Questions and Answers

Asking a question:

There are two basic ways of asking a question in Spanish:

(1) Raise your voice at the end of the sentence: ¿Usted habla español? Note the inverted question mark at the beginning of the sentence that lets you know that a question is coming and warns you to prepare to raise your voice.

(2) Invert the subject and the verb: ¿Habla usted español? Here, the inversion lets you know it is a question.

Answering a question:

To answer this question positively, just say Sí / yes. Incidentally: does mean yes? Yes: when it has an accent on it. If you want to use a full sentence, then say Sí, yo hablo español. Remember that Sí, hablo español (no subject pronoun) is equally good.

To answer a question negatively: just say no / no. ¿Habla usted español? Answer: No. If you want to use a full sentence then you will say No, (the answer to the question) plus yo no hablo español. The second no is somewhat confusing when the subject pronoun is omitted: No, no hablo español but remember that the first no answers the question and the second no makes the verb negative. Both are needed!

Additional information: If you want to use some additional information, then a slightly different structure is needed. ¿Habla usted español? No, yo no hablo español, yo hablo francés. This can, of course, be reduced: (a) ¿Habla usted español? No, no hablo español, hablo francés. Or, an even more drastic reduction: (b) ¿Habla usted español? No, hablo francés. Note that the pause after the comma becomes very important. You don't want to say No hablo francés (no comma and the no makes the verb negative; you actually want to say No, (no hablo español, -- omitted and the shorthand introduced) hablo francés.


The above is a basic formula and is applicable to most question and answer situations. With this formula you should be able to answer any simple question. Remember it and apply it.

More on Questions and Answers:

Questions in the first person:

Sometimes people talk to themselves and set and answer questions in monologues or interior monologues. For example: "Did I just write that? Yes, I did. Well, why did I write it then? I don't know. I can't remember."

The first person questions in a monologue usually have a first person answer. However, a monologue such as the one above happens more frequently in artistic circles, rather than in daily conversations in which dialogue is much more normal.

In a dialogue, when a person asks a question in the first person singular, for example, "¿Hablo yo español?" / "Do I speak Spanish?" the person to whom the question is addressed will reply with some form of you: "Yes, you speak Spanish." "Sí, tú hablas español." or "Sí, usted (Ud.) habla español."

Questions in the first person plural are slightly more complicated. In the first place, if questioner and questioned belong, and are referring, to the same group, then "¿Hablamos español en clase?" / "Do we speak Spanish in class?" is answered with the inlusive we: "Sí, hablamos español en esta clase." "Yes, we speak Spanish in this class."

However, when questioner and questioned belong to two different groups, then the answer will revert to you. For example: a student asks the teacher -- "¿Tenemos un examen en esta clase?" / "Do we have an exam in this class?" and the teacher replies: "Sí, ustedes tienen un examen en esta clase." / "Yes, you have an exam in this class."

Questions in the second person:

This is the standard form of question and answering. "¿Hablas español?" / Do you speak Spanish? "Sí, hablo español." / Yes, I speak Spanish. Remember that the usted (Ud.) form may also be used: "Habla Ud. español?" "Sí, hablo español."

Questions in the third person:

These are relatively simple. "¿Habla el profesor español?" / "Does the professor speak Spanish?" "Sí, el profesor habla español." / "Yes, the professor speaks Spanish." "¿Hablan los alumnos español?" / "Do the students speak Spanish?" / "Sí, los alumnos hablan español." "Yes, the students speak Spanish."


Complications can arise when the subject pronouns are omitted or when the context isn't totally clear. While the meaning of "¿Hablas español?" is absolutely clear, the meaning of "¿Habla español?" taken out of context may not be, for the absent subject pronoun may be usted (demanding yo in the answer) or él or ella (demanding a repetition of él or ella and a verb in the third person).


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