Can you imagine having a conversation to get to know someone in español without being able to ask any questions?
Without knowing Spanish question words, how would you ask about someone's interests?
Besides that, how would you be able to keep the conversation flowing naturally? It would be quite difficult.
Not only are questions crucial for creating that back and forth conversation and getting to know one another, but they help you deflect in the beginning. If your Spanish vocabulary is limited, an easy way to keep talking is to ask simple questions.
Start by understanding the basic Spanish question words and then add in the vocabulary you need to know. I’ve included some example Spanish questions and answers at the end to help you get going.
¿Estás listo? ¡Vamos! (“Are you ready? Let's go!”)
Spanish Question Words
Time to learn your “Who”, “What”, “When”, “Where”, “Why” and “How” in Spanish. These are the most common, basic Spanish question words you need to get the answers you want. A good thing to note is question words, when used as a question, all have an accent mark. When they’re used in a statement, you drop the the accent mark.
Who? – ¿Quién?
When asking about one person, you say ¿Quién? But when asking about more than one person, you have to change it to its plural form, which is ¿Quiénes? If you need to say “whose”, you would use de quién.
- ¿Quién es? – “Who is it?”
- ¿Quiénes son? – “Who are they?”
- ¿De quién son estos libros? – “Whose books are these?”
What? / Which – ¿Qué? / ¿Cuál?
In Spanish, “what” has two different words: qué and cuál. This can get a little confusing, but an easy way to remember it is that qué has only one factual answer possible. You use cuál to ask about a personal opinion or a choice between options. Cuál is a bit closer to “which” in some cases. Here are some examples:
- ¿Qué haces ahora? – “What are you doing right now?”
- ¿Qué es esto? – “What’s that?”
- ¿Cuál es tu favorito? – “Which is your favourite?”
- ¿Cuál es tu película favorita? – “What is your favourite movie?”
If asking about something that's plural, cuál becomes cuáles. Like in the last example, if you instead asked “What are your favourite movies?” it would be ¿Cuáles son tus películas favoritas?
When? – ¿Cuándo?
To ask “when” is easy: you say cuándo. The only thing to note here is you can’t use cuándo when you’re asking for a specific time (in hours and/or minutes). For that, the question is a qué hora as in ¿A qué hora es la película?: “What time is the movie?”
Here are some examples with cuándo:
- ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? – “When is your birthday?”
- ¿Cuándo vas a ir? – “When will you go?”
Where? – ¿Dónde?
Dónde means “where”, but it has two other forms based on the preposition you use with it. A dónde means “to where”, while de dónde means “from where”.
- ¿Dónde vives? – “Where do you live?”
- ¿A dónde vas? – “To where are you going?”
- ¿De dónde eres? – “Where are you from?”
Why? – ¿Por qué? / ¿Para qué?
Ah, the difficult por vs. para situation. It can be a bit difficult to know when to use which. It helps to think of para qué as “what for” or to understand the purpose of something. And think of por qué as “why”, or to understand the cause of something.
- ¿Por qué dices eso? – “Why do you say that?” (What caused you to say that?)
- ¿Para qué estás aprendiendo español? – “What are you learning Spanish for?” (For what reason or purpose?)
How? – ¿Cómo?
Cómo is fairly straightforward, asking “how”. How someone is, how they do something, etc. But it doesn’t apply to “how much” or “how many” (I’ll come to that next).
- ¿Cómo está usted? – “How are you?”
- ¿Cómo hiciste eso? – “How did you do that?”
How many? / How much? – ¿Cuántos? / ¿Cuánto? / ¿Cuántas? / ¿Cuánta?
Cuánto and cuántos are the masculine singular and plural forms, and they mean “how much” or “how many”. Cuánta and cuántas are the feminine singular and plural forms. They change based on the gender of the noun you’re counting.
- ¿Cuántas manzanas? – “How many apples?”
- ¿Cuántos aguacates? – “How many avocados?”
- ¿Cuánta agua? – “How much water?”
- ¿Cuánto té? – “How much tea?”
The Spanish Question Mark
As you can see above, in Spanish, there are two question marks: ¿ and ?
At the start of your question, you use the inverted question mark or upside-down question mark. This is called signo de apertura de interrogación (“question mark opening sign”) in Spanish and it’s used to “open the question”. It just lets the reader know you’re going to ask something. You then “close the question” with the standard question mark.
That part is easy, but there's one more thing to note. You only wrap the question marks around the question itself. So any connecting words, greetings, or other words that come before? Leave them outside the question marks.
So, for example, this looks like Bueno, ¿qué hay de la cena? (“Well, what’s for dinner?”) You do the same thing with exclamation marks as well.
