How do you make a question in Spanish? How do you say “do” or “does” in a Spanish question? What’s with the upside down question mark? If you’ve ever asked yourself these questions, then you need to read this lesson!
There are two kinds of questions in Spanish. There are questions that use a true question word or interrogative word such as Who?, What?, Where?, When?, Why?, or How? Then there are Spanish questions that use a verb as the asking part of the sentence as in “Is he eating?”, “Are they leaving?”, or “Does she dance?” We will study how to form each of these Spanish questions separately, starting with the question words.
Spanish Question Words
|¿Quién? ¿Quiénes?||Who? Who? (plural)|
|¿Adónde?||To where? (used with the verb to go)|
|¿Cuál? ¿Cuáles?||Which? Which? (plural)|
Notice that all Spanish questions begin with an upside down question mark to signal the start of a question. Also note that all Spanish question words have a written accent mark. In order to really Learn Spanish Better, we suggest that as you learn a new word, study the spelling and accent mark that may go with it instead of trying to remember the accent mark rules.
When forming any kind of question in Spanish, remember that the verb always comes before the subject of the question. An example using an interrogative word would be the question “Who is she?” In Spanish it goes “¿Quién es ella?” This is the same as English word order, but looking at the question “When are they arriving?” shows different syntax. In Spanish it reads: “¿Cuándo llegan ellos?” with the verb before the subject. Of course, the ellos is not necessary and may be omitted if both the speaker and listener understand who the subject is.
To show an example of a plural interrogative word, let’s look at two similar questions.
Which pencil do you want? ¿Cuál lápiz quieres (tú)?
Which pencils do you want? ¿Cuáles lápices quieres (tú)?
In the first question, the noun is singular, so the interrogative word is singular. In the second question, the noun is plural, so the interrogative word is plural. This does not change anything else about the Spanish question. Again, the subject tú is not necessary, but would appear after the verb in the Spanish question.
Questions Using Verbs
When asking questions that do not contain a specific question word, a verb is used as an interrogative. Examples include: “Are you buying the shirt?”, “Is the teacher nice?”, and “Can we go to the movies?”.
The difference between English and Spanish here is that the helping verb “are” in the first example does not directly translate into Spanish. The conjugated verb in Spanish does not require a helping verb. Also, remember that in a Spanish question, the subject comes after the verb.
The above questions, then, would be as follows in Spanish:
Are you buying the shirt? ¿Compras (tú) la camisa?
Is the teacher nice? ¿Es simpático el maestro?
Can we go to the movies? ¿Podemos ir al cine?
Notice that in all the questions the subject follows the verb in Spanish (or is omitted altogether).
Confusion can arise when making questions in Spanish when one tries to directly translate the “is”, “does”, “are”, etc. that is used with a verb in English. In Spanish the verb alone, conjugated correctly, forms the question.
The sentences from the beginning of this lesson about asking questions in Spanish translate using conjugated verbs:
Is he eating? ¿Come (él)?
Are they leaving? ¿Salen (ellos)?
Does she dance? ¿Baila (ella)?