How to ask questions in Spanish: A top guide to question words

What’s worse than not being able to ask questions when you want to know something? Not knowing how to ask questions in Spanish will hold you back, which is why this handy guide is here to help!

Asking questions is one of the first few things we learn how to do as we’re growing up. And for good reason! We learn about the world around us by asking questions. That’s how we check in on people, make new friends in a different country, and navigate daily life.

Learning how to ask questions in Spanish can help us:

  • Get clarification.

If you’re unsure what something means, knowing how to ask questions in Spanish will help you get clarification. As the popular Spanish saying goes, “al que no habla, ¡Dios no lo oye!” (God doesn’t help those who don’t speak). Plus, asking plenty of questions is one of the fastest ways to learn Spanish!

  • Survive.

Seriously! Some questions are essential for daily life, like asking people for their name or where the bathroom is.

  • Ask your friends how they’re doing.

A simple “hey, how are you?” can be incredibly important in your friendships. Knowing how to ask personalized questions is a sure way to let your friends know that you care about them.

  • Meet new people.

What better way to strike up a conversation than by asking about the weather, a recent sports match, or what the time is? Who knows, even romance might be around the corner if you ask the right questions!

So, what are you waiting for? It’s time to tackle the Spanish questions once and for all!

Two friends relaxing on beach reading and asking questions in Spanish.

What are interrogative words?

Interrogative words help us ask a question. They can be adjectives, pronouns or adverbs. Both English and Spanish use interrogative words to specify what kind of information the speaker is asking for. For example, when you ask your friend “How did you get here?”, you want to know how they physically got to your location — not when or why they got there.

That means that a single word can change the entire meaning of a question. That’s why learning how to use each of them appropriately is so important. Here is an example of how a pronoun could change the entire meaning of a question just by using a different question word.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
What do you paint? ¿Qué pintas? keh peen-tahs ˈke ˈpintas ‖
When do you paint? ¿Cuándo pintas? coo-ahn-doh peen-tahs ˈkwando ˈpintas ‖
How do you paint? ¿Cómo pintas? koh-moh peen-tahs ˈkomo ˈpintas ‖
Why do you paint? ¿Por qué pintas? pore keh peen-tahs poɾ ˈke ˈpintas ‖
Where do you paint? ¿Dónde pintas? dohn-deh peen-tahs ˈdonde ˈpintas ‖
Whom do you paint? ¿A quién pintas? ah key-ehn peen-tahs a ˈkjem ˈpintas ‖
How much do you paint? ¿Qué tanto pintas? keh tahn-toe peen-tahs ˈke ˈtanto ˈpintas ‖

Notable differences between English and Spanish questions

Asking questions in English vs. Spanish isn’t all that different. Both languages use question marks to indicate a question in text and voice inflections to indicate a question in speech. However, there are a few key differences that you should keep in mind when asking questions in Spanish.

The Spanish question structure

As in English, you can use an interrogative word to start a question in Spanish. You would then follow it with a conjugated verb and may follow that with extra information if needed. However, Spanish is less strict when it comes to question structures. In fact, you can turn any statement into a question simply by adding question marks or using the right intonation.

Here are some examples.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
Should we go get coffee? ¿Vamos por un café? vah-mos pore oon kah-feh ˈbamos poɾ un kaˈfe ‖
Let’s go get coffee. Vamos por un café. vah-mos pore oon kah-feh ˈbamos poɾ un kaˈfe ‖
Are winters in Madrid cold? ¿Los inviernos en Madrid son fríos? los een-vee-air-nos ehn mah-dreed sohn free-ohs los imˈbjeɾnos em maˈðɾið ˈsom ˈfɾios ‖
Winters in Madrid are cold. Los inviernos en Madrid son fríos. los een-vee-air-nos ehn mah-dreed sohn free-ohs los imˈbjeɾnos em maˈðɾið ˈsom ˈfɾios ‖
Is China the most populated country in the world? ¿China es el país más poblado del mundo? chee-nah ehs ehl pah-ees mahs poe-blah-doe dell moon-doe ˈʧina ˈes el paˈiz ˈmas poˈβlaðo ðel ˈmundo ‖
China is the most populated country in the world. China es el país más poblado del mundo. chee-nah ehs ehl pah-ees mahs poe-blah-doe dell moon-doe ˈʧina ˈes el paˈiz ˈmas poˈβlaðo ðel ˈmundo ‖

The upside down question mark

One of the most obvious differences between English and Spanish questions is the use of the inverted question mark. If you’re just getting started with Spanish, you may feel intimidated by the upside-down question point. However, using it is really quite simple. Just as the regular question mark is used as punctuation at the end of a sentence, an upside-down question mark is used to open a question. This can be at the beginning of a sentence or in the middle of it.

