communicate with native speakers but also get to ask as many questions as possible to learn the language quickly and efficiently. 

After all, asking questions is one of the best ways to learn a new language quickly.

 

Learn Spanish With Ling!

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