Is it difficult for you to ask questions in Spanish? Have you ever felt confused when trying to ask a question in Spanish? Don’t worry, this happens to every language student. Understanding how to construct questions in Spanish is something that students always have trouble with. In my time teaching Spanish and working with Spanish-speaking colleagues, I have identified five important things every student should bear in mind when asking questions in Spanish.
1. There are two main kinds of questions in Spanish: general questions and information questions
General questions are sometimes called “yes/no questions” because they are a simple request for verification or denial. Information questions are more complicated, because they ask for more information such as: who, what, when, where, why, how, which, etc.
2. There are three ways to ask general questions
The first is by forming a sentence and putting question marks around it (when writing); or by raising the tone of your voice at the end (when speaking).
- For example: “¿Carlos está aqui?”.
The second is by inverting the subject and the verb in a sentence.
- For example: “¿Está Carlos aqui?”.
- In this case, we switched both “Carlos” (subject) and “Está” (verb) in the sentence, but the question keeps its original meaning.
The third is when we use specific tags at the end of the sentence. This method is used when asking a question to which you are sure you will get a “yes” answer. Some of the most common tags are: ¿No?, ¿Verdad?, ¿No es cierto?, ¿No es verdad?.
- For example: “Carlos esta aqui ¿verdad?”.
3. When asking information questions, the question word “¿quien?” is used in a different way than the others
In order to make a question with “¿Quien?” you need to use it in place of the subject of the sentence.
- For example: you could ask “¿Quien esta aqui?” instead of “¿Carlos esta aqui?.”
- You can ask it both ways, but it is commonly used just with the question word “¿Quien?” instead of the subject in the sentence.
Making a question with the other question words is similar to the second way of asking a general question: you should say the question word, then invert the subject and the verb in the sentence.
- For example: “¿Que hacen ellos?”
4. It is important that you pay attention to your tone of your voice
In almost every language, people can understand that you are asking a question just by the way you pronounce a sentence. In Spanish, it is very important that you remember to raise your voice tone in a quiet manner at the end of the sentence. If this is not done, it will not be clear to the native listener whether you are asking a question or making a statement of fact.
Be sure to keep a “friendly” raised tone, that is, never shout or scream to emphasize that what you’re saying is a question, as it may make you seem rude and people will think you’re yelling at them.
5. Remember to be polite with people
It is extremely important for you to remember to be polite with people from other countries. Some people have no problem if you speak to them in a friendly and sometimes informal way, but you need to keep in mind that politeness will always make you look good.
Whether you are at a friend’s party or visiting your fiancé’s family, some of the question words that will help you are: “¿Podria?” (could I?), “¿Le gustaria?” (would you like?), “¿Deberia?” (should I?).
Asking questions in Spanish is a matter of getting used to it. As you gain more practice asking questions of native Spanish speakers, you will understand how and when to use different kinds of questions. What every Spanish language student must never forget is that grammatical rules have to be always present in the student’s mind when asking someone a question.
Image by Connormah (Public)