We’ll go into more details in a separate guide, but here are a few quick examples of how to use the inverted question mark in Spanish.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
Hi, what’s your name? Hola, ¿cómo te llamas? oh-lah, koh-moh teh yah-mas ˈola | ˈkomo te ˈʝamas ‖
My parents and my siblings are going, are you? Mis papás y mis hermanos van a ir, ¿qué tal ustedes? mees pah-pahs e mees air-mah-nohs vahn ah veh-neer, keh tal oos-teh-dess mis paˈpas i mis eɾˈmanoz ˈβan a ˈiɾ | ˈke ˈtal usˈteðes ‖
Good morning, how may I help you? Buenos días, ¿cómo le puedo ayudar? boo-eh-nohs dee-ahs, koh-moh leh poo-eh-doh ah-you-dar ˈbwenoz ˈðias | ˈkomo le ˈpweðo aʝuˈðaɾ ‖

Question pronoun accent marks

As you may have noticed in the section above, Spanish question words always have an accent mark. That helps us differentiate interrogative words from other types of words, as sentence structure often doesn’t vary when asking questions in Spanish. In general, if you see an interrogative word with an accent mark, it means it is asking a question.

Here are some examples.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
Who invented electricity? ¿Quién descubrió la gravedad? kee-ehn des-coo-bree-oh la grah-veh-dad ˈkjen deskuˈβɾjo la ɣɾaβeˈðað ‖
Issac Newton, who invented gravity, was an English physicist. Isaac Newton, quien descubrió la gravedad, fue un físico inglés. Isaac Newton, key-ehn dehs-coo-bree-oh la grah-veh-dahd, foo-eh oon fee-see-coh een-glehs isaˈak ˈnewton | ˈkjen deskuˈβɾjo la ɣɾaβeˈðað | ˈfwe wm ˈfisiko jnˈɡles ‖
When is Australia the least warm? ¿Cuándo hace menos calor en Australia? koo-ahn-doe ah-seh meh-noss cah-lore ehn ah-oos-trah-lee-ah isaˈak ˈnewton | ˈkjen deskuˈβɾjo la ɣɾaβeˈðað | ˈfwe wm ˈfisiko jnˈɡles ‖
July is when Australia is the least warm. Julio es cuando hace menos calor en Australia. who-lee-oh ess coo-ahn-doe ah-seh meh-noss cah-lore ehn ah-oos-trah-lee-ah ˈxuljo ˈes ˈkwando ˈase ˈmenos kaˈloɾ en awsˈtɾalja ‖
How do I get to the Economics department? ¿Cómo llego a la facultad de economía? koh-moh yeh-goh ah la fa-cool-tad deh eh-coh-no-mee-ah ˈkomo ˈʝeɣo a la fakulˈtað ðe ekonoˈmia ‖
Go straight, just how you would if you were going to the Sociology department, but make a right at the end. Te vas todo derecho, como si fueras a la facultad de sociología, y al final das vuelta a la derecha. teh vas toe-doe deh-reh-cho, ko-mo see foo-eh-rahs ah lah fa-cool-tad deh soh-see-oh-lo-he-ah, e al fee-nal das voo-el-tah ah la deh-reh-cha te ˈβas ˈtoðo ðeˈɾeʧo | ˈkomo si ˈfweɾas a la fakulˈtað ðe sosjoloˈxia | j al fiˈnal ˈdaz ˈβwelta a la ðeˈɾeʧa ‖

How to ask questions in Spanish

Now that you know how to use interrogative pronouns and inverted question marks, you’re ready to start asking questions in Spanish. We’ll cover each of the question words in more detail along with several examples to get you asking questions in Spanish like a pro!

