Turning an affirmative sentence into a question one is very easy in Spanish. What one needs to do for this purpose is to change the voice intonation when speaking and put question marks in front and at the end of the affirmative sentence in the written language. No further change is required.
For example “tú quires bailar” means “you want to dance”. In order to say “do you want to dance? in Spanish, all you have to do is to raise your voice at the end of the sentence if you are speaking or add an inverted question mark at the beginning of the sentence if you are writing. So that
¿tú quires bailar? means “do you want to dance?”
You can ask questions by inverting the order of the subject and the verb of the sentence as well. That means that by changing the order of subject and the verb in the example sentence, you can ask the same question:
- ¿quires bailar tú? means “do you want to dance?”
It is worth emphasizing that Spanish does not need any auxiliary verb contrary to English.
Note that if there are two verbs in a sentence as in our example (querer, bailar), the subject needs to come after the second verb. Also recall that you can omit the subject pronouns mostly in Spanish. Hence it turns out to be that the first way (intonation) and second way (inversion) of asking questions lead to the same sentence: ¿quires bailar?
If there is only one verb, the subject should follow the verb immediately.
- Tú eres estudiante (you are a student) becomes
- ¿Eres tú estudiante? (are you a student)
Asking negative questions
In this case “no” precedes the verb and subject of the sentence.
Affirmative: Tú eres estudiante
Question: instead of just ¿Eres tú estudiante? You can say ¿No eres tú estudiante? to mean “Aren’t you a student?”.
Use of verdad
¿No es verdad? or ¿verdad? is placed at the end of the questions very often due to a need of confirmation. They mean something like “isn’t it true? or really?
- estás cansado ¿verdad? You are tired, right?
- estás cansado ¿no es verdad? You are tired, aren’t you?
- hace frío ¿verdad? (It’s cold. Isn’t it?)
Again, you don’t need any auxiliary verb for this purpose. You can just use verdad/no es verdad.
These are question words.
To ask how much “¿cuánto?” is used. Keep in mind that this word needs to be in agreement with the gender and the number of the noun. So that, there are four versions in use:
Be aware that when it is used in plural form it means “how many”.
- ¿Cuánto dinero necesitan? How much money they need?
Because dinero is singular and masculine, “cuánto” is used.
- ¿Cuántas horas trabajas? How many hours do you work?
Because horas is feminine and plural, Cuántas is used.
You can ask how much something costs as
- ¿Cuánto es? or
- ¿Cuánto cuesta?
¿Cómo? is how. For example
- ¿cómo estás? How are you?
- ¿cómo es tu casa? How is your house like?
¿Quién? is who. For example
- ¿Quién es él? Who is he?
- ¿Quién es esa chica? Who is that girl?
¿Por qué? is why. For example
- ¿Por qué estudias español? Why do you study Spanish?
Why? (for what reason) ¿Por qué?
Why? (for what purpose) ¿Para qué?
¿Dónde? is where
- ¿Dónde están los servicios? Where are the toilets?
¿Dónde? is used frequently with prepositions.
- ¿De dónde eres? Where are you from?
- ¿Adónde quieres ir ? Where do you want to go?
¿Cuándo? is when.
- ¿desde cuándo? since when?
- ¿hasta cuándo? how long?
- ¿Cuándo terminas? when do you finish?
When it comes to say what and which in Spanish, you should be careful. There are two words which you should decide from:
- ¿Qué? (What?)
- ¿Cuál? (Which?)
Although ¿Qué? can be translated as “what?” and ¿Cuál? can be translated as “which?” most of the times, there are exceptions.
- ¿Qué te gusta tomar? What would you like to drink?
- ¿Qué idiomas hablas? Which languages do you speak?
- ¿Cuál es su nombre? What is your name?
- ¿Cuál restaurant es mejor? Which restaurant is better?
- ¿A qué hora desayunas? At what time do you have breakfast?
If plural nouns are used, ¿Cuáles should be used:
- ¿Cuáles son tus aficiónes? What are your hobbies?
Summary of interrogatives in Spanish
¿Cuánto/a? How much?
¿Cuántos/as? How many?
¿Adónde? Where to?
¿De dónde? From where?
¿Por qué? Why?
¿Cuáles? Which ones?