2.7 Interrogation

Spanish usually inverts the order of the subject and verb when forming a question. (In addition, as you have seen, a question is both preceded and followed by a question mark.)

In colloquial speech -and, on occasion, in writing- subject and verb are not always inverted, though punctuation will always indicate that the sentence is indeed a question.

¿Están los muchachos en la ciudad? Are the boys and girls in town (in the city)?
¿Cecilia está allí? Is Cecilia there?

¡Ojo! (This literally means “eye,” but used here means “watch out” or “pay close attention” and is used like the Italian Nota bene [N.B. or “note well”].) In many cases, when someone is asking whether someone is “here,” “there,” or “at home,” the words aquí, allí and en casa are understood and not expressed:

¿Está Mamá? Is Mom here (there, at home)?
¿Están los señores Alférez? Are Mr. and Mrs. Alférez home (here, there)?


Vocabulario básico 


la abuela-grandmother
el abuelo-grandfather
la esposa-wife
el esposo-husband, spouse*
los esposos-husband and wife
el hermano-brother
la hermana-sister
los hermanos- brothers and sisters, siblings, brothers
la madre-mother
el marido-husband
el padre-father, priest
los padres-parents (priests [occasionally, “fathers”])
el pariente-relative (false friend)
el periódico-newspaper
el/la primo/a-cousin
la tía-aunt
el tío-uncle
los tíos- aunt and uncle (occasionally, “uncles”)


dieciséis (diez y seis)**-sixteen
diecisiete (diez y siete)**-seventeen
dieciocho (diez y ocho)**-eighteen
diecinueve (diez y nueve)**-nineteen


¿cómo?-how (used alone, “what?”)
¿cuál/es?- which?, what?
¿cuánto?****-how many?, how much?
¿de quién?, ¿de quiénes?-whose?
¿dónde?, ¿adónde?, ¿de dónde?-where?, where to?(to where?), where from?
¿por qué?-why?
¿qué?-what?, which?
¿quién?, ¿quiénes?-who?


cerca (de)-near (to)
lejos (de)-far (from)

Without the de these words are adverbs of place. (La ciudad está lejos. = The city is far away.) With the de, they are prepositions and are followed by an object (Mis parientes están cerca de mí. = My relatives are near me.)

*When the first three letters of a Spanish word are e + s + consonant, it may help to recognize it by imagining the word without the initial e. As Spanish does not permit words to begin in s + consonant, an e very frequently appears at the beginning. Among many other such words that that undergo the same phenomenon are : escuela, estado, español, escándalo, espinaca, etc.

**The three-word forms of these numbers are becoming outdated. In the rare case when numbers are spelled out, which form you will see will likely depend on the date of the text.

***All interrogatives in Spanish, when directly asking a question or indirectly implying one (No sé cuándo es = I don’t know when it is), take a written accent mark.

****Cuánto also has feminine, and masculine and feminine plural endings. See section 3.2.


Last revised on February 17, 2022.