Spanish Questions Words: 8 Key Interrogative Words

Question words in Spanish, also known as interrogatives, are used to ask questions. Their primary purpose is to require information that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. 

Spanish interrogative words are fundamental to asking questions. For that reason, in this article, you’ll learn everything there is to know about question words. The topics we will cover include:

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List of All Question Words in Spanish 

Below, you’ll find a list of Spanish question words. Since there are some nuances, variations, and rules you need to consider, make sure you read the descriptions and examples carefully.

¿Qué? – What?

In Spanish, ¿qué? is used to ask for time, facts, definitions, explanations, and things

¿Qué + [noun/conjugated verb]?

¿Qué tipo de comida te gusta?
What type of food do you like?

Disculpe, ¿qué hora es?
Excuse me, what time is it?

¿Qué es el pretérito?
What is the preterite?

Take Note: In English, many questions regarding personal information are posed with the word ‘what’. However, we use the question word cuál in Spanish for this context. 

¿Cuándo? – When? 

To ask about when an action is taking place, we use the Spanish interrogative word ¿cuándo? 

¿Cuándo + [conjugated verb]?

¿Cuándo cumples años?
When is your birthday?

¿Cuándo vamos a ir al cine?
When are we going to the movies?

¿Cuál? – What? / Which?

In Spanish, ¿cuál? is used to ask about personal information and preference. In other words, when referring to objects or preferences, ‘¿cuál?’ forces you to choose between different options of a group or category. Therefore, it can be translated as what or which. 

¿Cuál + [noun/conjugated verb] + [complement]?

¿Cuál es tu número de teléfono?
What is your phone number?

¿Cuál camisa te gusta más?
Which shirt do you like the most?

Cuáles is the plural form of ‘cuál’ and it should be used when working with a plural noun. For instance:

¿Cuáles son tus películas favoritas?
What are your favorite movies?

Take Note: Because they share the same translation, qué and cuál are easily confused. My article qué vs cuál can help you understand these words’ differences. 

¿Dónde? – Where?

The Spanish question word ¿dónde? allows you to inquire about location and places.

¿Dónde + [conjugated verb] + [determiner] + [noun]?

¿Dónde dejaste mis llaves?
Where did you leave my keys?

Disculpe, ¿dónde queda el museo?
Excuse me, where is the museum?

Tip: Whether you’re a beginner or learning Spanish for traveling, you must get familiar with this question word since it’ll allow you to ask for directions.

¿Quién? – Who?

We use ¿quién? to ask about people. If you’re asking about a group of people, you must use its plural form ¿quiénes?

¿Quién + [conjugated verb]?

¿Quiénes son ellos?
Who are they?

Niños, ¿quién rompió mi taza?
Kids, who broke my cup?

¿Cómo? – How? 

When asking for the manner or way something happens, the Spanish questioning word ‘cómo’ means ‘how’. However, it can be translated as ‘what’ when asking for someone’s name.

If you’re learning Spanish, ‘¿cómo?’ allows you to ask questions related to pronunciation and vocabulary. Notice that a conjugated verb always follows this word.  

¿Cómo + [conjugated verb]?

¿Cómo has estado?
How have you been?

Hola, ¿cómo te llamas?
Hi, what’s your name?

Oye, ¿cómo se dice ‘te amo’ en español?
Hey, how do you say ‘I love you’ in Spanish?

Tip: In Spanish conversations, ¿cómo? is used as a polite way to ask people to repeat something you didn’t hear. In this context, it also means ‘what’. Using ‘¿qué?’ in this situation can be considered discourteous. 

¿Cuánto? – How much? / How many?

In Spanish, cuánto is an adjective of quantity. So, as an interrogative word, ¿cuánto? seeks information about amounts. These amounts can refer to time, age, measures, prices, etc. 

Since it’s an adjective, ‘¿cuánto?’ has plural and feminine forms. So, depending on the gender of the noun, you’ll either use:

  • ¿Cuánto? / ¿Cuánta?: How much?
  • ¿Cuántos? / ¿Cuántas?: How many?

