Say What? The Definitive, Must-Have Guide to Spanish Question Words
How much does it cost? Where is the hotel? What did you say?
These are some of the most basic, necessary questions you will need to know in Spanish if you travel to a Spanish-speaking country. Question words are some of the most essential vocabulary to learn in any language to help you survive the ups and downs of navigating a new language, country, or culture. We have put together a must-have list of Spanish question words, or los pronombres interrogativos. ¿Estás listo?
Most Common Spanish Question Words
In general, the Spanish question words are comparable to their English counterparts. However, there are some slight differences in spelling and a few unexpected twists in their uses.
Before diving into the complete list, keep the following rules in mind:
- In Spanish, questions always start with an upside-down question mark and end with a regular one.
- All of the main question words have an accent mark. This tilde distinguishes the different uses of the word. For example, dónde is used for a question or exclamation while donde is used as an adverb in the middle of a sentence.
- ¿Dónde está mi mochila?
- Where is my backpack?
- Vamos a la playa donde nos conocimos.
- Let’s go to the beach where we met.
- ¿Dónde está mi mochila?
- If a question uses a preposition, it usually goes at the end of the sentence in conversational English. For example, you would say “Who is that present for?” instead of the more formal version “For whom is that present?” On the contrary, the prepositions (like “for”) go at the beginning of the questions in Spanish, just like in the formal English example.
- Only three question words change according to the subject’s gender and/or plurality: cuántos, cuál, and quién. The rest of the words never change.
Quién is the question word for “who.” Used alone, without a preposition, it simply means “who.”
¿Quién es? – Who is it?
¿Quién habla? – Who is this? / Who is speaking?
¿Quién es el encargado aquí? – Who is in charge here?
If the subject is plural, quién changes to quiénes.
¿Quiénes son ellos? – Who are they?
¿Quiénes van a venir? – Who all is going to come?
¿Quiénes quieren chocolate? – Who all wants chocolate?
As you can see in the last two examples, the plurality of the subject is not always evident in the sentence. Instead, it is taken from the context and would be understood in the situation. We can sometimes translate quiénes to the informal “who all” to make clear you are talking to a group.
Now, quién is sometimes used with a preposition. In general, if the question in English ends with a preposition, put it at the beginning of the Spanish question. In the examples below, the prepositions are in bold so you can see the change in placement.
¿Con quién vas a ir? – Who are you going with?
¿Para quién es el pastel? – Who is the cake for?
The next example is de quién, which literally translates to “of whom.” However, that is not a common phrase in English, so this phrase translates to “whose.” Because “whose” is not a literal translation of de quién, the rest of the sentence structure in English is slightly different from the Spanish. As you can see below, the noun in the Spanish sentence appears at the end of the sentence, while in English it comes right after the question word.
¿De quién es este lapicero? – Whose pen is this?
¿De quién es el perro?– Whose dog is this?
The final use of quién is a quién, or “to whom.” This phrase was not included with the other prepositional Spanish question words con quién and para quién because it has two translations. Sometimes the a translates to “to,” as in the following examples.
¿A quién debo hablar? – Who do I need to talk to?
¿A quién lo enviaste? – Who did you send it to?
On other occasions, the a is not translated because it is only used as a personal a, the preposition that must go before any person.
¿A quién llamaste? – Who did you call?
¿A quién le importa? – Who cares?
Qué is quite possibly the most commonly used question word, meaning “what.”
¿Qué dijiste? – What did you say?
¿Qué hay de comer? – What is there to eat?
¿Qué color quieres? – What color do you want?
¿Qué es eso? – What is that?
Just like with quién, there are many additional Spanish question words utilizing qué. Para qué translates to “what for,” and de qué loosely translates to “about what.”
¿Para qué es eso? – What is that for?
¿Para qué? – What for?
¿De qué se trata la película? – What is the movie about?
¿De qué te habló ella? – What did she talk to you about?
Other Uses of Qué
However, qué doesn’t always translate to “what.” For the question “how often” and comparisons with “how,” use qué. Con qué frecuencia and qué tan a menudo are synonyms for “how often.”
¿Con qué frecuencia vas al gimnasio? – How often do you go to the gym?
¿Qué tan a menudo vas al gimnasio? – How often do you go to the gym?
¿Qué tan seguro estás? – How sure are you?
¿Qué tan lejos está él? – How far away is he?
