Spanish question words: Everything you need to know

Question mark image to represent Spanish question words

Get our free email course, Shortcut to Conversational.

Have conversations faster, understand people when they speak fast, and other tested tips to learn faster.

More info

As with any other language, mastering Spanish question words is key to becoming a proficient speaker, whether you wish to ask about basic things such as food and directions, or you want to have in-depth conversations.

In this post we’ll teach you all of the essential question words, we’ll explore how to use them correctly in different scenarios, and we’ll see how these Spanish interrogatives can be used with an array of prepositions to get more specific with our questions. Now let’s get started!


Spanish question words: Overview

Spanish question words are also known simply as interrogatives, or as los interrogativos in Spanish. Here are the most important ones that you need to know:

Question words, Spanish Question words, English
Quién, Quiénes Who
Qué What, Which
Cuál, Cuáles Which, What
Cuándo When
Dónde Where
Cuánto, Cuánta, Cuántos, Cuántas How many, How much
Por qué Why
Cómo How

Before moving on, let’s point out two things about asking questions in Spanish.

1. All the question words have accent marks.

2. An interrogative sentence must always include an inverted question mark at the beginning (¿), and a regular question mark at the end (?).

Just like these simple examples:

  • ¿Dónde está el baño? – Where is the bathroom?
  • ¿Qué hora es? – What time is it?
  • ¿Cuáles idiomas hablas? – Which languages do you speak?
  • ¿Quién es el jefe? – Who is the boss?
  • ¿Cuándo es la fiesta? – When is the party?

More often than not, these interrogative pronouns are placed at the start (or near the beginning) of the sentence.

Changing the intonation when asking questions is just as common in spoken Spanish as in English, though the emphasis is on the question word itself rather than at the end of the phrase.

Easy, right?

Still, have some questions?

As we mentioned earlier, knowing how and when to use question words is something that you can perfect over time. Now that you’re familiar with the most common Spanish question words, we’re going to review the subtle differences you need to know in order to use them correctly.

Most of these Spanish interrogatives are pretty straightforward, while for a few we’ll go into more detail to address any potential confusion.

¿Quién? / ¿Quiénes? – Who?

We use quién to ask about people. The plural form is quiénes:

  • ¿Quién es ella? – Who is she?
  • ¿Quién viene hoy al trabajo? – Who comes to work today?
  • ¿Quiénes son ellos? – Who are they?

¿Qué? – What?

Qué is used to ask for general information about objects, the time, etc.

  • ¿Qué día es hoy? – What day is today?
  • ¿Qué es eso? – What is that?
  • ¿Qué quieres hacer? – What do you want to do?

Note that in Spanish, we use qué to ask about something with a specific meaning. Cuál is often also translated as what in Spanish, but it should rather be understood as which since it’s used to ask questions where there’s a selection of possible answers. Let’s look at a very common question:

  • ¿Cuál es tu nombre? – What is your name?

It’s incorrect to say “¿Qué es tu nombre?” unless you’re trying to figure out what the name means. In that case, you have to go with “¿Qué significa tu nombre?” which translates to “What does your name mean?”

Don’t worry, we’ll go into more detail on qué vs cuál below once we introduce cuál.

¿Cuál? / ¿Cuáles? – Which?

Cuál is the right question word in Spanish when we’re trying to identify somebody or something. As we saw above, it’s best to think of cuál as meaning which or which one, even though the English translation is often what. The plural form is cuáles.

  • ¿Cuál es tu hermano? – Which one is your brother?
  • ¿Cuál es tu comida favorita? – What is your favorite food?
  • ¿Cuáles son los libros que has leído? – Which are the books that you’ve read?
  • ¿Cuáles son tus colores favoritos? – Which are your favorite colors?

Qué vs Cuál

We’ve just seen that both qué and cuál can sometimes be translated as what. Let’s spend a bit more time learning when to use qué vs cuál, which are best considered as what vs which.

In Spanish, cuál is sometimes used as what.

  • ¿Cuál es tu nombre? – What is your name?
  • ¿Cuáles son tus colores favoritos? – What are your favorite colors?

Why does this happen?

Cuál (or cuáles in plural) is used for questions where, in Spanish logic, a list of many possible answers exists.

This is why when someone asks your name, they use cuál: in theory, the answer is a choice from the list of all the possible names in the world, and they’re asking you which one is yours.

  • ¿Cuál es tu nombre? – What is your name?

Otherwise, cuál is used in the same way that you use which or which one in English.