¿Cuánto + [noun] + [verb conjugated] 

¿Cuánta leche necesitamos?
How much milk do we need?

¿Cuántos días necesitas?
How many days do you need?

Take Note: Although it’s the direct translation of ‘how much’ and ‘how many’, the translation of ‘cuánto’ can vary depending on the information you’re requesting: 

¿Cuántos años tienes?
How old are you?

¿Cuánto mide tu hermana?
How tall is your sister?

¿Por qué? – Why?

¿Por qué? is used to ask about the motive or reason for an action. This question word in Spanish is immediately followed by a verb or a noun. 

¿Por qué + [noun / conjugated verb] + [complement]?

¿Por qué lloras? ¿Estás bien?
Why are you crying? Are you okay?

¿Por qué los interrogativos en español llevan acento?
Why do question words in Spanish have an accent?

Take Note: Do not confuse por qué with porque and porqué. ‘Porque’ (a single word without an accent mark) means ‘because’, and it answers a question or states the reason for something. ‘Porqué’ is a noun and it means ‘reason’ or ‘cause’. It’s usually applied in formal contexts. 

No puedo ir porque estoy ocupada.
I can’t go because I’m busy.

Desconozco el porqué de esta decisión.
I do not know the reason for this decision.

Bonus: Question Words in Spanish and Prepositions

So far, you’ve learned basic common question words in Spanish. These interrogatives can be combined with a preposition to ask for more specific information. Understanding these variations can help you increase your vocabulary. 

Below is a table with some Spanish question words with prepositions. Keep in mind that using prepositions will add some nuance in meaning to the question you’re asking. 

QuestionTranslationAsks about
¿Para qué?What for?The purpose of an action.
¿Desde cuándo?Since whenThe beginning of an action.
¿Para cuándo?When…for?Deadlines.
¿Hasta cuándo?For how long… / Until when…The end of an action.
¿A dónde?Where / Where…to?Someone’s direction or destination.
¿De dónde?Where…from?Origin.
¿En dónde?Where?Location. It adds emphasis.
¿Por dónde?Where?Whereabouts and general directions.
¿A quién?Who / To whom?The person who is receiving something.
¿Con quién?Who…with? / With whom?Company or the person you’re interacting with.
¿De quién?Whose?Possession.
¿Para quién?Who…for / For whom?The recipient of something.

¿Con quién fuiste al concierto?
Who did you go to the concert with?

¿Para quién es esta carta?
Who is this letter for?

¿Para cuándo es la tarea?
When is the homework for?

Unlike English, in Spanish, a preposition used with a question word cannot be placed at the end of the sentence. 

Key Points & Rules about Question Words in Spanish

graphic showing question words in spanish

Spanish interrogative words are key to asking many basic and more complex questions. Here are some rules and key points that you should keep in mind when using these words:

  • Question words in Spanish always have an accent mark on one of their vowels. 
  • The accent mark distinguishes question words from other types of words, such as conjunctions, relative pronouns, adverbs, and adjectives. 
  • Questions in Spanish are surrounded by two question marks.
  • To form questions in Spanish, you do not need an auxiliary verb, and you can omit the subject pronoun
  • Questions about personal information use ‘cuál’ instead of ‘qué’ to say ‘what’
  • When asking for someone’s name in Spanish, you must use ‘¿cómo?’
  • Interrogative words followed by prepositions seek more specific information

Download the Spanish Question Words PDF

Please feel free to download the graphics, tables, key points, and other notes on using question words to study later!

Practice Quiz: Question Words in Spanish

You can take this quiz if you want to practice Spanish question words.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I’ve taught Spanish in Mexico to a wide array of foreigners. From students and tourists to doctors and soldiers who’ve moved and visited here over the years. During the day I’m a freelancer and marketer, while at night I’m here writing for students of the world wide web looking to learn Spanish. I hope you find what you’re looking here during your journey into Español 🙂 Read More About Me

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