When speaking Spanish, you want people to know that you take the time to learn new words.  Repeating yourself can become tedious, resulting in a dull conversation. It may also appear that you are not attempting to communicate effectively. There are several ways to ask ‘what are you doing’ in Spanish and knowing these ways can add colors to your conversations.

In this guide, we will look at various ways to ask someone “What are you doing?” in Spanish, so you can brush up on your Spanish vocabulary and have a variety of tools at your disposal when you need to ask someone what they are doing.

8 ways to ask ‘what are you doing’ in Spanish

1.    Qué haces?

This is the most common way to inquire about someone’s activities. ‘Qué haces?’ translates literally as “What are you doing?” If you write this, the tilde should go over the ‘e.’ It is incorrect if the accent mark on the ‘e’ is not written.

In English, the verb ‘hacer’ means “to do”. The verb must be conjugated in accordance with the sentence’s subject.  Verbs in Spanish do not function the same way as they do in English. Although the verb is in its base form with a ‘er’ ending, it can be used as a gerund.  In English, a gerund is a verb form that ends in ‘ing.’

It is not necessary to say the subject of the sentence in Spanish because the verb indicates who the subject is.  The letter’s’ in ‘haces’ stands for ‘tu,’ the informal version of you in Spanish.

You can use this to ask someone what they are doing informally. The connotation is neutral and can be used in both positive and negative contexts. For example:

John: Hola Maria! ¿Qué haces?

Hi Maria! What are you doing?

Maria: Estoy leyendo.

I’m reading.

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2.    ¿Qué hace usted?

‘Qué hace usted?’ is a formal way of asking someone what they are doing. You should use this when speaking to someone in a position of authority. You can also use this when conversing with someone you don’t know very well.

When asking this question formally, include ‘usted’ at the end. If this is not included, people may misinterpret the question for the third person he, she, or it. The informal question has the same translation. The only distinction is the degree of formality.

3.    En qué estás metido?

Here is another way to say “what are you doing?” in Spanish. However, keep in mind that this has a negative connotation and should not be used all the time.

You already know something from context when you ask someone this question. Perhaps you walk into a room and notice someone quickly closing their laptop. You can ask, ‘en qué estás metido?’ if you believe they are doing something inappropriate.

It is requested to learn more about a current situation when you suspect they are wrongdoing.  ‘What are you into?’ is the literal translation. However, it translates to “what are you doing?” or “what are you up to?” in English.


Jaun: ¿En qué estás metido karen?

What are you doing Karen?

Karen: Nada, te prometo.

Nothing, I promise.

When responding to this expression, you must be completely honest. You do not respond by doing what you are doing.  It is more formal to say ‘nada,’ which means nothing. You can also respond with additional information about a problem you are having.

If the context allows, the expression can also ask if you are having a problem. However, in the preceding example, it means “what are you doing?” Because you are asking someone about themselves, you must include a tilde over the ‘a’ in ‘estás’. When the tilde is removed, the word ‘estas’ is formed, which is a Spanish demonstrative pronoun.

A demonstrative pronoun replaces a noun in a sentence and indicates its temporal and spatial proximity to you. ‘Estas’ is a feminine demonstrative pronoun that should only be used with feminine and plural words.

4.    En qué está metido usted?

Formally, the same expression as above is used. We can reuse the previous example, but the context must change.  A principal might walk into a teacher’s classroom and see her shove something in the closet and lock it.

The phrase can be heard in a formal setting, but it is uncommon. In general, you should use ‘Qué hace usted?’ because it is more direct and has no connotation.  If you are in Latin America, this can be used instead of the formal version in some countries.

5.    Qué estás haciendo?

Here is the present progressive form of ‘Qué haces?’ As mentioned previously you can also indicate something is happening at the moment when using the present simple in Spanish.

‘Qué haces?’ and ‘Qué estás haciendo?’ are interchangeable. Both are translated as “what are you doing?” The translation is more direct in this version because the sentence structure is the same as in English. ‘Qué (what) estás (what are you doing)?

Both sentences can be translated literally as “what are you doing?” but in this case, it is clear that you are inquiring about a current event.

Although it is not translated, you emphasize “right now” by adding ‘estás haciendo’. You can tell that the stress is on by using the verb ‘hacer’ (to do) with a progressive ending.  ‘iendo’ is the current progressive ending for ‘er’ verbs, and it replaces the ‘er’ on the verb. 

6.    Qué está haciendo usted?

This is the same as ‘Qué estás haciendo?’ but more formal. The structure is identical to that of English, and the emphasis remains on the current situation.

If you are a Spanish learner, it is significant for you to understand Spanish tenses and their use. For example, you must know preterite tense in Spanish if you want to structure your Spanish sentences correctly.

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7.    En qué andas?

If you want to know what someone is up to, you can ask them ‘en qué andas?’ “In what are you walking?” is the literal translation.

‘Andar’ means to walk and has several translations, some of which are ambiguous and difficult to express in English. The most common translations are “to function,” “to do,” “to go along,” and “to be.”


John: En qué andas?

What are you up to?

Maria: Ando en lo mismo de siempre.

The same as always.

‘En qué andas?’ can be translated as “What are you up to?” or, in English, “what are you doing?” Because this is highly contextual, it is impossible to understand all of the translations in English.

To better understand what this means, you should become more familiar with the language and pay attention to when it is used.

8.    En qué anda usted?

This is the formal version of ‘En qué andas?’ The meaning is the same and is used the exact same way.

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Now you know different ways to ask ‘what are you doing’ in Spanish, we also recommend you learn to ask ‘how are you’ in Spanish. These are the basic terms that start the conversations. You need to master them if you want to converse with native speakers.

Along with these, you can look for online Spanish business courses if you are planning to visit any Spanish-speaking country for business or any other purpose.

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