Spanish 1.2 : Basic Spanish questions

Here's a gentle introduction to Spanish questions, with a video and audio files featuring native Spanish speakers.

learn basic spanish questions
Katia showing us how to ask some basic questions in Spanish. ¡Gracias Hippy!

If you’ve checked out our first class you’ll know how to introduce yourself and give basic personal information in Spanish. In this class we’ll look at the type of essential Spanish questions you’ll want to ask to someone you’ve just met.  

Video

If you play the video to the class, you’ll not only be able to listen to our native Spanish speakers, but you’ll get to see them too!  I’m also there, giving a few small, but important, grammar tips. If you can’t get the video to play, or don’t want to view it, don’t worry, we’ll look at all the phrases from the video, and a lot more grammar, in the text+audio class below.

Formal and informal you

Before we launch into the questions, it’s important to make clear that Spanish has not one, but two forms for ‘you’. To complicate matters further, these two forms are used differently in Latin America and Spain.

Tu – Informal in Spain

The pronoun ‘tu’, is used for informal situations in Spain.  If you’re out with friends or acquaintances this is the form that you’ll use.

Usted – Formal in Spain, General use in Latin America

The pronoun ‘usted’ is used for formal situations in Spain, but is suitable for any context, formal or informal, in Latin America.

Separate verb forms for Tu and Usted

Every Spanish verb has a form for ‘usted’ and a form for ‘tu’, although usually the only difference is that the ‘tu’ form has an additional ‘s’ on the end.

The Questions

So let’s get down to business and look at those essential Spanish questions:

1. Asking someone’s name

In Spain we use the ‘tu’ form with friends:

  • ¿Cómo te llamas?
    What are you called?


For formal situations in Spain we’ll use the ‘usted’ form. This is also the form that we’ll need for any situation, formal or informal, in Latin America:

  • ¿Cómo se llama usted?
    What are you called?

One cool thing about Spanish questions

Notice that we get to use a fancy upside-down question mark in Spanish questions?  This goes at the beginning of ALL questions in Spanish.

2. Asking someone’s age, ‘tu’ form:

  • ¿Cuántos años tienes?
    ¿How old are you?

Asking someone’s age, ‘usted’ form:

  • ¿Cuántos años tiene usted?
    ¿How old are you?


In Spanish we do not use the verb ‘ser‘ (be) with age. We have to use the verb ‘tener‘ (have):

  • Correct: ¿Cuántos años tiene usted?
  • Incorrect: ¿Cuántos años es usted?

3. Ask where someone lives (tu)

  • ¿Dónde vives?
    Where do you live?

Ask where someone lives (usted)

  • ¿Dónde vive usted*?
    Where do you live?


*Although we have used the word ‘usted’ in our example questions, it is not obligatory.  However, we always need to remember to conjugate the verb correctly.

 

4. Nationality

‘Tu’ form:

  • De dónde eres?
    Where are you from?


‘Usted’ form:

  • De dónde es?
    Where are you from?


Word order in Spanish questions can be quite different to English. Did you see how the preposition ‘de’ is used at the beginning of the question? Notice also how we have left out the word ‘usted’ in this question.  If the context is clear, there is no need to use ‘usted’ in any of the questions we’ve seen in this section.

Vocabulary

The verbs for this class are the same as those which we saw in class 1.  Visit that lesson to see how to conjugate ‘ser’, ‘vivir’, and ‘tener’.

Where now?

We looked at different ways of answering these basic questions in our first class on Basic Spanish Phrases.  If you’ve already done that one, how about checking out our first set of Spanish vocabulary resources.

Where’s class three?

We’re currently working on class 3.  It’s another short class with a video, and looks at different ways of saying we like or love something.  We should have it up and published by April 14th, 2017.