Indirect Questions in Spanish Grammar
Indirect questions (las oraciones interrogativas indirectas) are subordinate sentences that are often introduced by a verb of speech such as saber, preguntar, decir, exclamar, responder etc. They are often used without question marks and follow the word order of declarative sentences. Indirect questions are often introduced by phrases such as Yo no sé …I don’t know…, Él pregunta ...He asks…, Yo no entiendo ...I don’t understand…, A ella le gustaría saber ...She’d like to know…, ¿Me podría decir ...?Could you tell me…?, No te voy a explicar ...I’m not going to tell you….
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Word Order in Indirect Questions
The word order of indirect questions differs from a direct question. The finite verb and the subject are not inverted, so the word order after the question word is the same as a declarative sentences i.e. question word + subject + verb + object.
The question word is used with an accent even in indirect questions.
- ¿Cuándo tiene (él) tiempo? → No sé cuándo (él) tiene tiempo.When does he have time? – I don’t know when he has time.
- ¿Es (ella) feliz? → No te voy a decir si (ella) es feliz.Is she happy? – I won’t tell you if she’s happy.
Indirect questions with si
Use si in the indirect question when there is no question word,
- ¿Viene ella mañana? - Él pregunta si ella viene mañana.Is she coming tomorrow? – He’s asking if she is coming tomorrow.
Punctuation in indirect questions
Indirect questions are usually punctuated with a full stop rather than a question mark (see example above). However, a question mark is necessary when the indirect question forms part of an actual question.
- ¿Me puede decir cómo se llama esta calle?Can you tell me what the name of this street is?