Form yes/no questions
All questions in Spanish, as you may have noticed, start with an inverted question mark “¿” and end with an upright question mark “?”. The simplest questions are those that can be answered with a simple yes or no and are sometimes followed by the statement that is being agreed or disagreed with to further clarify what is being answered. There are three formats for these types of questions.
La pregunta básica
A simple question is typically formatted in the verb / subject / clause format, or a simple inversion of the subject and verb in a standard sentence. Note that unlike English, Spanish does not use the auxiliary verb ‘do/does’ in questions.
|en español||en inglés|
|¿Habla María español?||Does María speak Spanish?|
|¿Conservan ustedes el agua?||Do you conserve water?|
|¿Usas tú una computadora?||Do you use a computer?|
La frase como pregunta
By altering the format to subject / verb / clause a question is still possible. To differentiate this sequence from a simple statement extra inflection must be placed at the end of the sentence. Unlike the previous format, this word order usually results in a question that implies a certain level of disbelief in the statement being expressed.
|¿María habla español?||María speaks Spanish?|
|¿Ustedes conservan el agua?||You conserve water?|
|¿Tú usas una computadora?||You use a computer?|
Las coletillas interrogativas
By using the same subject / verb / clause format of a standard statement with a tag question other moods are possible. Tag questions are more common in spoken language than in written form, likely because they can carry a variety of meanings depending on the context and intonation. Generally, the statement tends to reflect the questioner’s belief in the actual truth, and really is seeking a confirmation from the person being questioned. In this way, they tend to cue the other person with the desired response.
|María habla español, ¿no?||María speaks Spanish, doesn’t she?|
|Ustedes conservan el agua, ¿verdad?||You conserve water, right?|
|Tú usas una computadora, ¿no?||You use a computer, don’t you?|
Another format of tag question is used to solicit agreement to do something:
|Vamos a la oficina, ¿de acuerdo?||We are going to the office, OK?|
|Me van a pagar más, ¿de acuerdo?||You will pay me more, OK?|
|Voy a mi casa, ¿de acuerdo?||I’m going home, OK?|
Responding to all of these types of questions is done in the same format. For “Yes” responses the subject / verb / clause format is retained following the word “yes”.
|Sí, María habla español.||Yes, María speaks Spanish.|
|Sí, nosotros conservamos el agua.||Yes, we conserve water.|
|Sí, yo uso una computadora.||Yes I use a computer.|
There are two ways of making a negative statement: One is to simply negate the statement as in the examples below by placing the no before the verb.
|No, María no habla español.||No, María does not speak Spanish.|
|No, nosotros no conservamos el agua.||No, we don’t conserve water.|
|No, yo no uso una computadora.||No, I don’t use a computer.|
The other is a negation of the statement with an affirmation of a related fact afterwards as shown below.
|No, María habla inglés.||No, María speaks English.|
|No, conservamos los animales.||No, we conserve the animals.|
|No, yo uso una calculadora.||No, I use a calculator.|