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
Who Quién key-ehn ˈkjen
What Qué keh ˈke
When Cuándo koo-ahn-doe ˈkwando
Where Dónde don-deh ˈdonde
Why Por qué pore keh poɾ ˈke
Which Cuál koo-all ˈkwal
How Cómo koh-moe ˈkomo
How many, how much Cuánto, Cuánta, Cuántos, Cuántas koo-ahn-toe, koo-ahn-ta, koo-ahn-tohs, koo-ahn-tahs ˈkwanto | ˈkwanta | ˈkwantos | ˈkwantas


Meaning: Who

If you’re trying to figure out who someone is, who ate the last slice of cake, or who let the dogs out, then these are the question words you’re looking for. Although English uses the same question word for singular and plural, Spanish uses two:

  • Quién — singular
  • Quiénes — plural

Here are some examples of how to use these Spanish question words.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
Who ate the food I left in the fridge? ¿Quién se comió la comida que dejé en el refrigerador? key-ehn seh koh-me-oh la ko-me-dah keh deh-heh ehn ehl reh-free-heh-ra-door ˈkjen se koˈmjo la koˈmiða ˈke ðeˈxe en el refɾixeɾaˈðoɾ ‖
Who here has been to Spain? ¿Quiénes de ustedes han ido a España? key-eh-ness deh oos-teh-dess ahn ee-do ah ess-pah-nyah ˈkjenez ðe wsˈteðes ˈan ˈiðo a esˈpaɲa ‖
Do you know who went to Lucia’s party? ¿Sabes quiénes fueron a la fiesta de Lucía? sah-bess key-eh-ness foo-eh-rohn ah la fee-ehs-tah deh loo-see-ah ˈsaβes ˈkjenes ˈfweɾon a la ˈfjesta ðe luˈsia ‖
Who could have done this? ¿Quién pudo haber hecho esto? key-ehn poo-doe ah-behr eh-cho ehs-toe ˈkjem ˈpuðo aˈβeɾ ˈeʧo ˈesto ‖
Who told you so? ¿Quién te dijo eso? key-ehn teh dee-hoh ˈkjen te ˈðixo ˈeso ‖
Who is she? ¿Quién es ella? key-ehn ess eh-yah ˈkjen ˈes ˈeʝa ‖

¿Qué? / ¿Cuál? / ¿Cuáles?

Meaning: What, Which

These pronouns serve very similar purposes, which often causes people to mix them up. They are all question words that translate to both “what?” and “which?” The word “¿qué?” never changes, while “¿cuál?” can change to “¿cuáles?” when referring to plural objects.

The main difference between “¿qué?” and “¿cuál?/¿cuáles?” boils down to specificity: “¿cuál?/¿cuáles?” are generally more specific than “¿qué?

Mastering how to use these in every scenario takes a lot of practice, but here are a few helpful scenarios to help you start getting a sense of when to use each of these question words.

Asking for a definition: ¿Qué?

You use “qué” when you’re asking what something is, what something means, and when you genuinely have no idea what something could be. In other words, this is the least specific type of question, as you don’t really know anything about the answer.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
What is that? ¿Qué es eso? keh ess eh-so ˈke ˈes ˈeso ‖
What is on Mars? ¿Qué hay en Marte? keh ah-e ehn mar-teh ˈke ˈaj em ˈmaɾte ‖
What is biodiversity? ¿Qué es la biodiversidad? keh ess la bee-oh-dee-ver-see-dad ˈke ˈez la βjoðiβeɾsiˈðað ‖

Asking for someone or something’s name: ¿Cuál? / ¿Cuáles?

Use “¿cuál?/¿cuáles?” when asking about the name of someone or something. In other words, you use this to ask questions when you have an idea of what the answer could be, but you don’t know its name.

Here are some examples.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
What is your name? ¿Cuál es tu nombre? koo-ahl es too nom-breh ˈkwal ˈes tu ˈnombɾe ‖
What is the traditional dish of Japan? ¿Cuál es el platillo típico de Japón? koo-ahl ess ehl pla-tee-yoh tee-pee-koh deh hah-pon ˈkwal ˈes el plaˈtiʝo ˈtipiko ðe xaˈpon ‖
What are the colors of the Italian flag? ¿Cuáles son los colores de la bandera de Italia? koo-ah-less soh loss koh-lore-ess deh la ban-deh-rah deh ee-ta-lee-ah ˈkwales ˈson los koˈloɾez ðe la βanˈdeɾa ðe jˈtalja ‖

Choosing from an infinite group: ¿Qué?

