Using Spanish Question Words in Phrases

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  • 0:05 Introduction
  • 0:24 Como & Cual
  • 1:30 Adonde, Cuantos & Cuanto
  • 3:32 De donde, Que & Cuando
  • 5:32 Quien, Por que, Donde…
  • 7:37 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Garcias-Casas
This lesson presents the interrogatives using phrases. We follow Juan and Sandra as they explore the city on a tourist bus, asking who, what, where and why.


In this lesson, we will look at the question words in phrases. Although there are many different conjugations and verb combinations we can use with the interrogatives, this lesson will cover some simple phrases using the question words. We will follow Juan and Sandra as they meet up to take a bus tour around the city.

Cómo and Cuál

Juan is visiting from Mexico. His new friend Sandra also just arrived from Spain. Today they have decided to take the bus tour to see all the major sights the city has to offer. Bright and early, they meet in their hotel lobby to buy their tickets.

!Buenos días! ¿Cómo estás? (Good morning! How are you?) Since Sandra and Juan are friends, she addressed him informally to ask how he is. If it was a formal setting, or if they didn't know each other, Sandra would have said, ¿Cómo está? (How are you?)

Juan responds, !Bien, gracias! (Good, thanks!) ¿Cuál autobús prefieres, el rojo o el azul? (Which tour bus do you prefer, the red bus or the blue bus?) Here to ask 'which,' Juan used cuál since he was only referring to one thing - the bus. Let's pretend there were multiple bus routes, and they were going to go on two of them. He would have asked: ¿Cuáles autobuses prefieres? (Which buses do you prefer?) Notice that two things change to make it plural: Cuál changes to cuáles and autobús changes to autobuses.

Adónde, Cuántos and Cuánto

They are undecided and ask the tour operator about each loop. ¿Adónde va el autobús rojo? (Where does the red bus go?) Here Sandra is asking about the various destinations of the red loop. The tour operator responds: El autobús rojo va al hospital, la iglesia y el museo. (The red bus goes to the hospital, church and museum.) ¿Y adónde va el autobús azul? (And where does the blue bus go?) El autobús azul va al hotel, la oficina de correos, la fuente, el puente y el parque. (The blue bus goes to the hotel, post office, fountain, bridge and the park.)

When ¿adónde? is paired with the verb ir (to go) in its conjugated form, we can ask people where they are going as well as the direction or way in which something is headed. We can use the structure: ¿Adónde + ir + objeto? ¿Adónde + ir + persona? For example, ¿Adónde va el taxi? ¿Adónde van los carros? and ¿Adónde va usted? ¿Adónde van Juan y Sandra?

Juan and Sandra look at the two loops and decide on the blue tour. They tell the tour operator: El autobús azul, por favor. (The blue bus, please.) Bien. ¿Cuántos billetes de autobús? (Good. How many tickets?) Dos. ¿Cuánto cuesta el billete? (Two. How much does the bus ticket cost?) 40 dólares. (40 dollars.) ¿Cuánto? (How much?!) Dos billetes cuestan 80 dólares. (Two tickets cost 80 dollars.) They pay, get their tickets and then they get on the bus.

When buying their tickets, they used both cuántos and cuánto, which mean 'how many' and 'how much,' respectively. Remember, cuántos could have been substituted for cuántas if the man had asked them, 'how many people?' ¿Cuántas personas? Remember that ¿cuántos? and ¿cuántas? must match the gender of the noun.

De dónde, Qué and Cuándo

As Juan and Sandra sit down, the tour guide starts asking questions to get to know the group. Buenos días, soy Diego. ¿Cómo están ustedes? (Good morning, I'm Diego. How are you guys?) Bien. ¿Y cómo se llama usted? (Good. And what's your name?) Me llamo Juan. (My name is Juan.) Juan, ¿de dónde es? (Juan, where are you from?) Soy de México. (I'm from Mexico.) ¿Y usted, señorita? ¿De dónde es? (And you, miss? Where are you from?) Soy de España. (I'm from Spain.) Diego continues asking the rest of the group where they are visiting from. Y ustedes, ¿de dónde son? (Where are you guys from?) De Colombia. (From Colombia.)

Note that we conjugate the verb ser (to be) to eres, es or son depending on who we are talking to. If it is an informal situation or with a friend, we would ask: ¿De dónde eres? (Where are you from?) If we are speaking formally or talking about someone in the third person, we would say ¿De dónde es? (Where are you from, sir/ma'am? Or where is he/she from?) And if we are talking to a group of people, then we would ask them ¿De dónde son? (Where are you all from?/Where are you guys from?)

The bus starts its tour through the city. Diego starts to explain interesting facts about the city and invites the group to stop him if they have any questions along the way. Diego,¿ Qué es? (Diego, what is it?) Gracias, Sandra. Este edificio es la oficina de correos. Es muy viejo. (Thanks, Sandra. This building is a post office. It is very old.) ¿Cuándo se construyó? (When was it built?) Diego explains it was built in 1915 but later reformed in 1978.

Here the phrase ¿Qué es? asks about definition - what is it? The phrase ¿Cuándo se construyó? uses the past tense to ask about a specific date or period in which the building was built. Depending on the verb and the conjugation it's paired with, we can use cuándo (when) to refer to the past, present or future.

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