¡Hola! ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?) Yo me llamo Mariana. (My name is Mariana) ¿Tú cómo te llamas? (What’s your name?) ¿Dónde vives? (Where do you live?) These are all common questions in Spanish and they are very important.
Piénsalo (Think about it): if a conversation revolves around one person only, sería extraño (it would be awkward), boring even. Hacer preguntas (literally, making questions) allows you to discover more about the people you’re talking to and to have deeper conversations.
So, in this article, you will learn the words and phrases that will allow you to make questions and to keep your conversations going.
Spanish Question Words
Spanish has question words that help us in obtaining specific information. To keep things simple, we will divide them into two categories: those that never change and those that change depending on number and gender.
The following question words never change:
- Qué (What)
- Cómo (How)
- Dónde (Where)
- Cuándo (When)
- Por qué (Why)
The following are question words that change depending on number and gender:
- Cuál (Which) —turns into cuáles to indicate plural
- Quién (Who or whom) —turns into quiénes to indicate plural
- Cuánto (How much or how many) —turns into cuántos to indicate plural and masculine or cuántas to indicate plural and feminine
Things you should bear in mind
Number 1: As you may have noticed, they all have an accent mark. When making a question, you should never omit it; otherwise, the meaning changes.
For example, if you don’t include the accent mark on cuando, it turns into an adverb in a sentence like: Debes hacer la tarea cuando yo lo diga (You should do your homework when I say so).
Similarly, if you omit the accent mark on por qué, it is no longer a question word, but a conjunction that translates into “because”. For instance, Debes hacerlo porque yo lo digo (You should do it because I say so).
Number 2: Question words always go at the beginning of a question.
Question words that never change
If you watch Cory’s video about time, you will discover that ¿qué hora es? or ¿qué horas son? are the equivalent of “what time is it?”
Another popular chunk using qué is: ¿qué haces? or ¿qué estás haciendo? (What are you doing?)
Similarly, when friends have heard the latest gossip and want to share it, they say or text something like: ¿Qué crees? (Guess what?) and the other person usually responds: ¿qué pasó? (What happened or what’s up?)
In Spanish, just like in English, you can make questions politely or impolitely depending on context AND by changing your intonation. Basically, if someone is being annoying, you may say, ¿qué quieres?, which translates to “what do you want?” —but make sure your intonation conveys how annoyed you are.
The word cómo will always appear in the following questions:
- ¿Cómo te llamas? (Literally, how do you call yourself? / What’s your name?)
- ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?)
- ¿Cómo me veo? (How do I look?)
The word dónde is specifically used to obtain information about the location of something or someone.
- ¿Dónde está mi mamá? (Where is my mom?)
- ¿Dónde están mis lentes? (Where are my glasses?)
But, if you want to elicit information about direction, you should combine this word with the preposition a:
- ¿A dónde vas? (Where are you going?)
The word cuándo is used to ask for time-related information. Look at these examples:
- ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? (When is your birthday?)
- ¿Cuándo sales de vacaciones? (When do you go on holiday?)
- ¿Cuándo vienes a visitarme? (When will you visit me?)
Now, if you need to know the reason behind something, you should use ¿por qué?, which is the equivalent of “why”.
- ¿Por qué lloras? (Why are you crying?)
- ¿Por qué no me hablas? (Why aren’t you talking to me?)
- ¿Por qué estás aprendiendo español? (Why are you learning Spanish?) — Tell me in the comments below. 😉
Question words that require agreement
Let’s move on to the question words that undergo changes to indicate number or gender.
If you want to know who did something, you may ask:
- ¿Quién escribió ese libro? (Who wrote that book?) — if there’s only one author
- ¿Quiénes escribieron ese libro? (Who wrote that book?) — if there’s more than one author
If you are in a store and need some advice because you don’t know which pair of shoes to buy for yourself, you may ask your friend:
- ¿Cuál te gusta más? (Which one do you like best?) — if you are talking about the pair of shoes, which is singular
- ¿Cuáles te gustan más? (Which one do you like best?) — if you are referring to the shoes, in plural
The words quién and cuál (and their modification due to number) are not affected by gender, but the word cuánto is. Let’s go over some examples!
- ¿Cuánto dinero necesitas? (How much money do you need?) — dinero is the equivalent of “money” and it is masculine, that’s why the word cuánto ends with an O
- ¿Cuántas bebidas tomaste? (How many drinks did you have?) — bebida is the equivalent of “drink” and it is feminine, and since there’s more than one drink, that’s why we say cuántas instead of cuántos
Now, when it comes to plural, you only need to add an S at the end. Look:
- ¿Cuántos años tienes? (Literally, how many years do you have? / How old are you?) — años is the plural form of año, which is the equivalent of “year” and it is masculine
- ¿Cuántas hermanas tienes? (How many sisters do you have?) — hermana means “sister”. Since you are talking about more than one and they are all female, the question word is cuántas
FREE Spanish Training
¿Cuántas preguntas puedes hacer ahora? (How many questions are you able to ask now?) The words and phrases I provided you with in this article will certainly allow you to ask many questions, but if you want to learn more feel free to check out the other videos on our channel!
Psst, ONE MORE QUESTION! ¿Cuántas ganas tienes de aprender español? (How much do you really want to learn Spanish?) If you’re really committed to mastering the language, we have a free Spanish training on our website where you'll discover the method we use in our Spring Spanish Academy to teach students to speak fluent Spanish. You also get some free sample Spanish lessons there that come straight from our Academy!