3

I was just wondering how the best way to open a question in Spanish is in a loose, somewhat respectful and more conversational manner. An example lies in that prior sentence. Instead of asking:

What is the best way to open a question in Spanish?

I could ask:

I was just wondering about the best way to open a question in Spanish

Other examples could include:

  • I was just curious about whether...
  • I was hoping you could tell me if...
  • etc.

However I feel that using the past tense in this manner in Spanish doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Using the conditional (would you tell me if) also doesn't seem totally fitting.

I'm specifically looking for the best way to do these kind of "question openings" in a native tone as opposed to just strict translations of English openings.

6

Actually, both the past tense and the conditional tense are appropriate to open a question politely:

  • Me preguntaba (si)...
  • Me estaba preguntando (si)...
  • Le quería preguntar (si)...
  • ¿No sabrá por casualidad (si)...?
  • ¿Podría decirme (si)...?
  • ¿Sería tan amable de decirme (si)...? (be careful with this one, it may be perceived as sarcastic)
  • ¿Podría decirme, si no es molestia, (si)...?
  • ¿Sabría decirme (si)...?

You can use the "usted" or "tú" form, depending on how polite you want to be. Generally, using "tú" will do unless you're talking to your boss or such.

Also note in Spanish you should only use question marks (¿?) when the question is strictly so. In other words, "I was just wondering..." may be intended as a question, but it isn't a question strictly speaking. Therefore, "Me preguntaba (si)..." shouldn't be within question marks, but "¿No sabrá por casualidad...?" ("Do you happen to know...?") should.

5
  • about the question marks, aren't you able to use them phrasally in the case of a compound sentence like: I was hoping you'd know, ¿are those chocolates spoken for? Feb 9 '16 at 12:17
  • 1
    @robertotomás If you mean something like: No sé si sabrá por casualidad, ¿se ha pedido alguien ya esos bombones?, maybe when speaking, but I wouldn't use it in writing. It sounds just too conversational to write it in, say, an email. I would be alright if you broke it into two sentences, though. Considering a different scenario, you could perfectly say: Me preguntaba cómo puedo cambiar mi número PIN. ¿Sabe con quién puedo hablar?
    – Yay
    Feb 9 '16 at 15:40
  • @Yay I was thinking you could perhaps make a distinction between the semantics of ¿No sabrá por casualidad ...? Since it can also refer to the taste of something.
    – Schwale
    Feb 9 '16 at 22:59
  • @Ustanak I think the rest of the sentence would make that evident. In "¿No sabrá dónde queda la estación de tren?" it's obviously about knowing something. In "No sabrá mal, ¿verdad?", it's obviously about taste. Technically they could, but I don't think they are liable to be confused.
    – Yay
    Feb 9 '16 at 23:08
  • Thank you very much for the comprehensive response. I see that you can somewhat use English equivalents with the reflexive prepended: --- I was wondering -> Me estaba preguntando --- Thanks also for the note on question mark usage, that seems like common sense now. Feb 10 '16 at 2:16
2

Polite indirect questions in Spanish are widely used.
Many options can be given. Besides of Yay examples, we have, for instance,

  1. Me pregunto ...
  2. Me gustaría saber ...
  3. ¿Puede decirme ...?
  4. ¿Le importaría decirme ...?
  5. ¿Puedo preguntarle ...?
  6. ¿Tiene usted alguna idea ...?
  7. ¿Sabe usted ...?
  8. ¿Existe la posibilidad de que me diga ...? → (existe can be substituted by existiría or existirá.)

Always, for polite indirect questions, the prefered form is usted instead of tú. For example in #6, it's different saying ¿Tienes alguna idea ...? than saying ¿Tiene usted alguna idea ...?

Politeness mostly comes when your age is under the age of the other person, even if you're related to them.

2
  • Why the downvote?
    – Schwale
    Feb 9 '16 at 18:50
  • Number 8 there is a particularly smooth entry to a question:) Thank you very much for the extra options, I have lots to work with now! Feb 10 '16 at 2:20

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