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Important Interrogative Words in Spanish

Not knowing how to ask questions in Spanish might get you more raised eyebrows than answers.

Here, you’ll learn all about Spanish questions: the essential Spanish interrogative words, tips on their usage, plenty of example sentences and super common questions you should learn.

Let’s get started!


How to Ask Questions with Spanish Interrogative Words

When we want to ask for specific information, we normally use an interrogative adjective or an interrogative pronoun. Adjectives modify nouns while pronouns substitute them.

An interrogative pronoun is, quite simply, a pronoun used in order to form questions.

Hence, when forming questions in Spanish, we will often use one of these words at the start of the sentence. This post includes a list of the different Spanish interrogative pronouns, along with their meanings and uses.

Let me remind you that interrogative words must have an accent mark. Always! It does not matter if we are dealing with interrogative adjectives or interrogative pronouns—if they are interrogative, they must have a tilde.

As we say in Spanish: Preguntando se llega a Roma (You will never know unless you ask [literally: By asking one can reach Rome]). 

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Essential Spanish Question Words

1.  Dónde (Where)

Dónde substitutes a noun—specifically, it substitutes a place (like a hospital, a house, a table or a spaceship) and is used to inquire about a location.

Dónde is often followed by a form of “to be,” as in “Where is…?” so you’ll need to choose between ser and estar.

Use dónde está to inquire about the location of something or someone. Use dónde es to ask for the location of an event.

For instance, you’d use dónde está to ask where the park is, but dónde es to ask where in the park the birthday party is being held.

Dónde substitutes a noun—specifically, a place:

¿Dónde está el libro? (Where is the book?)

¿Dónde vivías en 2005? (Where were you living in 2005?)

¿Sabes dónde están mis gafas? (Do you know where my glasses are?)

Dónde can be modified by prepositions in order to change its meaning. Here are some of the most common ones:

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A dónde (Where to)

We know a means “to” and dónde means “where.” Mixing the two, we can ask where a person or object is going. 

Note that a dónde and adónde are both valid variants and have the same meaning.

¿A dónde vas tan tarde? (Where are you going to so late?)

Disculpe. ¿Podría decirme adónde va este autobús? (Excuse me. Could you tell me where this bus is headed to?)

De dónde (Where from)

Just as we can ask where someone or something is going, we can also ask where that same person or object is coming from.

Have a look:

¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from?)

¿De dónde has cogido eso? (Where have you taken that from?)

2.  Q (What)

Qué is one of the best known interrogative words in Spanish. It is one of the first words we learn and it helps us to ask about so many different topics that it would be almost impossible to survive without it.

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Qué is very easy to use, and I am sure you will have heard the first of the following examples a million times already:

¿Qué es eso? (What is that?)

¿Qué quieres de mí? (What do you want from me?)

¿Qué tienes ahí? (What do you have there?)

As you can see, the interrogative pronoun qué must be followed by a verb. If it were followed by a noun, it would actually be an adjective, not a pronoun, like in this example:

¿Qué teléfono prefieres? (What phone do you prefer?)

Just as with dónde, qué can also be modified by prepositions that change its meaning. Have a look:

A qué (What to)

This combination is mainly used with verbs that need the preposition a compulsorily:

¿A qué te refieres? (What are you referring to? / What are you talking about? / What do you mean?)

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¿A qué piso vas? (What floor are you going to?)

Con qué (What with)

This is used when you want to say you have done something with the use of an object:

¿Con qué has escrito la carta? (What have you written the letter with?)

¿Con qué estás jugando? (What are you playing with?)

De qué (What about / What flavor, material)

Use de qué when the main verb needs the preposition de, when you want to ask about a flavor or when inquiring about the material something is made of:

¿De qué estáis hablando? (What are you talking about?)

¿De qué es ese helado? De chocolate. (What flavor is that ice-cream? It is chocolate.)

¿De qué es esa silla? De madera. (What material is that chair made of? Of wood.)

En qué (How)

Finally, use en qué when you want to know what means of transportation someone has used/is going to use, or when asking about a specific day, month, year:

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¿En qué has venido? (How have you come?)

¿En qué año naciste? (What year were you born?)

Qué tan (How [adjective])

Qué tan is used to ask about the extent or degree of an adjective or adverb, just like “how” in English. For example:

¿Qué tan seguido vas al gimnasio? (How often do you go to the gym?)

¿Qué tan alto es tu hermano? (How tall is your brother?)

3.  Cuál / Cuáles (Which One / Which Ones)

A lot of people mix up qué and cuál—and it is true that both qué and cuál can be translated as “which.” 

Just remember that cuál and qué mean “which” when used as an adjective (cuál may sound a bit more formal, but both are acceptable), while only cuál means “which” when used as a pronoun:

¿Qué libro quieres? (Which book do you want? [adjective])

¿Cuál libro quieres? (Which book do you want? [adjective])

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¿Cuál quieres? (Which one do you want? [pronoun])

The only thing you have to worry about is the number of the person or object you are talking about. The rest is just a walk in the park:

¿Cuáles has traído? (Which ones have you brought?)