Again, the less specific a question is, the more likely the question word will be “¿qué?” Use this question word when there is an infinite possible number of answer choices, as the answer could be possibly anything.

Here are some examples.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
What happened last night? ¿Qué pasó anoche? keh pah-so ah-no-che ˈke paˈso aˈnoʧe ‖
What do you like to do? ¿Qué te gusta hacer? keh teh goose-tah ah-ser ˈke te ˈɣusta aˈseɾ ‖
What do hippopotamuses eat? ¿Qué comen los hipopótamos? keh koh-mehn loss e-po-po-tah-moss ˈke ˈkomen los ipoˈpotamos ‖
What did you give your mother for her birthday? ¿Qué le regalaste a tu mamá por su cumpleaños? keh leh reh-gah-las-teh ah too mah-mah pore soo coom-pleh-ah-nyoss ˈke le reɣaˈlaste a tu maˈma poɾ su kumpleˈaɲos ‖

Choosing from a finite homogeneous group: ¿Cuál? / ¿Cuáles?

If you’re asking someone to choose from a defined group of like items, then you should use “¿cuál?/¿cuáles?” In some cases, the list of possible answer choices may be so obvious that you don’t even have to specify the objects you’re asking about.

Here are a few example sentences.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
Which one do you prefer? ¿Cuál prefieres? koo-all preh-fee-eh-res ˈkwal pɾeˈfjeɾes ‖
Which ones are you taking? ¿Cuáles te vas a llevar? koo-all-ess teh vas ah yeh-var ˈkwales te ˈβas a ʝeˈβaɾ ‖
Which of these do you want? ¿Cuál de estos quieres? koo-all deh ess-toes key-air-ess ˈkwal de ˈestos ˈkjeɾes ‖
What is your favorite movie? ¿Cuál es tu película favorita? koo-all ehs too peh-lee-coo-la fah-vore-e-tah ˈkwal ˈes tu peˈlikula faβoˈɾita ‖
Which pants do you like the most? ¿Cuáles pantalones te gustan más? koo-all-ess pahn-tah-loh-ness teh goose-tahn mas ˈkwales pantaˈlones te ˈɣustam ˈmas ‖
Which one is mine? ¿Cuál es el mío? koo-all ehs elle mee-oh ˈkwal ˈes el ˈmio ‖

Choosing from a finite heterogeneous group: ¿Qué?

Use this question word when there is a small list of available options that are not all the same. For example, you may be asking someone to choose their favorite food. It could be sushi, pizza, burgers, fruits, vegetables, tacos… who knows!

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
What do you want to eat? ¿Qué quieres comer? keh key-air-ess co-mer ˈke ˈkjeɾes koˈmeɾ ‖
What are you buying? ¿Qué vas a comprar? keh vass ah com-prar ˈke ˈβas a komˈpɾaɾ ‖
What do you prefer, washing or drying? ¿Qué prefieres, lavar o secar? keh preh-fee-air-ess ˈke pɾeˈfjeɾes | laˈβaɾ o seˈkaɾ ‖
What do you like more, fish or beef? ¿Qué te gusta más, el pescado o la carne? keh teh goose-tah mas, elle pes-cah-doe oh la car-neh ˈke te ˈɣusta ˈmas | el pesˈkaðo o la ˈkaɾne ‖
What flavor do you want? ¿Qué sabor quieres? keh sah-boor key-eh-ress ˈke saˈβoɾ ˈkjeɾes ‖


Meaning: When

This is one of the easiest question words in Spanish. Simply use this any time you want to inquire about the general time of something. Keep in mind that this is just the general time, and if you want to ask about the specific time or date of something, you’ll have to use “¿que?” Check out our article on telling time in Spanish for more details on asking about specific times!