Let’s imagine that you’re at a party and your friend has brought her new boyfriend, but you haven’t met him yet. You would use cuál to ask which of all the guys in this place is her boyfriend.

  • ¿Cuál es tu novio? – Which one is your boyfriend?

In Spanish, we use qué when the question word is followed by a noun.

  • ¿Qué día es hoy? – What day is it today?
  • ¿Qué hora es? – What time is it?

We also use qué when looking for an explanation or definition.

  • ¿Qué piensas de Taylor Swift? – What do you think about Taylor Swift?
  • ¿Qué es esto? – What is this?

Don’t worry if you’re still a little confused by qué vs cuál. It’s something that will become second nature as you continue speaking with more native speakers or reading Spanish texts. If you’re interested in going deeper, you can also check out our detailed post on Qué vs Cual: How to choose the right form of What and Which in Spanish.

For now, we’ll leave you with a few more examples:

  • ¿Cuál es tu opinión? – What is your opinion?
  • ¿Qué tipo de carro te gustaría tener? – Which type of car would you like to have?
  • ¿Cuál es tu signo zodiacal? – What is your zodiac sign?
  • ¿Cuál es tu equipo de fútbol favorito? – What’s your favorite soccer team?
  • ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre los verbos «ser» y «estar»? – What is the difference between the verbs “ser” and “estar”?
  • ¿Cuál es el problema? – What is the problem?

¿Cuándo? – When?

We use cuándo to ask about a point in time, just like when in English:

  • ¿Cuándo son las vacaciones de primavera? – When is spring break?
  • ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? – When is your birthday?

¿Dónde? – Where?

Just like the English question word where, in Spanish we use dónde to ask about places or locations:

  • ¿Dónde está el colegio? – Where is the school?
  • ¿Dónde será la entrevista? – Where will the interview be?

¿Cuánto? / ¿Cuánta? – How much?

We use these singular question words in Spanish to ask about quantities of uncountable nouns. The English equivalent is how much. When asking about how much time, a better English translation is simply how long:

  • ¿Cuánto tiempo toma aprender español? – How long does it take to learn Spanish?
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta este carro? – How much does this car cost?
  • ¿Cuánta azúcar necesitas? – How much sugar do you need?

Note that although the four versions of cuánto in Spanish all include how in their English translations, it’s vital to never try translating this how in the other direction using cómo. We’ll look at this again when we go into the proper use of cómo, meaning how, below.

¿Cuántos? / ¿Cuántas? – How many?

With these plural forms of cuánto, we ask about the number of countable nouns. The equivalent in English is how many:

  • ¿Cuántos gatos hay en la casa? – How many cats are there in the house?
  • ¿Cuántas mujeres hay en el salón de belleza? – How many women are there in the beauty salon?

For an in-depth explanation on asking about quantity in Spanish, check out our detailed post on using cuánto, cuánta, cuántos, and cuántas in Spanish. These question words are also often confused with cuanto, cuanta, cuantos, and cuantas without the accent.

¿Por qué? – Why?

Por qué is our Spanish question word to ask for reasons:

  • ¿Por qué no estudiaste? – Why didn’t you study?
  • ¿Por qué estás llorando? – Why are you crying?

Many Spanish learners get the question word por qué confused with the conjunction “porque,” meaning “because.” Remember that question words always have accent marks! For deeper explanations, check out our anti-confusion guide to por qué vs porque.

¿Cómo? – How?

We use cómo to find out information about a person, thing, or place.

  • ¿Cómo está el agua? – How is the water?
  • ¿Cómo te gusta tu café? – How do you like your coffee?

Note that while cómo usually translates to how in English, how can have several different translations in Spanish depending on the context. We’ll go into the main options for saying how in Spanish in its dedicated section below.

How in Spanish

A common point of confusion that we need to expand on is knowing when to use cómo for how, and when we need to use other words to say how in Spanish.

In Spanish, we use cómo when we want to find out detailed information about somebody or something, just as you use how in English.

  • ¿Cómo estás? – How are you?
  • ¿Cómo llegaste aquí? – How did you arrive here?

When asking about quantities or length of time, instead of cómo we use a single Spanish question word meaning how much or how many. This Spanish interrogative has four forms, since it needs to match the number and gender of the noun it’s asking about: cuánto, cuánta, cuántos, cuántas. We already saw these above,

  • ¿Cuánto cuesta? – How much does it cost?
  • ¿Cuántas horas hay que dormir? – How many hours does one have to sleep?
  • ¿Cuánto tiempo te tomó terminar tu tesis? – How long did it take you to finish your thesis?