¿Cuáles son los tuyos? (Which ones are yours?)

¿Cuáles quieres? (Which ones do you want?)

If you see cuál or cuáles preceded by a proposition, it will most likely be because the main verb requires said proposition. Below are a few examples of this.

A cuál (Which one to)

This is normally used to ask about the specific place someone is going to:

¿A qué colegio vas? (Which school do you go to? [adjective])

¿A cuál vas? (Which one do you go to? [pronoun])

Con cuál (Which one with)

If you want to say you did, are doing or will do something with the use of an object (among a specific group of objects), use this combination:

¿Con cuál lo hiciste? (Which one did you do it with? [as in: which tool did you repair the radio with?])

¿Con cuál la escribiste? (Which one did you write it with? [as in: which pen did you write the letter with?])

4.  Cómo (How)

You likely already know a few examples of cómo in use already. Think of your basics, like ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?)

This interrogative pronoun never modifies a noun. Use it to ask about how or in which way something is done.

¿Cómo lo has hecho? (How have you done it?)

¿Cómo has venido? (How have you come? [same as en qué above])

¿Cómo podemos saber si está diciendo la verdad? (How can we know if he is telling the truth?)

At this point, I almost always have a student raise their hands to tell me they know there is an exception. The alleged exception is the universally known ¿Cómo te llamas? But the interesting thing here is that this is not an exception!

¿Cómo te llamas? literally means “how are you called?” and that is exactly what we mean.

In Spanish, we ask people in which way they are called rather than what their name is (although this question also exists and it also uses an interrogative pronoun: ¿Cuál es tu nombre? — “which one (of all the names in the world) is your name?”

5.  Cuándo (When)

Cuándo is another example of an invariable pronoun that does not accept any noun under any circumstance:

¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? (When is your birthday?)

¿Cuándo habéis llegado? (When have you arrived?)

¿Cuándo podrás ayudarme? (When will you be able to help me?)

There are two prepositions that love keeping cuándo company. They are desde (from) and hasta (to):

Desde cuándo (From when / (From) What time / How long)

Use desde cuándo when you want to ask about the origin of an action, i.e. the moment that action started, starts or will start. In some instances (like in the first example below), desde cuándo can also be translated as “(for) how long”:

¿Desde cuándo vives en Polonia? (How long have you been living in Poland?)

¿Desde cuándo está abierta la tienda? (What time does the shop open? [meaning: from which moment in time will it be opened?])

Hasta cuándo (Until when / Until what time)

On the other hand, if you are interested in the time an action will end, this is your choice:

¿Hasta cuándo está abierto el banco? (Until what time is the bank open?)

¿Hasta cuándo vas a seguir mintiendo? (Until when are you going to keep lying?)

6.  Quién / Quiénes (Who)

The Spanish interrogative pronoun quién is one of the easiest ones to master because it can only refer to people. It means “who” and it has two forms: quién (singular) and quiénes (plural).

¿Quién eres?
(Who are you?)

¿Quiénes son tus padres?
(Who are your parents?)

Quién, like cuál, has a plural form that is used when talking about more than one person. Apart from this feature, it is a totally inoffensive pronoun:

¿Quién eres? (Who are you?)

¿Quién puede estar llamando a la puerta? (Who can be knocking on the door?)

¿Quién te dijo eso? (Who told you that?)

As for prepositions, quién can be accompanied by a lot of them. Here are the most common combinations:

A quién (Who / To whom)

Many Spanish verbs require the preposition a, so seeing this couple here should not come as a surprise.

Apart from that, every time we have a personal object in Spanish, we need to use the personal a, so you will see a quién quite a lot in Spanish. For example:

¿A quién viste ayer? (Who did you see yesterday?)

¿A quién le enviaste la carta? (Who did you send the letter to?)

¿A quién tengo que decírselo? (Who do I have to tell it to?)

Con quién (With whom)

Another common and quite self-explanatory duo. Use it when asking about the company someone had when doing something:

¿Con quién vives ahora? (Who are you living with at the moment?)

¿Con quién estás? (Who are you with?)

De quién (Whose / From whom)

This phrase is used in two situations: when you want to ask about who something belongs to and when you want to ask who something came from.

You need to know the context in order to be able to know which meaning is the speaker referring to:

¿De quién es este libro? (Whose book is this? / Who is this book from?)

¿De quién es ese regalo? (Whose present is this? / Who is this present from?)

7.  Cuánto (How Much / How Many)

This is the only Spanish interrogative pronoun with four forms (masculine singular, feminine singular, masculine plural and feminine plural).

