Being able to ask simple questions in Spanish is certainly a priority for any newcomer. Thankfully, we only need to learn a couple of question types and a few words of vocabulary to have a decent grasp of how questions are formed.
Let’s look at the two main types of questions found in Spanish and understand how they are formed: Type 1: “Yes or No” Questions | Preguntas de tipo “Sí o No”
In Spanish, questions that can be answered with a simple Yes or No, are structured a little differently to English. These types of question are in fact said as statements to the question you would like answering. For example: Statement: “Hablas inglés” (You speak English)
Question: “¿Hablas inglés?” (Do you speak English?)
Notice that the only difference between the question and the statement are the questions marks.
In Spanish, a question not only ends in a question mark (?), but it must also start with an upside-down question mark (¿).
Seeing the upside-down question mark is particularly handy, as it sign-posts the statement as a question before you read it, in an otherwise identical construction to the statement.
A Yes/No question type is said exactly the same way as the statement, expect you generally use a question-like intonation when speaking. Often as an upward inflection towards to the end of the last word.
This is a very important concept to grasp. As Spanish is as much about how
you say it, as what
Let’s look at a few more examples of Yes/No questions: Statement: “Estás listo” (You are ready)
Question: “¿Estás listo?” (Are you ready?) Statement: “Hay un cajero por aquí” (There is a cash machine (ATM) around here)
Question: “¿Hay un cajero por aquí?” (Is there a cash machine (ATM) around here?) Statement: “Te gusta la música house” (You like house music)
Question: “¿Te gusta la música house?” (Do you like house music?)
In English, to ask a question, we change the word order of the statement or add words like do
. Yet, in the above Spanish examples, we do not add anything nor restructure the statement. The only difference between the question and the statement are the question marks and how you intonate the phrase.
Another way to form these types of questions is: to make the statement then to append the question on the end. Notice that the question marks only surround a single word in these examples:
“Ella es tu hermana, ¿no?” (She is your sister, is she not?)
“Él es tu hermano, ¿verdad?” (He is your brother, right?) Type 2: Interrogative Questions | Preguntas Interrogativas
The other type of question found in Spanish are interrogative questions. These questions are usually asking things such as: What?, Where?, When?, Why?, How? and so on.
Structurally, these types of questions start with a question word, rather than just making a statement.
Here is a fairly comprehensive list of question words:
|Question word ||Meaning |
|¿Qué? ||What? |
|¿Por qué? ||Why? |
|¿Para qué? ||For what? |
|¿Cómo? ||How? |
|¿Dónde? ||Where? |
|¿Adónde? ||To where? |
|¿De dónde? ||From where? |
|¿Cuál? ||Which (one)? singular |
|¿Cuáles? ||Which (ones)? plural |
|¿Quién? ||Who? singular |
|¿Quiénes? ||Who? plural |
|¿A quién? ||Whom? singular |
|¿A quiénes? ||Whom? plural |
|¿De quién? ||Whose? singular |
|¿De quiénes? ||Whose? plural |
|¿Cuánto? ||How much? masculine |
|¿Cuánta? ||How much? feminine |
|¿Cuántos? ||How many? masculine |
|¿Cuántas? ||How many? feminine |
Each of the above question words can be used on their own to form a very simple question, or they can be used to begin of a full sentence asking in more detail. Here are some examples of such questions:
|Spanish ||Meaning ||Literal translation |
|“¿Cómo estás hoy?” ||How are you today? ||How are you today? |
|“¿Por qué no?” ||Why not? ||Why not? |
|“¿Dónde está la estación?” ||Where is the station? ||Where is the station? |
|“¿Cuánto mides?” ||How tall are you? ||How much you measure? |
|“¿Qué hora es?” ||What time is it? ||What hour is it? |
|“¿De dónde eres?” ||Where are you from? ||From where are you? |
|“¿Cuál es tu color favorito?” ||What is your favourite colour? ||Which (one) is your colour favourite. |
Notice in the last example, we literally ask: which (one)
is your favourite colour, not what
. Whilst both are acceptable in English, in Spanish there is a subtle difference.
If you asked “¿Qué es tu color favorito?”, you are more literally asking “What is (the meaning of) your favourite colour?”
, to which the answer might be “It's the colour I like the best!”
and probably not what you meant! Conclusion | En conclusión
The aim of today's blog entry is not to overload you with lots of new vocabulary, but rather to explain how questions are formed.
For some, hearing questions said as statements can take a little getting used to. Often leaving you wondering if someone is asking you or telling you. But as with all aspects of learning a new language, the more exposure and practice you have, the more natural this will become.