For now, here are a few examples of how to use when.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
When are you coming to see me? ¿Cuándo vas a venir a verme? koo-ahn-doe vas ah veh-neer ah ver-meh ˈkwando ˈβas a βeˈniɾ a ˈβeɾme ‖
When are we seeing each other? ¿Cuándo nos vemos? koo-ahn-doe nos veh-moss ˈkwando noz ˈβemos ‖
Pedro! When did you get here!? ¡Pedro! ¿¡Cuándo llegaste!? peh-dro! koo-ahn-doe yeh-gas-teh ˈpeðɾo ‖ ˈkwando ʝeˈɣaste ‖


Meaning: Where

This question word could save you a lot of trouble if you’re traveling in Spain or Latin America. In fact, knowing how to ask a few questions using “¿dónde?” could even save your life! From finding the nearest hospital to finding a place to charge your phone, this question word can help you find all the things you need.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
Where is the bathroom? ¿Dónde está el baño? don-deh ehs-tah elle bah-nyoh ˈdonde esˈta el ˈβaɲo ‖
Where is the nearest subway station? ¿Dónde está la estación del metro? don-deh ehs-tah la ehs-tah-see-ohn dell meh-tro ˈdonde esˈta la estaˈsjon del ˈmetɾo ‖
Excuse me, do you know where I could buy water? Disculpa, ¿sabes dónde puedo comprar agua? dees-cool-pah, sah-bess don-deh poo-eh-doe com-prar ah-goo-ah disˈkulpa | ˈsaβez ˈðonde ˈpweðo komˈpɾaɾ ˈaɣwa ‖
Excuse me, do you know where the nearest hospital is? Disculpa, ¿sabes dónde está el hospital más cercano? des-cool-pah, sah-bes don-deh ehs-tah elle ohs-pee-tal mas ser-kah-no disˈkulpa | ˈsaβez ˈðonde esˈta el ospiˈtal ˈmas seɾˈkano ‖
Excuse me, do you know where there’s Wi-Fi nearby? Disculpa, ¿sabes dónde hay wifi por aquí? dees-cool-pah, sah-bess dohn-deh ah-e wifi pore ah-key disˈkulpa | ˈsaβez ˈðonde ˈaj ˈwifi poɾ aˈki ‖
Excuse me, do you know where I could charge my phone? Disculpa, ¿sabes dónde puedo cargar mi celular? dees-cool-pah, sah-behs don-deh poo-eh-doe car-gar me seh-loo-lar disˈkulpa | ˈsaβez ˈðonde ˈpweðo kaɾˈɣaɾ mi seluˈlaɾ ‖

¿Por qué?

Meaning: Why

One of the first things you will likely learn in your Spanish classes is to ask “¿por qué?” Just as toddlers go through the “why” phase, new language learners should also take advantage of this handy question word to acquire more knowledge at every chance they get.

Here are a few examples of how to use “¿por qué?” in Spanish.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
Why does this word have an accent mark? ¿Por qué se usa una tilde en esta palabra? pore keh seh oo-sah oo-nah teel-deh ehn ehs-tah pah-la-brah poɾ ˈke se ˈusa ˈuna ˈtilde en ˈesta paˈlaβɾa ‖
Why didn’t you come to my birthday party? ¿Por qué no fuiste a mi fiesta de cumpleaños? pore keh no foo-ees-teh ah me fee-ehs-tah deh coom-pleh-ah-nyos poɾ ˈke ˈno ˈfwiste a mi ˈfjesta ðe kumpleˈaɲos ‖
Why did you bring an umbrella if it’s sunny? ¿Por qué trajiste paraguas si está soleado? pore keh trah-hees-teh pah-rah-goo-as see ehs-tah soh-leh-ah-doe poɾ ˈke tɾaˈxiste paˈɾaɣwas sj esˈta soleˈaðo ‖
Why did you sign up for dance classes if you’re so busy? ¿Por qué te inscribiste a clases de baile si estás tan ocupada? pore keh teh eens-cree-bees-teh ah cla-sehs deh bah-e-leh see ehs-tass tan oh-coo-pah-dah poɾ ˈke te jnskɾiˈβiste a ˈklasez ðe ˈβajle sj esˈtas ˈtan okuˈpaða ‖
Do you know why I have a missed call from your sister? ¿Sabes por qué tengo una llamada perdida de tu hermana? sah-behs pore keh tehn-go oo-nah yah-mah-dah pear-dee-dah deh too air-mah-nah ˈsaβes poɾ ˈke ˈtenɡo ˈuna ʝaˈmaða peɾˈðiða ðe tw eɾˈmana ‖
But why didn’t she tell me sooner? Pero, ¿por qué no me lo dijo antes? peh-ro, pore keh no meh lo dee-ho ahn-tess ˈpeɾo | poɾ ˈke ˈno me lo ˈðixo ˈantes ‖


Meaning: How

This Spanish question adverb generally means “how” in English. This is what you’ll want to use if you want to ask someone how they’re doing something or how something happened.