How to Say “I Have a Question” in Spanish
When you need to ask a question, there are a few ways you can lead into it or ask permission.
The most straightforward way is Tengo una pregunta (“I have a question”). A few other options are:
- ¿Puedo hacerte una pregunta? – “Can I ask you a question?”
- Tengo una pregunta para ti – “I have one question for you.” (You can replace una with the number word for how many questions you have, such as dos preguntas.)
- ¿Puedo preguntarte algo? – “May I ask you something?”
Basic Spanish Questions
Now let’s take a look at some example Spanish questions and answers. These are questions you can use any time, with or without the basic Spanish question words. You can, por supuesto, make questions without them just like in English.
Keep in mind that when you go to personalise these, you may need to change the form of the verb or objects. If you change a word from singular to plural, the whole sentence must match. And if you change the person performing the action of the verb, the conjugation has to change.
- Hola, ¿cómo te llamas? – “Hello, what’s your name?”
- Soy Benny. – “I’m Benny.”
- ¿Que tal? – “How’re you?”
- Muy bien, gracias. ¿Y tu? – “I’m great, thanks. And you?”
- ¿Cuántos años tienes? – “How old are you?”
- Tengo treinta años. – “I am 30 years old.”
- ¿A qué te dedicas? – “What do you do for a living?”
- Soy escritor y orador. – “I am a writer and speaker.”
Getting to Know Someone
- ¿Donde trabajas? – “Where do you work?”
- Trabajo en un restaurante. – “I work at a restaurant.”
- ¿Cuáles son tus aficiones? – “What are your hobbies?”
- Me gusta leer libros y ver películas. – “I like to read books and watch movies.”
- ¿De donde eres? – “Where are you from?”
- Soy de Irlanda. – “I’m from Ireland.”
- ¿Cuál es tu película favorita? – “What’s your favourite movie?”
- Me encanta Star Wars. – “I love Star Wars.”
- ¿Desde cuándo aprendes español? – “How long have you been learning Spanish?”
- Aprendo español desde hace tres meses. – “I’ve been learning Spanish for 3 months.”
- ¿Cuál es tu color favorito? – “What is your favourite colour?”
- Me gusta el verde. – “I like green.”
- ¿Hablas otros idiomas? – “Do you speak other languages?”
- Sí, hablo inglés y francés. – “Yes, I speak English and French.”
- ¿Tienes hermanos? – “Do you have any siblings?
- Sí, una hermana. – “Yes, one sister.”
- ¿Tienes hijos? – “Do you have any kids?”
- No, no tengo hijos. – “No, I don’t have kids.”
- ¿Cuántos en tu familia? – “How many in your family?”
- Tres. Yo, mi mujer y mi perrito. – “Me, my wife, and my puppy.”
- ¿Tienes alguna mascota? – “Do you have a pet?”
- Sí, tengo un perro. – “Yes, I have a dog.”
- ¿Cuál es el nombre de tu hermano/hermana? – “What is your brother’s/sister’s name?”
- *El nombre de mi hermano/hermana es…” – “My brother’s/sister’s name is…”
- ¿Qué hacen tus padres? – “What do your parents do?”
- Mi padre es ingeniero y mi madre es enfermera. – “My dad is an engineer and my mom is a nurse.”
- ¿Dónde creciste? – “Where did you grow up?”
- Yo crecí en… – “I grew up in…”
Everyday Helpful Questions
- ¿Que hora es? – “What time is it?”
- Es la una. – “It’s 1 o’clock.”
- ¿Qué día es? – “What day is it?”
- Es viernes. – “It’s Friday.”
- ¿A dónde vas? – “Where are you going?”
- Me voy a trabajar. – “I’m going to work.”
- ¿Qué haces? – “What are you doing?”
- Estoy estudiando español. – “I’m studying Spanish.”
- ¿Estás de acuerdo? – “Do you agree?”
- *Pues… yo no sé.” – “Well… I don’t know.”
- ¿Qué piensas? – “What do you think?”
- Creo que esta bien. – “I think it’s good.”
- ¿Qué has dicho? – “What did you say?”
- Dije… – “I said…”
- ¿Dónde está el baño? – “Where’s the bathroom?”
- Por ahí. – “Over there.”
Start Asking Questions
There’s plenty here to get you started asking questions and speaking naturally. Once you learn the basic Spanish phrases and answers, you can change out words to fit your own personal vocabulary. The more you learn and practise, the easier it gets! And you’ll notice some questions pop up quite often, while others you may use less. Focus on what you need the most in the beginning, so you can start having your first comfortable conversations.
What questions do you use in everyday life that I missed here? Let me hear them in the comments.
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.