Ask and answer questions with ¿qué? and ¿cuál?
Preguntas con ¿qué? y ¿cuál?
You have already used some question words to elicit specific information:
- ¿Cómo te llamas? (What is your name? – literally, How do you call yourself?)
- ¿Cómo estás? (How are you?)
- ¿Cuál es tu correo electrónico? (What is your email?)
- ¿Cuántas sillas hay? (How many chairs are there?)
In the next few modules, we’ll look at the various question words, or interrogatives, that are used to ask for specific information in Spanish. We’ll start with ¿qué? and ¿cuál?
¿Qué? literally means “what?”, and its usage in Spanish is very similar to English. Spanish has two words to ask “which?”, depending on whether the answer is anticipated to be singular ¿cuál?, or plural (¿cuáles?). As when asking “which?” in English, ¿cuál? asks for an answer from among a more or less limited number of options.
- Interrogatives have written accent marks which help distinguish them from the same words used as relative pronouns or conjunctions.:
- Cuál has singular and plural forms:
- ¿Cuál te gusta? (Which one do you like?)
- ¿Cuáles te gustan? (Which ones do you like?)
- As in English, interrogatives normally come at the beginning of the question or the part of a sentence in which information is sought. Be sure to include the upside down question mark at the point where the question begins:
Further clarification: qué in contrast with cuál may be confusing sometimes for English speakers. For example: “what is your name?” does not translate as ¿qué es tu nombre? Instead you need to use the question word ¿cuál?, meaning: “which of many proper names out there is yours?”.
The example above—”¿qué clases tomas?”—may be used with both question words: “qué” requires an answer with the name/definition of these courses, whereas “¿cuáles clases tomas?” requires naming which of many courses out there are the ones you are taking.