It is used to ask about quantities, and apart from its four forms, there is nothing special or difficult about it. Here are some examples of cuánto used as a pronoun:

¿Cuánto cuesta esa sandía? (How much is that watermelon?) — masculine uncountable, in this case, dinero (money)

¿Cuánta has necesitado? (How much have you needed?) — feminine uncountable, in this case, let’s say harina (flour)

¿Cuántos quieres? (How many do you want?) — masculine/mixed countable, for example, libros (books)

¿Cuántas has comprado? (How many have you bought?) — feminine countable, for example, bicicletas (bicycles)

And here are some more examples of cuánto as an adjective:

¿Cuánto dinero necesitas? (How much money do you need?)

¿Cuánta leche queda? (How much milk is there left?)

¿Cuántos años tienes? (How old are you? [lit. “How many years do you have?”])

¿Cuántas habitaciones tiene esta casa? (How many rooms does this house have?)

Cuánto can indeed be used with some prepositions, but this does not happen very often in Spanish.

Here are a couple of examples:

Con cuánto (With how much / With how many)

Used in order to ask about the quantity of people or objects with which someone has done something:

¿Con cuántas fuiste? (How many did you go with? [in reference to people, for example])

¿Con cuánta lo has hecho? (How much have you made it with? [referring to the flour needed for a cake, for example])

De cuánto (About/of how much / How many)

There are some verbs that need the preposition de. When that is the case, you can find instances like the following:

¿De cuánto estamos hablando? (How much are we talking about? [for example, when talking about money])

¿De cuántas consta? (How many is it made of? [like when talking about pieces of a puzzle])

8.  Por Qué (Why) /  Para Qué (What For)

¿Por qué? and ¿Para qué? are two ways you can ask “why” in Spanish. As always, they depend on context.

If you’ve already learned the differences between por and para, then learning when to use these “why” phrases should be easy. I’ll break it down for you in case you need a refresher.

Por qué is used to inquire about the direct cause of something, which is simple, specific or generally well known. Porque is the non-question version of the word, and it’s used for “because.” You can use porque to answer por qué questions!

¿Por qué estás acostado?
(Why are you lying down?)

Porque me siento mal.
(Because I feel bad.)

On the other hand, para qué inquires about intention or purpose.

¿Para qué estudias español?
(Why do you study Spanish? / What do you study Spanish for?)

Do you see how the first question (with por qué) was a question about a cause and the second one (with para qué) inquires about a purpose?

¿Por qué has venido? (Why have you come?)

¿Por qué no quieres comer? (Why don’t you want to eat?)

¿Para qué es eso? (What is that for?)

¿Para qué han traído más libros? (What have they brought more books for?)

Common Spanish Questions

Knowing how to ask questions in Spanish will help make navigating conversations much easier. You may even find that the same questions tend to recur in many of the conversations you are having. Here are some common Spanish questions to help you prepare for a range of different topics.

Meeting People

Getting to Know Someone



Work and School

Everyday Questions

The Upside Down Spanish Question Mark

The inverted question mark at the beginning of certain sentences in Spanish is to indicate that the following phrase will be a question.

In English, it is usually clear that a sentence will be a question because it starts with an interrogative word—such as “what,” “how,” etc.

In Spanish however, there are many cases where a statement and a question could be identical in wording. For example:

Vamos a la biblioteca. (We are going to the library.)

¿Vamos a la biblioteca? (Are we going to the library?)

Questions can take on many different shapes and forms in Spanish, and a useful way to increase your understanding of the way questions are used in the language is to consume lots of native content. One way of doing this is through the language learning platform FluentU.

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FAQ About Spanish Questions

How Do You Translate English Questions into Spanish?

In English, the words “do” and “does” are very commonly used when we ask questions.

You may have noticed that, in Spanish questions, there isn’t usually a word that takes the place of “do” or “does.”

For example, let’s examine the question: “Does she eat Mexican food?”

In Spanish, it would look like this: “¿Ella come comida mexicana?” Notice how there isn’t a word that replaces “does.” The Spanish interrogative pronoun provides that meaning on its own, but it reads more literally as “She eats Mexican food?”

What Is the Sentence Structure for Spanish Questions?

One other difference is that in English, it’s very important to put your words in the right order to ask a question. In Spanish, question syntax is a lot less strict.

To expand on the previous example, the following sentences would also be acceptable as questions:

¿Come ella comida mexicana?

¿Come comida mexicana ella?

Do Spanish Question Words Need Accent Marks?

Yes! All these question words have accent marks on them.

When they’re used in a non-question context, the accent mark is dropped! Note the differences between these sentences:

  • ¿Cuándo quieres ir? (When do you want to go?) This is a classic interrogative sentence in Spanish.
  • Necesito saber cuándo quieres ir. (I need to know when you want to go.) We find no question marks here, but the meaning is still interrogative. There’s missing information that’s being requested.
  • Cuando llegues, llámame. (When you arrive, call me.) No interrogative meaning here.

An example of this can be found in the song, “Cuando Me Enamoro” by Enrique Iglesias, which translates in English to “When I Fall in Love.” Notice how, since the word isn’t interrogative, it’s spelled as cuando instead of cuándo.


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