Cuál is another one of the Spanish question words that has an -es added to the end if the subject is plural. Now, cuál is generally translated as “which,” but that is the correct translation in only about half of the sentences with cuál. Its other meaning is “what.”
¿Cuáles te gustan? – Which ones do you like?
¿Cuál es tu favorito? – Which one is your favorite?
¿Cuál es tu nombre? – What is your name?
¿Cuál es la respuesta correcta? – What is the correct answer?
You’re probably wondering how in the world you know when to use cuál versus qué, and you’re not alone! Many Spanish learners struggle with this but here is a great rule to help you.
Qué es is used for definitions (¿Qué es eso? ¿Qué es un sompopo?), while cuál es asks for a specific answer (¿Cuál es tu dirección? ¿Cuál es tu nombre?).
The confusion usually only occurs when qué or cuál is followed by the verb es (is). In most other situations, cuál usually translates to “which.”
¿Dónde está el baño? is one of the first questions that Spanish students learn. It utilizes the Spanish question word dónde, or “where.” While the question here includes the verb estar, dónde can also be followed by ser, especially in conversational Spanish. The reason for this is because estar is for temporary things while ser is used for permanent things. Dónde está would be used for things that change locations often, like shoes, pets, or keys. Dónde es could be used for permanent places, like cities, party locations, or natural landmarks.
¿Dónde está tu hermana? – Where is your sister?
¿Dónde está la pelota? – Where is the ball?
¿Dónde es San Diego? – Where is San Diego?
Dónde is also commonly used with prepositions beforehand, as with de dónde, en dónde, and por dónde.
¿De dónde eres? – Where are you from?
¿En dónde vives? – Where do you live (in, at)?
¿Por dónde vienes? – Where are you at?
This last sentence is loosely translated. Por dónde means “around where,” “which way,” and “whereabouts.”
¿Por dónde voy? – Which way do I go?
¿Por dónde vienes? – Literally: Around where do you come? Translation: Where are you? (on your way here)
¿Por dónde estudias? – Whereabouts do you study?
Adónde (also written a dónde) is very similar to dónde. It can often be translated to “where,” but its literal meaning is “where to.” It is not always translated as such due to the different sentence structures in English and Spanish.
¿Adónde vamos mañana? – Where are we going (to) tomorrow?
¿Adónde vas? – Where are you going (to)?
The difference between dónde and adónde is that adónde expresses movement to a final destination while dónde does not usually connotate movement.
If you want to know when an event is, use cuándo!
¿Cuándo es la fiesta? – When is the party?
¿Cuándo vamos a la playa? – When are we going to the beach?
¿Cuándo van a llegar tus primos? – When are your cousins coming?
A common mistake with cuándo is that many Spanish learners use it for time. For example, “when” in English can be used for dates, days, and time. However, cuándo is only for dates and days. To ask for a specific time, use a qué hora.
¿A qué hora empieza la fiesta? – When (what time) does the party start?
¿A qué hora vamos a salir? – When (what time) are we going to leave?
7. ¿Por qué?
Por qué is the Spanish question word for “why.” The only tricky thing with this one is the spelling! Make sure to always write it as two separate words with an accent on the e so it is not confused with “because,” or porque.
¿Por qué no quieres venir? – Why don’t you want to come?
¿Por qué no te gusta el aguacate? – Why don’t you like avocado?
¿Por qué hay tanta seguridad? – Why is there so much security?
If you want to know how to do things or how something works, use cómo. Again, make sure to use the accent mark so it isn’t confused with como, which means “like” or “as.”
¿Cómo se dice? – How do you say it?
¿Cómo se hace? – How do you do it?
¿Cómo lo vas a arreglar? – How are you going to fix it?
Another common use of cómo is in the phrase cómo así, which is another way to ask for clarification.
¿Cómo asi? – What do you mean? What?
Both the questions “how many” and “how much” are translated as cuánto.
“How much” is used for uncountable nouns or for things like prices and weight. The Spanish forms are cuánto (for prices, weight, and masculine uncountable nouns) and cuánta (feminine uncountable nouns).
¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much does it cost?
¿Cuánto pesa? – How much does it weigh?
¿Cuánta leche quieres? – How much milk do you want?
“How many” is used for countable objects, and it is translated to cuántos (plural, masculine countable nouns, or a mix of masculine and feminine nouns) or cuántas (plural, feminine countable nouns).
¿Cuántos zapatos tienes? – How many shoes do you have?
