Introduction

 

In this lesson, we will learn how to ask questions in Spanish. It will be necessary to review everything we have studied so far since we will learn how to ask for nationality, color, size, location, weather, etc.

First thing's first, let’s see the interrogative in Spanish:

 

 

Origen y Nacionalidad

The first question we will learn to ask is related to the nationality or origin of people. In English, where are you from?

One of the main differences between Spanish and English is that in English prepositions are placed at the end of the question while in Spanish they are placed in front.

For example,

 

So, if we translate from Spanish to English word by word, the translation would be, “from where are you?”.

 

Note: In Spanish, we use two question marks. One for opening the question and the other one for closing it. The first question mark tells you when the question starts and the second one tells you when it ends. It is just a guide that makes the reading easier.

Religión

 

I know, you wonder why “cuál” and not “qué”, and the answer is that Spanish and English do not always work the same way.

According to English grammar, you must ask,

What is your religion/job/name…?

However, according to Spanish grammar, the right interrogative must be,

Which is your religion/job/name…?

Due to this difference between Spanish and English, the use of "Cuál" vs "Qué" could be tricky for beginners.

 

Please, refer to this file to learn the differences between both interrogatives.

Warning: do not continue this lesson without studying the differences and uses of Qué and Cuál.

Profesión y Ocupación

 

Nombres y Apellidos

 

Note: The second questions only apply to Spanish people. As I explained before, we use our father's and mother's family names.

Note: “cuál” is used for asking singular questions while “cuáles” is used for asking plural ones.  

Propiedad

 

Note: the interrogative pronoun "whose" in Spanish is composed of two words, the preposition “de” + the interrogative “quién” or “quiénes” (if the question refers to more than one person, animal or thing).

De quién / De quiénes is followed by the verb SER since it is used to express possession in Spanish. 

Relacionar

 

Identificar

 

Describir (personas, animales, cosas, comidas y lugares)

 

In English, when people want to know about the physical appearance and personality details of a person, they probably ask you,

 

What is your mother like?

What is your girlfriend like?

 

Nevertheless, in Spanish, the way we ask is very different,

      ¿Cómo es tu mamá?

      ¿Cómo es tu novia?

 

The problem with the questions above is the translations from Spanish to English. Let’s see the most common mistake when the students face this question.

Here is a translation word by word,

¿Cómo es tu mamá?

How is your mom?

What you see above might create confusion for many beginners because it is a wrong translation. Most of the sentences in Spanish and English can be translated word by word from one language to the other. However, it is not always possible, especially when it has to do with questions.

The right interpretation or translation for “¿Cómo <es> tu mamá?” in Englis is “What is your mother like?”.

In case you want to ask, “How is your mom?” (her mood and condition) you must use “estar” verb instead of verb “ser”,

      ¿Cómo <está> tu mama?

In other words,

¿Cómo es tu mamá? (asking about physical appearance and personality)

R: Mi mamá es alta, delgada, hermosa e inteligente.

¿Cómo está tu mamá? (asking about her mood and condition)

R: Mi mamá está muy bien, pero un poco cansada. 

 

Let’s see other useful examples,

 

Let’s focus on the last question of the table above. When someone asks you “¿Cómo <es> el kimchi?” that person who probably has never seen or eaten kimchi before wants to know “what is the kimchi like” (the inherent and unchangeable characteristic of the kimchi). However, when someone wants to ask for the taste and condition of the kimchi you are eating or tasting now, that person must ask using the verb “estar” instead of “ser”.

Pay attention to the explanation below,

1. ¿Cómo <es> el kimchi? (When a person asks you, what is the kimchi like in general)

R: El kimchi <es> rojo, salado y picante. (Using “ser” to describe inherent and unchangeable characteristics)

 

2. ¿Cómo <está> el kimchi? (When a person wants your opinion or feedback about the kimchi you are eating right now. This kind of question is common when some buy or prepare food for you)

R: El kimchi <está> delicioso. (Using “estar” to describe changeable characteristics. The kimchi could be delicious or not)

 

Let’s see other useful examples,

 

By the way, the first question in the table above is not common at all because everyone knows what coffee looks like.

 

 

Color

In Spanish, we have two ways to ask color. The first way is like English, but a little difficult for beginners because the questions must agree in number.

For example,

As you see above, it is too complicated. That is why I always recommend my students to use the following way to ask,

 

The translation word by word would be,

1. of what color is the car?

2. of what color are the cars?

 

Note: the word “color” in both question, singular and plural, does not change. That makes it much easier to ask colors than the previous way.

Note: the preposition “de” as you have seen has a lot of meanings, “from, of, about, etc.”

 

The main difference between “¿cuál es el color de la casa?” and “¿de qué color es la casa? is that in the first question, you ask for a noun, and the second one you ask for an adjective.

For example,

¿Cuál es el color de la casa?”

R: El color es el blanco.

(As you see, “es el blanco” refers to a noun, that is why we use the article “el”, since it is a noun)

 

¿De qué color es la casa?

R: La casa es blanca.

(Here the answer is “es blanca”, and it refers to an adjective, and there is not article because we do not use them in front of adjectives.

 

Tamaño

When we ask for sizes, it is the same kind of question when we ask for colors.

Let’s see some examples, 

 

Note: you can also ask, “¿cuál es el tamaño del carro?” but for this level let’s only focus on ¿de qué tamaño es el carro? which is the easy and most common way.

 

Materiales e ingredients

 

When we ask for materials e ingredients, it is the same kind of question when we ask for colors and sizes.

Let’s see some examples, 

 

Important: in this case, the preposition “de” means “made of” and when the proposition in the question means “made of” we can omit the word “material” since it sounds redundant. Therefore, the question would sound more natural the way below,

 

 

El tiempo

 

La ubicación / La localización

 

Note: “ubicación y localización” have the same meaning, location. Nevertheless, “localización” in Spanis sounds a little technical or formal. “Ubicación” sounds more natural and it is more common among speakers. 

Note: we do not use articles in front of people and places' names, neither in front of some places such as “casa” (if we refer to our house) and “clase”. Check the use article here for more details.

 

Presente Progresivo

 

Hacer          ->  To do

Haciendo   ->   Doing

 

 

Adjetivos comparativos

Finally, how to ask comparison questions. If you have gotten until here and checked the file about the differences and uses of “Qué and Cuál”, you won’t have any problem to understand this final part.

Note: as you already know, In Spanish, we do not have the suffix “-er” at the end of adjectives to compare people, animals, or things.

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