How Do You Say What in Spanish?

Some phrases are constants in our daily vocabulary. “What” surely comes within that category. There’s a valid explanation for this, too. The word “what” serves multiple purposes and can be used in a variety of contexts.

In Spanish, it works exactly the same way! While qué is the standard method to ask “what” in Spanish, there are a few other acceptable variations. In this article, we reveal every way to say “what” in Spanish!

How Do You Say What in Spanish

The Spanish language, rich in its vocabulary and structure, offers a myriad of ways to express even the simplest of ideas. One such word, often at the heart of questions and expressions, is ‘what’.

Let’s delve into its usage in Spanish, understand the role of ‘así que’, and explore some common conversational phrases.

What Can You Say in Spanish and How Many Different Ways There Are to Say It

1. Qué

The question now is, “what” do you say in Spanish? We briefly discussed how qué is typically used to mean “what” in Spanish. Like in English, qué is used to ask questions and express surprise or delight. Take a look at the following illustrations.

Qué vs. que

Now, Spanish has its own unique challenges. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat, and this is one of those instances. If you want to avoid embarrassing mistakes, you should know the distinction between qué and que. You might easily confuse the two based on appearance and sound alone.

In contrast to qué, which signifies “what,” que (without the emphasis) means “that” or “which.” Here’s an example of a sentence that employs both que and qué:

The good news is that they sound identical, so you won’t have to worry about confusing your discussion partner. However, it is inevitable that you may encounter it in your own writing or reading.

2. Cuál

The Spanish term cuál can also be used to mean “what.” Although its literal meaning in English is “which,” cuál is sometimes used in place of “what” in informal contexts. As an example, consider the following uses of cuál.

The question then becomes how to choose between cuál and qué. Unfortunately, there isn’t a hard and fast rule. The more you listen to and study Spanish, the more natural the language will sound. The most reliable option is to use qué, the most prevalent form of “what” in Spanish.

3. Cómo

The Spanish word for “how” can also be used as a synonym for “what” in certain contexts. Usually, we don’t go to such lengths unless we wish to show our scepticism in a story or an event. Using this form of qué? as a question is actually extremely informal, so please refrain from doing so unless absolutely necessary.

How Do You Use “Así Que” in Spanish?

“Así que” is a conjunction that can be translated as “so” or “therefore” in English. It’s used to show causation or a result:

  • Hacía mucho frío, así que me puse un abrigo. (It was very cold, so I put on a coat.)

How Do You Say “Hey, What’s Up?” in Spanish?

The casual greeting “Hey, what’s up?” translates to various phrases based on the region:

  • ¿Qué tal? or ¿Cómo estás? (most common)
  • ¿Qué onda? (Mexico)
  • ¿Qué pasa? (many countries)
  • ¿Cómo va? (Argentina)

What is the Slang for ‘What’ in Spanish?

While ¿Qué? is the standard word for ‘what’, in informal settings, especially among younger generations, you might hear:

  • ¿Cómo? (used to ask someone to repeat what they just said)

What is “Qué” in Spanish Texting?

In the world of texting and digital slang, “Qué” often retains its meaning of “what.” However, to keep things brief, it might be abbreviated:

  • k? (short for “¿Qué?”)

Explain Some Words Related to What in Spanish

1. ¿Qué? – The Direct ‘What’

The most straightforward translation of ‘what’ is “¿Qué?“. Used to ask about something or as an exclamation of surprise, it’s the most commonly recognized form.

  • ¿Qué quieres? – What do you want?
  • ¿Qué es esto? – What is this?
  • ¡¿Qué?! – What?!

2. ¿Cuál? – ‘Which’ or ‘What’ in Choice Situations

¿Cuál?” often translates to ‘which’ in English but can also mean ‘what’ in certain contexts, especially when making a choice or differentiating between options.

  • ¿Cuál prefieres? – Which (or What) do you prefer?
  • ¿Cuál es tu nombre? – What is your name?

3. ¿Cómo? – ‘How’ or Indirect ‘What’

While “¿Cómo?” directly translates to ‘how’, it can sometimes mean ‘what’, especially in situations where someone didn’t hear something clearly and wants it repeated.

  • ¿Cómo dices? – What did you say?

4. Lo que – ‘That which’ or ‘What’ in Relative Clauses

Lo que” is a relative pronoun used to mean ‘that which’ or ‘the thing that’, often making it a longer form of ‘what’.

  • Lo que necesitas es descanso. – What you need is rest.

5. ¿Qué tal? – ‘How’ or ‘What’s up?’

¿Qué tal?” is a common informal greeting in Spanish. Though it translates to ‘how’, it can mean ‘what’s up’ or ‘how are you’.

  • ¿Qué tal tu día? – How was your day?

6. ¿A qué? – Time-related ‘What’

In contexts related to time, especially when asking at what time an event occurs, the phrase “¿A qué?” can be employed.

  • ¿A qué hora es la fiesta? – What time is the party?

7. ¿Para qué? – ‘For What’ or ‘Why’

“¿Para qué?” translates to ‘for what purpose’ or simply ‘why’ in certain contexts.

  • ¿Para qué estudias español? – Why do you study Spanish? (or For what purpose do you study Spanish?)

20 Sentences Using ‘What’ in Spanish

  1. ¿Qué quieres para cenar? – What do you want for dinner?
  2. No entiendo qué intentas decir. – I don’t understand what you’re trying to say.
  3. ¿Qué libro estás leyendo? – What book are you reading?
  4. ¿Qué hiciste el fin de semana? – What did you do over the weekend?
  5. ¿Qué película viste? – What movie did you watch?
  6. Dime qué necesitas. – Tell me what you need.
  7. ¿Qué hora es? – What time is it?
  8. No sé qué hacer. – I don’t know what to do.
  9. ¿Qué te parece este vestido? – What do you think of this dress?
  10. ¿Qué edad tienes? – What age are you? (How old are you?)
  11. ¿Qué fecha es hoy? – What’s today’s date?
  12. ¿Qué opinas sobre el tema? – What’s your opinion on the topic?
  13. ¿Qué sabor prefieres? – What flavor do you prefer?
  14. ¿Qué consejo tienes? – What advice do you have?
  15. ¿Qué música escuchas? – What music do you listen to?
  16. ¿Qué marca es tu coche? – What brand is your car?
  17. ¿Qué estación te gusta más? – What season do you like the most?
  18. ¿Qué camino debemos tomar? – Which path should we take?
  19. No recuerdo qué comí. – I don’t remember what I ate.
  20. ¿Qué me recomiendas? – What do you recommend for me?


We’ve looked at several possible Spanish “what” translations. You’ve probably noticed by now that this is a word that pops up all the time and in all sorts of talks. What’s more, you’ve expanded your lexicon by learning the distinction between qué and que, two words that look identical but have different meanings depending on the context.

In conclusion, understanding the diverse applications of the word ‘what’ and its context in Spanish can make conversational exchanges more fluent and nuanced. The Spanish language, with its regional variations and rich expressions, offers endless opportunities for learners and speakers to deepen their communication skills.