¿Cuántos estudiantes hay en tu clase? – How many students are in your class?
¿Cuántas manzanas comiste? – How many apples did you eat?
¿Cuántos años tienes? – How old are you? (literal: How many years do you have?)
Put Them into Practice!
While the Spanish question words may look simple at first glance, they have many variations and uses. To make sure you understood everything and are able to use them, complete the following exercises! The answer key is at the bottom of the post so you can check your work.
- Translate the sentences to English.
- ¿Con quién estás hablando?
- ¿Adónde fue tu hermano?
- ¿Qué significa esta frase?
- ¿Cuál tarea es tuya?
- ¿A qué hora vas a terminar la tarea?
- ¿Por qué tenemos que hacer esto?
- ¿Cómo lo haces tan rápido?
- ¿Que tan interesado estás en la clase?
- ¿Cuánto gastaste en la comida?
- ¿Quién va a ser nuestro nuevo maestro?
- Translate the sentences to Spanish.
- Who did you send the flowers to?
- What is your favorite song?
- Where are you from?
- How often do you study Spanish?
- Where is she going?
- Which way should I go?
- How old are you?
- How many dogs are there?
- How did you do that?
- What is the book about?
- Fill in the blank with the correct Spanish question word.
- ¿________ costó la computadora?
- ¿________ están mis llaves?
- ¿________ es tu dirección?
- ¿________ significa esto?
- ¿________ es ella?
- ¿________ se dice book en español?
- ¿________ vamos a ir a la escuela otra vez?
- ¿________ va el niño?
- ¿________ llegaste tarde?
- ¿________ cajas están en la oficina?
- Fill in the blank with the correct Spanish question word phrase (including prepositions).
- ¿________ es este teléfono?
- ¿________ se trata?
- ¿________ vienes?
- ¿________ empieza el evento?
- ¿________ es el regalo?
- ¿________ eres?
- ¿________ vas a estudiar?
- ¿________ vives?
- ¿________ sirve esto?
- ¿________ tenemos que llamar?
- Answer verdadero or falso for each of the statements. When one is false, correct it.
- All of the Spanish question words change based on the gender and plurality of the subject.
- Many question words can be preceded by a preposition.
- A qué hora and cuándo are interchangeable.
- Con qué frecuencia and qué tan a menudo are interchangeable.
- All the Spanish question words use an accent mark.
- There are two different words for “how many” and “how much” in Spanish.
- In conversational Spanish, you can use both dónde está and dónde es depending on the situation.
- ¿Qué es tu nombre? is correct.
- Cómo is the only word for “how.”
- Qué es asks for a specific answer.
Wow! That was a lot of information and practice exercises. If you have any questions about the exercises or would like more clarification on Spanish question words, talk to one of our certified native Spanish-speaking teachers! Sign up for a free class today and start practicing Spanish questions! ¿Cuándo vas a empezar?
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1. 1) Who are you talking to? 2) Where did your brother go? 3) What does this phrase mean? 4) Which homework is yours? 5) What time are you going to finish the homework? 6) Why do we have to do this? 7) How do you do it so fast? 8) How interested are you in the class? 9) How much did you spend on the food? 10) Who is going to be our new teacher?
2. 1) ¿A quién enviaste las flores? 2) ¿Cuál es tu canción favorita? 3) ¿De dónde eres? 4) ¿Con qué frecuencia / qué tan a menudo estudias español? 5) ¿Adónde va ella? 6) ¿Por dónde voy? 7) ¿Cuántos años tienes? 8) ¿Cuántos perros hay? 9) ¿Cómo hiciste eso? 10) ¿De qué se trata el libro?
3. 1) Cuánto 2) Dónde 3) Cuál 4) Qué 5) Quién 6) Cómo 7) Cuándo 8) Adónde 9) Por qué 10) Cuántas
4. 1) De quién 2) De qué 3) Por dónde 4) A qué hora 5) Para quién 6) De dónde 7) Con quién 8) En dónde 9) Para que 10) A quién
5. 1) falso – only cuál, quién, and cuánto change. 2) verdadero 3) falso – a qué hora is only for time 4) verdadero 5) verdadero 6) falso – there is only one: cuánto 7) verdadero 8) falso – it should be ¿Cuál es tu nombre? 9) falso – there are many ways to say “how,” like qué tan and cuántos 10) falso – qué es asks for a definition
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