Another situation in English where you would use how is when you’re asking about a quality. In these sentences, the English word how is placed before an adjective or an adverb. In Spanish, we don’t use cómo in this situation; the correct equivalent is qué tan:

  • ¿Qué tan lejos está? – How far is it?
  • ¿Qué tan grande es la casa? – How big is the house?
  • ¿Qué tan rápido puedes llegar aquí? – How fast can you get here?
  • ¿Qué tan picante está la comida? – How spicy is the food?
  • ¿Qué tan rápido aprendiste español? – How quickly did you learn Spanish?

Finally, if you’re ever unsure of something… you can aways just use ¿cómo? to say huh?

Spanish question words and prepositions

Using Spanish prepositions with interrogative pronouns is very common, so we’ll spend this section looking at some of the most frequent combinations you’re likely to encounter throughout the Spanish-speaking world.

Before we get into the important pairs of prepositions and question words, however, let’s just take a moment to review what are prepositions in the first place. If you’re already a pro at Spanish prepositions then you can skip ahead to the examples below.

Prepositions allow us to relate different elements in a sentence.

For example, “the cat is under the bed.” In this case, our preposition is under. Let’s see a couple more simple examples with prepositions:

  • Estamos hablando de gramática. – We are talking about grammar.
  • Vamos para la escuela. – Let’s go to school.

Here’s a table with some of the most common Spanish prepositions that you need to know. Notice that there are often multiple possible English translations for a given Spanish preposition, depending on the context.

Preposiciones Prepositions
a to
con with
contra against
en in, on, at, into
entre between, among
sobre about, above, on top of
acerca de about
de from, of
desde from, since
por for
para to, for
hacia toward
durante during, for
antes de before
después de after

This list is a good place to start if you’re new to prepositions.

However, if you want to learn more about prepositions (and we recommend you do), then make sure to read our dedicated post where we go deep on everything you need to know to master prepositions in Spanish.

Now it’s time to return to our original theme: Spanish question words.

Spanish prepositions with interrogatives: Sentence order

In Spanish, prepositions are placed at the beginning of the question, in contrast to English, where prepositions are generally placed at the end of the question:

  • Sobre qué quieres hablar? – What do you want to talk about? – About what would you like to talk?
  • ¿De dónde eres? – Where are you from? – From where are you?

Notice that sometimes you can still create English questions that are more-direct translations, though these often don’t sound as natural. In many cases, this is because the prepositions are normally omitted altogether. These still need to be included in Spanish:

  • ¿A dónde vamos? – Where are we going? – Where are we going [to]?
  • ¿En dónde ponemos esto? – Where do we put this?

Knowing these differences will help you with thinking in Spanish, rather than translating directly from English, which, as we’ve seen, doesn’t always work well.

Now it’s time to review the most common uses of prepositions with question words. We’ll group these by Spanish prepositions, introducing their common combos with interrogatives along with examples.


¿A dónde? – To where?

  • ¿A dónde crees que vas? – Where do you think you are going [to]?
  • ¿A dónde vamos? – Where are we going [to]?

Note that we often write this combination as one word: adónde. Either form is correct. We have a full post explaining when to use a dónde vs dónde.

¿A quién?  – Whom?

  • ¿A quién tenemos que agradecer? – To whom do we have to give thanks?
  • ¿A quién eligió el jefe para el trabajo? – The boss chose whom for the job?

This is a good example showing how direct translations are tough. Whom is seldom used in English unless it directly follows a preposition like to or with, even though, grammatically, it should be used whenever it’s in the place of a direct object. In these cases, we use a quién in Spanish.


¿Con quién? – With whom?

  • ¿Con quién estás hablando? – Who are you talking to? – With whom are you talking?
  • ¿Con quién viniste? – Who did you come with? – With whom did you come?

¿Con cuál? – With which?

  • ¿Con cuál aerolínea viajarás? – Which airline will you travel with?
  • ¿Con cuál estilo de música te identificas más? – Which style of music do you identify yourself with most?


¿En quién? – In whom?, About whom?

En quién is used to ask about the direct object when asking questions with verbs like pensar (to think about), creer (to believe in), or confiar (to have trust in).

  • ¿En quién confías más? – Who do you trust more? – In whom do you have more confidence?
  • ¿En quién estás pensando? – Who are you thinking about?

