Question words in English
Interrogative words in English
In the previous article, we talked about types of questions in the English language. Like you already saw, most of them require the use of interrogative pronouns (except general and disjunctive). Today we will see with more detail about the interrogative pronouns in English.
What / Qué
One of the most frequently asked questions when we want to clarify some information. It mainly refers to actions, things and inanimate objects. What did you tell him that he was so angry? — ¿Qué le dijiste para que se enfade tanto? What‘s going on here? — ¿Qué ocurre aquí?. Can be referred to people when you want to know about their profession or occupation What is your fiancee? — ¿Qué es tu novia? (profesión). Remember: when you want to know what is something called use the pronoun “what” and not “how”, don’t compare it with Spanish. What is the name of this brand? — ¿Cómo se llama esta marca? When we ask about appearence or you want to know some specific quality, use “what” in combination with “like”. What does this pie taste like? — ¿A qué sabe esta tarta?
Which or what?
In the meaning of “qué” these interrogative pronouns can be sometimes confused. Keep in mind this: “what” is used to get a general information, while “which” to ask for something more specific. What music do you like? — ¿Qué música te gusta? Which music do you want to listen to, rock or jazz? — ¿Qué música te gustaría escuchar, rock o jazz?
Why / Por qué
When you want to know about the reasoning or the purpose of an action, or you want an explanation, we use the interrogative pronoun “why”. Why did you miss the lessons yesterday? — ¿Por qué te saltastes las clases ayer? .The combination “why not” with an infinitive helps us to express the suggestion to make something. Why not drop everything and leave for a couple of days? — ¿Por qué no dejarlo todo e irnos durante un part de días?
When / Cuándo
This word is used in questions related to time. When are you going on vacation? — ¿Cuándo tienes tus vacaciones? . But remember: if you want to clarify at what hour something is or will be happening, then it is better to use “what time”, and if you want to know the frequency of an action, then use “how often”. “When” is used in more general situations. When will you visit us? — ¿Cuándo vas a visitarnos? What time does the ferry arrive? — ¿A que hora llega el ferry? How often does the ferry run? — ¿Cada cuánto llega el ferry?
Where / Dónde, a dónde
This word will be needed to discover a direction or a place where the action is taking place. Where will you be tomorrow afternoon? — ¿Dónde estarás mañana por la tarde? Where will you go on vacation? — ¿A dónde irás de vacaciones? “Where” can be used in addition to the preposition “from”. I saw you on the street last night. Where did you come from? — Te vi por la calle ayer. ¿De dónde venías?
Who, whom, whose / Quién, a quién, de quién
These three words are used exclusively with animated objects and they can sometimes create confusion, especially between new students. You will easily understand how to use them if you learn their main peculiarities. ● “Who” refers to the one who performs the action, the subject;● “Whom” helps us to understand who is the action directed to.● “Whose” determines belonging. In the answer we will use a possessive pronoun.. Who will help me? — ¿Quién me ayudará? Whom will you help? — ¿A quién ayudarás? Whose coat is this? — ¿De quén es este abrigo?
How / Cómo
This word helps us discover the way an action was performed. How do you manage to maintain high performance in any conditions? — ¿Cómo lo haces para mantener un rendimiento tan alto en cualquier condición? . This is the most productive interrogative word. Most interrogative constructions are built with it:
● How often / Con qué frecuencia;
● How many / Cuánto (con contables);
● How much / Cuánto (con incontables);
● How well / Qué tan bien;
● How quickly / Cómo de rápido;
● How far / Cómo de lejos;
● How big / Cómo de grande;
● How long / Cuánto tiempo, durante cuanto tiempo;
● How old / Cómo de viejo, que edad;
● How tall / Cómo de alto;
● How wide / Cómo de ancho;
● How come / Cómo es que;
● How about / Y si, qué tal si..
How come you didn’t finish on time? — ¿Cómo es que no lograste terminar a tiempo?
How about a little walk? — ¿Qué tal si damos un paseito? How much time do you need to finish everything? — ¿Cuánto tiempo necesitas para terminar todo?
How many minutes will it take you to finish this? — ¿Cuántos minutos os llevará terminar todo esto?
How old is your sister? — ¿Cuántos años tiene tu hermana?
How often do you go to the movies? — ¿Con qué frecuencia vas al cine? How wide is this street? — ¿Cómo de estrecha es esta calle?
How to use interrogative words in English
The most important part of an interrogative sentence is the word order. In any kind of question the first word is always the interrogative pronoun, then goes the auxiliar verb (if it is grammatically required), followed by the subject, the semantic verb, and the other parts of the sentence. Although interrogative words can be used in affirmative questions like the indirect questions. Then after the interrogative word the normal word order is followed. When did you see Alex? — ¿Cuándo has visto a Alex? (frase interrogativa) He asked me when I saw Alex. — Me pregunto cuándo había visto a Alex. (pregunta indirecta) . Now you know so much more about how to make questions in English. But simply knowing the theorical part won’t be enough. That is why we recommend practicing with a teacher. In the English school EnglishPapa you can take an online test, take part in a free trial lesson and begin to improve in a short time!
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