The Concept of How in Spanish: Adding 'Que' to Adjectives & Nouns

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  • 0:01 Using Qu? in Exclamations
  • 1:15 Qu? with Adjectives
  • 3:36 Qu? with Nouns
  • 5:18 Qu? with Nouns & Adjectives
  • 6:20 Pr?ctica con las Exclamaciones
  • 8:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: April Schmidt

April has a Ph.D. in Spanish and has been teaching college-level Spanish for the past eight years.

How wonderful! What a surprise! Exclamations like these are important for expressing how you feel about things, people, and events around you. In this lesson, you will learn a number of exclamations in Spanish that begin with ¡Qué …!

Using Qué in Exclamations

In this lesson, you'll be learning how to use qué for exclamations in Spanish. Are you thinking, 'How interesting!' or 'What a boring lesson!'? Either way, you are using an exclamation to express your feelings about the lesson, which shows just how useful exclamations are!

So far, you have used the word qué (what) mainly to ask questions. However, it is also used in exclamations and is equivalent to 'How…!' or 'What…!' in English.

'¡Qué …!' can be followed by an adjective, as in the phrase ¡Qué bonito! (How pretty!). It can also be followed by a noun: ¡Qué sorpresa! (What a surprise!). Or it can be followed by both an adjective and a noun: ¡Qué buena idea! (What a good idea!). In this last sentence, idea is a noun, and good is an adjective modifying the noun. Let's look at these three types of exclamations in more detail.

Qué with Adjectives

When you give an exclamation, you are always exclaiming about something, even if it's something that is not specifically mentioned. For example, if you exclaim 'How pretty!' it's assumed that you are admiring something, like a pretty view. This is important to keep in mind when you are using the ¡Qué + adjective! pattern for an exclamation.

Remember that adjectives always have to match the word they modify in both gender and number. Therefore, the form of the adjective you use in the exclamation will depend on what it is you're admiring, even if the person or thing is not mentioned in the exclamation.

For example, pretend you're looking into a store window and admiring a pretty dress (el vestido). You would say '¡Qué bonito!' because bonito is referring to the dress, which is masculine singular.

Or pretend that you are watching a group of attractive actresses in a movie and commenting on their appearance. You would say '¡Qué bonitas!' because you are talking about a group of women.

You can use virtually any adjective you want to form exclamations with ¡Qué…! However, here are a few that are used especially frequently:

¡Qué bueno! - That's good!

¡Qué malo! - That's bad!

¡Qué horrible! - How horrible!

¡Qué triste! - How sad!

¡Qué sabroso! - How tasty!

¡Qué hermoso / bello! - How beautiful!

¡Qué divertido! - What fun!

¡Qué maravilloso! - How wonderful!

As you can see, exclamations that use ¡Qué + adjective! are usually translated as How + adjective! Once in a while, though, there may be exceptions, and expressions like 'That's good / bad!' or 'What fun!' sound better in English than the literal translation of 'How good / bad / fun!'

Qué with Nouns

It's easier to use exclamations where Qué is followed by a noun. Since nouns don't change form, you don't have to worry about gender and number agreement, like you do when Qué is followed by an adjective. Here are some commonly used expressions that follow the pattern ¡Qué + noun!

¡Qué lástima! - What a pity!

¡Qué pena! - What a shame!

¡Qué sorpresa! - What a surprise!

¡Qué suerte! - What luck!

¡Qué susto! - What a scare!

Sometimes, these exclamations may include a verb, as they do in English exclamations like 'How hot I am!' or 'How cold it is!'

¡Qué calor / frío tengo! - How hot / cold I am!

¡Qué calor / frío hace! - How hot cold it (the weather) is!

¡Qué hambre tengo! - How hungry I am!

As you saw in the first five examples, exclamations that use ¡Qué + noun! are usually translated as What + noun! The last three examples are translated as 'How…!' because these phrases use nouns in Spanish and adjectives in English. In Spanish, you are literally saying, 'What hunger I have!' However, it sounds better to translate that as 'How hungry I am!' in English.

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