Lesson 39 - Open Questions In Third Person

Keeping in mind the pearls of wisdom we learnt in the last article (pause while you scrabble about for last month's magazine) we will now complete our look at 'open' and 'closed' questions.

We have got as far as seeing that an 'open' question begins with a question word, or group of words forming a question, for example:
Dónde, Cuándo, Por qué, De qué color and many more.

We then saw that this was followed by a verb, so we have:
¿Cuántos hijos tienes?
How many children have you got?
'Cuántos hijos' is the question and 'tienes' is the verb.

¿Qué estás haciendo?
What are you doing?
Here 'Qué' is the question, and 'estás haciendo' together form the verb and these two verb words do not separate.

¿Dónde estás?
Where are you?
'Dónde' is the question and 'estás' is the verb.

These are all questions in the second person or 'you' form, even though we haven't inserted the word 'you' into the sentence. If we were to do so, the questions would be:
¿Cuántos hijos tienes tú?
¿Qué estás haciendo tú?
¿Dónde estás tú?

As we have said many times before the tú is not necessary to make ourselves clear, but we can use it if we want to. The reason I mention it now though, is to indicate the word order of an open question, which is 'Question + verb + subject'.

We will now apply this principle to questions about a third person, that is, a 'he' a 'she' or even an 'it'. To go from "How many children have you got?" to "How many children has Pedro got?" we follow the same word order, which gives us:
"¿Cúantos hijos tiene Pedro?"
(Question + verb + subject).

"¿Qué estás haciendo?"
What are you doing?

"¿Qué está haciendo tu hijo?"
What is your son doing?

"¿Dónde estás?"
Where are you?

"¿Dónde está el ayuntamiento?"
Where is the town hall?

We can ask similar questions in the plural:
"¿De qué color son las cortinas?"
What colour are the curtains?

Notice as well that prepositions go in front of question words to form part of the question.
"¿De qué color ... ?" (literally 'of what colour?') is an example of this.

"¿A qué hora?" (at what time)
"¿Durante cuánto tiempo?" (for how long)

"¿Con quién?" (with whom) and many more. We cannot put prepositions at the ends of questions as we do in English.

These probably all look quite straightforward to you, which is good. The trick is to remember that exactly the same word order will hold true even when our sentences get much more advanced and complicated. So with that said – let's speak a bit of Spanish. Vamos...

Hoy ha sido un día normal de trabajo para mí, con mis clases en Torrevieja. Tengo muchos alumnos ya, sobre todo en el segundo grupo del día. Después de la última clase tengo que recoger todas mis cosas y volver a mi casa en coche. Hoy he pasado al supermercado para comprar naranjas y pan, y también a la tienda de fotocopias. En casa he encontrado a mis dos hijas, una viendo la tele y la otra estudiando para un examen. Esto no es lo más norma en nuestra casa. Muchas veces mis hijas están fuera de casa haciendo deporte o paseando con sus amigos. Pues, la hora es bastante tarde ya y estoy trabajando todavía. Enseguida voy a apagar este maldito ordenador y relajarme un poco antes de dormir. ¡Qué vida tengo!

¡Hasta la semana que viene!

Jane Cronin's "Step by Step Spanish" articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane's "Step by Step Internet Spanish" course.