Interrogative Pronouns

As in English, They Usually Begin Sentences

question sculpture
Escultura de Ipswich, Inglaterra. (Sculpture in Ipswich, England.). Martin Pettitt/Creative Commons.

As their name suggests, interrogative pronouns are those pronouns that are used almost exclusively in questions. As in English, interrogative pronouns are typically placed at or very near the beginning of a sentence.

Following are the interrogative pronouns in Spanish with their translations and examples of their usage. Note that in some cases the pronouns can vary in translation when they follow a preposition.

Also, some of the pronouns exist in singular and plural forms and (in the case of cuánto) masculine and feminine forms that should match the noun they stand for.

  • quién, quiénes — who, whom — ¿Quién es tu amiga? (Who is your friend?) ¿Quién es? (Who is it?) ¿A quiénes conociste? (Whom have you met?) ¿Con quién andas? (Whom are you walking with?) ¿De quién es esta computadora? (Whose computer is this?) ¿Para quiénes son las comidas? (Whom are the meals for?)
  • qué — what (The phrases por qué and para qué are usually translated as "why." Por qué is more common than para qué. They are sometimes interchangeable; para qué can be used only when asking about the intent or purpose of something happening and can be thought of as meaning "what for.") — ¿Qué es esto? (What is this?) ¿Qué pasa? (What's happening?) ¿En qué piensas? (What are you thinking about?) ¿De qué hablas? (What are you talking about?) ¿Para qué estudiaba español? (Why did you study Spanish? What did you study Spanish for?) ¿Por qué se rompió el coche? (Why did the car break down?) ¿Qué restaurante prefieres? What restaurant do you prefer?
  • dónde — where (to say "to where" use adónde instead of a dónde, which usually is considered old-fashioned) — ¿Dónde está? (Where is it?) ¿De dónde es Roberto? (Where is Roberto from?) ¿Adónde vas? (Where are you going to?)
  • cuándo — when — ¿Cuándo salimos? (When are we leaving?) ¿Para cuándo estará listo? (By when will it be ready?) ¿Hasta cuándo quedan ustedes? (Until when are you staying?)
  • cuál, cuáles — which one, which ones (This word also can often be translated as "what." Generally speaking, when cuál is used it suggests the making of a selection from more than one alternative.) — ¿Cuál prefieres? (Which one do you prefer?) ¿Cuáles prefieres? (Which ones do you like?)
  • cómo — how — ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?) ¿Cómo lo haces? (How do you do it?)
  • cuánto, cuánta, cuántos, cuántas — how much, how many — ¿Cuánto hay? (How much is there?) ¿Cuántos? (How many?) — The masculine form is used unless in context it is known you are referring to an object or objects that are grammatically feminine. For example, ¿cuántos? might mean "how many pesos?" because pesos is masculine, while ¿cuántas? might mean "how many towels?" because toallas is feminine.

As you may have noticed, the interrogative pronouns are all spelled with accent marks that do not affect the pronunciation. Many of the interrogative pronouns also can be used in statements (as opposed to questions) without the accent mark. Note also that many of the interrogative pronouns can be used as other parts of speech, including adjectives and adverbs, either with or without the accent marks, depending on the context.