We use quién on its own when speaking about our relationship with a person.

  • ¿Quién es ella? / Ella es mi prima. – Who is she? / She is my cousin.

¿En cuánto tiempo? – How long [until]?

Another way to consider this construction is in how much time, since it’s used to ask how long until something happens. We include the responses in these examples to demonstrate what en cuánto tiempo is asking.

  • ¿En cuánto tiempo terminarás el trabajo? / [Terminaré] en dos horas.How long will it take you to finish the job? / [I will finish in] two hours.
  • ¿En cuánto tiempo él regresará? / [Él regresará] en dos meses.How long until will he be back? / [He will be back in] two months.

¿En qué? – In what?, On what?, About what?

  • ¿En qué piensas? – What are you thinking about?
  • ¿En qué canal estás viendo esa película? – What channel are you watching that movie [on]?

¿En cuál?, ¿En cuáles? – In which?

  • ¿En cuál continente se encuentra Colombia? – In which continent is Colombia situated?
  • ¿En cuáles países se habla español? – In which countries is Spanish spoken?


¿De dónde? – From where?

  • ¿De dónde son tus amigos? – Where are your friends from?
  • ¿De dónde vienes? – Where do you come from?

¿De qué?  – Of what?

In English, the translation often omits the of. We show two possible options in the following examples to show what we mean.

  • ¿De qué sabor quieres tu helado? – What flavor do you want your ice cream? – You want your ice cream of what flavor?
  • ¿De qué raza es tu perro? – What breed is your dog? – Your dog is of what breed?

¿De quién? – Whose?

  • ¿De quién es esta chaqueta? – Whose jacket is this?
  • ¿De quién son estos perros? – Whose dogs are these?


¿Desde dónde? – From where?

  • ¿Desde dónde nos visitas? – Where are you visiting us from?
  • ¿Desde dónde se imprime el artículo? – Where is the article being printed?

This desde dónde construction appears very similar to de dónde we saw above, but there’s some nuance to it. In short, we use desde when the answer is a starting point, whereas with de the answer is something more general. For a full explanation on these two, we recommend our easy guide to never confusing de and desde again.

¿Desde cuándo? – Since when?

  • ¿Desde cuándo tomas clases de español? – Since when do you take Spanish classes?
  • ¿Desde cuándo trabajas aquí? – Since when do you work here?


¿Por dónde? – Where?

Por dónde is used to ask about a pathway to find something:

  • ¿Por dónde debo ir para llegar al tren? – Where should I go to get to the train?
  • ¿Por dónde estarás? – Where will you be?

¿Por cuánto tiempo? – For how long?

  • ¿Por cuánto tiempo debo tomar la medicina? – How long should I take the medicine [for]?
  • ¿Por cuánto tiempo estarás a dieta? – How long will you be on a diet [for]?


Por and para are often confused by English speakers, since their translations are sometimes both for. This is a prime example of how it’s vital to think our questions through in Spanish first, rather than trying to translate them directly from English! With por vs para, it all comes down to context. We give some basic examples here, but for a full explanation, check out our dedicated post for a full explanation on por vs para.

¿Para dónde? – Where to?

Para dónde is used to ask about a destination involving movement. An English equivalent is where to, though the to is often omitted:

  • ¿Para dónde vamos mañana? – Where are we going [to] tomorrow?
  • ¿Para dónde va el tren? – Where does the train go [to]?

¿Para quién? – For whom?

  • ¿Para quién es este almuerzo? – Who is this lunch for? – For whom is this lunch?
  • ¿Para quién trabajas? – Who do you work for? – For whom do you work?


¿Hacia dónde? – Where to?

Although hacia is a preposition that translates as toward, when combined with dónde it’s used to ask about a specific destination.

  • ¿Hacia dónde va este bus? – Where is this bus going [to]?
  • ¿Hacia dónde te diriges? – Where are you going [to]?

Conclusion: Question words in Spanish

Today we covered some of the most fundamental words in the Spanish language: the interrogatives, commonly referred to as question words.

We started off noting some basics about questions in Spanish: that all the interrogatives have accents, and that Spanish question phrases always begin with an upside-down question mark (¿). (Check out our dedicated post for a full lesson on Spanish punctuation.)

Then we got right into the vocab with a straightforward list of the most important Spanish question words, followed by plenty of examples of each one in use. We touched on some of the confusing differences, like when to use qué vs cuál, or when to choose specific question words when translating how from English, while also pointing to our other detailed blog posts that go deep on some these points.