Another possible yet less common meaning of “¿Cómo?” is “what.” The meaning in Spanish doesn’t change, but some questions are formulated differently in Spanish. For example, if you want to know someone’s name, you’d ask them what their name is. In Spanish, you would instead ask them how they’re called. Therefore, you use “¿Cómo te llamas?” in Spanish to ask someone for their name.

Here are some more examples.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
How do you know? ¿Cómo sabes? koh-mo sah-bess ˈkomo ˈsaβes ‖
How did you get to school? ¿Cómo llegaste a la escuela? koh-mo yeh-gas-teh ah la ess-coo-eh-lah ˈkomo ʝeˈɣaste a la esˈkwela ‖
What’s your name? (How are you called?) ¿Cómo te llamas? koh-mo teh yah-mas ˈkomo te ˈʝamas ‖
How are you? ¿Cómo estás? koh-mo ehs-tass ˈkomo esˈtas ‖
How do you like to drink your coffee? ¿Cómo te gusta tomar café? koh-mo teh goose-tah toe-mar kah-feh ˈkomo te ˈɣusta toˈmaɾ kaˈfe ‖
How are we going to make it work? ¿Cómo le vamos a hacer? koh-mo leh vah-moss ah ah-ser ˈkomo le ˈβamos a aˈseɾ ‖
What did he say? ¿Cómo dijo? koh-mo dee-hoh ˈkomo ˈðixo ‖

¿Cuánto? / ¿Cuánta? / ¿Cuántos? / ¿Cuántas?

Meaning: How much, How many

Although these interrogative adjectives may seem complicated, they’re actually some of the simpler ones. This is what you’ll want to use when you need to know how much of something or how many items.

The tricky part is matching the right version of this adjective with what you want to ask about. Just as in English, we need to use different words when asking about indefinite nouns versus definite nouns.

For example, in English, you ask how much milk and how many sugar packets you want in your coffee. That’s because milk is an uncountable noun. In other words, you can’t ask someone how many milks they want. You’d have to use an auxiliary countable noun, like how many milk cartons or milk bottles. Sugar packets, on the other hand, can be counted, so you can just ask how many they want.

Here are the variations of this question word and when to use each one:

  • Cuánto – Masculine, uncountable
  • Cuánta – Feminine, uncountable
  • Cuántos – Masculine, countable
  • Cuántas – Feminine, countable

Here are some example sentences.

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
How much does it cost? ¿Cuánto cuesta? koo-ahn-toe koo-ehs-tah ˈkwanto ˈkwesta ‖
How much milk do you want in your coffee? ¿Cuánta leche quieres en tu café? koo-ahn-tah leh-che key-air-ehs ehn too kah-feh ˈkwanta ˈleʧe ˈkjeɾes en tu kaˈfe ‖
How many books do I need to buy for this class? ¿Cuántos libros necesito comprar para esta clase? koo-ahn-toss lee-brohs neh-seh-see-toe com-prar pah-rah ehs-tah clah-seh ˈkwantoz ˈliβɾoz neseˈsito komˈpɾaɾ ˈpaɾa ˈesta ˈklase ‖
How many times have I told you? ¿Cuántas veces te lo he dicho? koo-ahn-tass veh-sehs teh lo eh dee-cho ˈkwantaz ˈβeses te lo ˈe ˈðiʧo ‖
How much money do I need to spend a month in Costa Rica? ¿Cuánto dinero necesito para pasar un mes en Costa Rica? koo-ahn-toe dee-neh-ro neh-seh-see-toe pa-rah oon mehs ehn cos-tah-ree-kah ˈkwanto ðiˈneɾo neseˈsito ˈpaɾa paˈsaɾ um ˈmes en ˈkosta ˈrika ‖
How many people live in Buenos Aires? ¿Cuántas personas viven en Buenos Aires? koo-ahn-tass pear-soh-nass vee-vehn ehn boo-eh-noss ah-e-ress ˈkwantas peɾˈsonaz ˈβiβen em ˈbwenos ˈajɾes ‖

