Indirect Questions in Spanish Grammar

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What is an oración interrogativa indirecta?

Indirect questions (las oraciones interrogativas indirectas) are questions that are embedded within a sentence. They are not written with question marks.

Unlike questions in reported speech, indirect questions do not reproduce someone else’s words, they are simply another way of posing a question.

No sé cómo…I don’t know how …
Yo no entiendo por qué…I don’t understand why …
No me queda claro si…It’s not clear to me whether…

Read on to learn how to form indirect questions in Spanish, then test yourself in the exercises.

Types of Indirect Questions in Spanish

Closed Indirect Questions

Closed indirect questions (las interrogativas indirectas totales) are yes/no questions. They are introduced by si (= if/whether).

No sé si Lorena viene mañana (o no).I don’t know if/whether Lorena is coming tomorrow (or not).

Open Indirect Questions

Open indirect questions (las interrogativas indirectas parciales) can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. They are formed with question words (cuántohow much, cuándowhen, cómohow, dóndewhere, quéwhat/which, quiénwho, por quéwhy…).

Me pregunto cuándo viene Lorena.I wonder when Lorena is coming.

Word Order in Indirect Questions in Spanish

The word order changes depending on whether the indirect question is closed or open.

Closed Indirect Questions (with si)

The word order of closed indirect questions is standard: si + subject + verb

Nuria no sabe si mi prima se llama Marta.Nuria doesn’t know whether my cousin is called Marta.

Open Indirect Questions (with question words)

When the indirect question contains a question word, the positions of the subject and the verb are reversed: question word + verb + subject.

Nacho no tiene ni idea de cuándo es mi cumpleaños.Nacho has no idea when my birthday is.
not: … de cuándo mi cumpleaños es.

Note on Punctuation

Indirect questions are written without question marks.

Question words in indirect questions always have an accent.

No tengo ni idea de cómo se llama esta calle.I have no idea what that street is called.
Me pregunto si Nerea sabe cómo se llama esta calle.I wonder if Nerea knows what that street is called.

Indirect Questions vs. Questions in Reported Speech

Don’t confuse indirect questions (las oraciones interrogativas indirectas) with questions in reported speech (las oraciones interrogativas en estilo indirecto).

  • Indirect questions are questions that are embedded into a normal sentence.
Santi: «No sé a qué hora vamos al cine».Santi: “I don’t know what time we’re going to the cinema.”
  • Questions in reported speech are when we reproduce a question that was asked by someone else without using their exact words.
Santi: «A qué hora vamos al cine?»Santi: “What time are we going to the cinema?” (question in direct speech)
Santi ha preguntado a qué hora vamos al cine.Santi asked what time we’re going to the cinema. (question in reported speech)

Learn more about questions in reported speech on our page all about indirect speech in Spanish.