We rounded out this post with an introduction to many of the common prepositions that are frequently used in combination with the interrogative pronouns we’d just learned. We saw how these combinations are used to get more specific in what we’re asking about, and how the English equivalents are often quite different.

Overall, you should now have a pretty decent grasp of the Spanish question words, including a nice variety of ways to use each one as well as some different options for translating them into English. Though there are indeed many specifics to learn with the question words in Spanish, you should be well on your way to understanding the majority since they’re pretty close to their English counterparts!

Spanish question words: Quiz

Now that you’ve gotten through all the content of this post, it’s time to test how well you’ve learned your Spanish interrogatives! Choose the right question word from the two choices, based on the context. Keep in mind that some of them are combined with prepositions!

The answers and translations are below.

  1. ¿___ te gusta hacer en el verano? (Cuándo – Qué)
  2. ¿___ de los dos jugos prefieres? ¿Naranja o papaya? (Cuál – Cómo)
  3. ¿___ está tu mamá? (Cómo – Qué)
  4. ¿___ quieres hacer mañana? (Quién – Qué)
  5. ¿___ son tus zapatos? (Cuáles – Dónde)
  6. ¿___ raza es tu perro? (De qué – Cómo)
  7. ¿___ cuestan las zanahorias? (Cuánto – Por qué)
  8. ¿___ llegan tarde? (Por qué – Qué)
  9. ¿___ están los niños? (Dónde – Cuáles)
  10. ¿___ son tus amigos? (Dónde – Quiénes)
  11. ¿___ fue tu día? (Cómo – Dónde)
  12. ¿___ son más deliciosos? (Cuáles – Quiénes)
  13. ¿___ vienes a visitarme? (Cómo – Cuándo)
  14. ¿___ es este regalo? (Para quién – Por qué)
  15. ¿___ está la tienda? (Por dónde – Con quién)
  16. ¿___ está hecha la mesa? (Cuál – De qué)
  17. ¿___ vas a ir a la fiesta? (Con quién – Cuál)
  18. ¿___ vives en esta ciudad? (Desde cuándo – Quiénes)
  19. ¿___ llamaste ayer? (Dónde – A quién)
  20. ¿___ será la fiesta este sábado? (Dónde – Cuándo)
  21. ¿___ piensas cuando estás feliz? (En quién – Cómo)
  22. ¿___ crees? (Por dónde – En qué)


  1. ¿Qué te gusta hacer en el verano? – What would you like to do in the summer?
  2. ¿Cuál de los dos jugos prefieres? ¿Naranja o papaya? – Which of the two juices do you prefer? Orange or papaya?
  3. ¿Cómo está tu mamá? – How is your mom?
  4. ¿Qué quieres hacer mañana? – What do you want to do tomorrow?
  5. ¿Cuáles son tus zapatos? – Which shoes are yours?
  6. ¿De qué raza es tu perro? – What breed is your dog?
  7. ¿Cuánto cuestan las zanahorias? – How much do the carrots cost?
  8. ¿Por qué llegan tarde? – Why are you arriving late?
  9. ¿Dónde están los niños? – Where are the children?
  10. ¿Quiénes son tus amigos? – Who are your friends?
  11. ¿Cómo fue tu día? – How was your day?
  12. ¿Cuáles son más deliciosos? – Which ones are the most delicious?
  13. ¿Cuándo vienes a visitarme? – When are you coming to visit me?
  14. ¿Para quién es este regalo? – For whom is this gift?
  15. ¿Por dónde está la tienda? – Where is the shop? – How do I get to the shop?
  16. ¿De qué está hecha la mesa? – What is this table made of?
  17. ¿Con quién vas a ir a la fiesta? – With whom will you go to the party?
  18. ¿Desde cuándo vives en esta ciudad? – For how long have you been living in this city?
  19. ¿A quién llamaste ayer? – Who did you call yesterday?
  20. ¿Dónde será la fiesta este sábado? – Where will the party be this Saturday?
  21. ¿En quién piensas cuando estás feliz? – Who do you think about when you’re happy? – About whom do you think when you’re happy?
  22. ¿En qué crees? – What do you believe in?

Get our FREE 7-day email course, Shortcut to Conversational

The exact strategies you need to become conversational in Spanish this year. Join the course now, before we come to our senses and charge for it!

This blog is presented by BaseLang: Unlimited Spanish Tutoring for $179 a Month. Learn more here.