Spanish interrogatives / Los interrogativos


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Interrogatives are words used to ask about something. 








Interrogatives can appear in direct (with marks ¿?) or indirect questions. They always carry a written accent. Sometimes they are preceded by prepositions. They can be pronouns or adverbs(invariable words that modifiy other sentence elements).


¿Qué haces?                                             What are you doing?

Solo me pregunto qué haces.                    I just wonder what you are doing.


Most interrogatives can be used as exclamatory particles.


Qué is used to ask about people, animals, things, ideas. It is often translated as “what”, but be careful with this:


¿Qué quieres?                                      What do you want?

¿Para qué lo compras?                           What do you buy it for?/Why do you buy it?



Cuál, cuáles are used when the choice is restricted. They agree in number with the noun they refer to. They are used alone and are equivalent to “which”:


Hay dos libros, ¿cuál quieres?                        

There are two books. Which one do you want?

but

¿Qué libro quieres?                             Which book do you want?

¿Cuál es el problema?                          What's the problem?



Cómo is used to ask in what way something is done, about characteristics, names, health or states of mind. It is usually translated as “how”:


  ¿Cómo lo haces?                                       How do you do it?

¿Cómo está tu hermana? Bien.                    How is your sister? Well.

¿Cómo está el tiempo en Madrid?

How is the weather in Madrid?

but

¿Cómo te llamas?                                       What is your name?

¿Cómo es tu hermana? Alta y rubia.      

What is your sister like? She is tall and blonde.



Quién, quiénes are used to ask about people. They agree in number. Their equivalent is “who”:


¿Quién es esa chica?                              Who’s that girl?

¿Quiénes son los mejores?                      Who are the best?   
     

Por qué is used to ask for an explanation or to suggest something. Its equivalent is “why”:


¿Por qué te gusta?                                     Why do you like it?

¿Por qué no vamos al cine?                        

Why don’t we go to the movies?



Dónde is used to ask about places. Its equivalent is “where”:


¿Dónde vives?                                         Where do you live?

¿Adónde vas?                                          Where are you going to?

¿De dónde es tu padre?                           Where is your father from?



Cuándo is used to ask about time. It is often translated as “when”:


¿Cuándo salimos?                                      When are we going out?

but

¿Desde cuándo estás aquí?                           How long have you been here?

¿Hasta cuándo están las rebajas?                  How long do sales last?



Cuánto, cuánta, cuántos, cuántas are used to ask about quantities. They agree in gender and number with the nouns they refer to. They are usually translated as “how many/much”. Apart from this, cuánto (tiempo) is used to ask about time:


¿Cuánto dinero te hace falta?              How much money do you need?

¿Cuántas líneas de bus hay?                How many bus lines are there?

¿Cuánto falta para Navidad?                  How long is it till Christmas?




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