How to differentiate the intonation between statement and questions in Spanish

Just like any other language, Spanish uses intonation to emphasize different words in a sentence. However, intonation is particularly important when speaking Spanish as it can be the only indication that a sentence is actually a question and not a statement. In general, you want to end your questions in a higher pitch to indicate that you’re asking a question.

Check out the following YouTube video for a verbal demonstration of how to ask questions when speaking Spanish.

SPANISH INTONATION 🇪🇸Statements vs Questions

Spanish question words song

If you have no idea how you’re going to learn all the question words in Spanish, here’s a good one: with a Spanish question word song!

Here’s our top recommendation. We guarantee it’s a jingle you’re already familiar with!

Spanish Interrogatives Jingle Bells Song/ Canción de los Interrogativos

10 most common questions in Spanish

If you’re an absolute beginner and will find yourself in a Spanish-speaking region soon, there are a few questions that you must absolutely learn before you go. Not only will these questions ensure that you’ll survive (and find a bathroom when you need one!), but they may even help you walk away with brand-new friends!

English Spanish Pronunciation IPA
What’s your name? ¿Cómo te llamas? koh-mo teh yah-mas ˈkomo te ˈʝamas ‖
How old are you? ¿Cuántos años tienes? koo-ahn-toss ah-nyos tee-eh-ness ˈkwantos ˈaɲos ˈtjenes ‖
Where are you from? ¿De dónde eres? deh don-deh eh-ress de ˈðonde ˈeɾes ‖
How are you? ¿Cómo estás? koh-mo ehs-tass ˈkomo esˈtas ‖
Where are the restrooms? ¿Dónde están los baños? don-deh ehs-tahn loss bah-nyos ˈdonde esˈtan loz ˈβaɲos ‖
How much is it? ¿Cuánto cuesta? koo-ahn-toe koo-ehs-tah ˈkwanto ˈkwesta ‖
Whose is this? ¿De quién es esto? deh key-ehn ehs es-toe de ˈkjen ˈes ˈesto ‖
Are you hungry? ¿Tienes hambre? tee-eh-ness ahm-breh ˈtjenes ˈambɾe ‖
Do you speak Spanish? ¿Hablas español? ah-blas ehs-pah-nyol ˈaβlas espaˈɲol ‖
What do you do? ¿A qué te dedicas? ah keh teh deh-dee-kas a ˈke te ðeˈðikas ‖

Frequently asked questions

Do you always need a question pronoun in Spanish?

No! In fact, you often don’t need to change anything in the sentence structure to turn a statement into a question. If typing, simply add the question marks (don’t forget the inverted question mark at the beginning of the question!) to turn your statement into a question. If you’re speaking, just change your intonation to a question intonation.

Why do interrogative words have accent marks in Spanish?

Spanish uses several tools to differentiate statements from questions since they can often be very similar. One of them is the inverted question mark at the beginning of a question to let the reader know that what they’re about to read is a question. Another is the accent mark on interrogative words.

Interrogative words always have an accent mark to differentiate them from other words. For example, the interrogative word ¿cómo? (how) turns into “como” without an accent mark, which means “like” or “as.”

What is the difference between “¿Cuál?” and “¿Qué?” in Spanish?

Generally, asking ¿cuál? means that there is a list of possible options to choose from, of which the person asking the question may be fully or vaguely aware. Asking ¿qué? means that the possible answer choices are so vast that there is no set of possible answers.

Go out and ask away!

Though we’ve reached the end of this article, it really is just the beginning for the curious at heart. If you enjoyed learning how to ask questions, go out and start practicing as soon as you can! The sooner you start asking questions in Spanish, the sooner you’ll perfect the art of Spanish interrogatives — and get all the answers you’ve been looking for!

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to take a look at our Spanish blog. We publish helpful guides on a wide variety of topics, including possessive adjectives and other fun grammar topics.

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