¿Qué va a ser? | What are you going to be?

¿Qué va a hacer? | What are you going to do?

When spoken, these two Spanish sentences sound exactly the same.

How would a native speaker present either of these questions while preserving the intent, not confusing one with the other?

Or, how would a native listener not confuse these two?

  • I see there can be some funny confusion, but most of the times context will suffice. You would ask ¿Qué va a ser? to some parents when watching their son and imagine their life to come, while ¿Qué va a hacer? would be something very immediate.
    – fedorqui
    Commented Apr 6, 2017 at 8:56
  • @fedorqui So the best way to distinguish the two is by examining the context. Another way (based on the other posted answers) is to listen for the presence or absence of a glotal stop. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 14:37
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    When in doubt, use context or simply ask for clarification.
    – Paul
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 21:12

6 Answers 6


I suppose you are referring to those countries with seseo, which happen to be most countries in Latin America. In most of Spain, the c sound in hacer sounds quite like the th group in thin (yes, we also have some regions where seseo is broadly accepted, such as the Canary Islands; in other regions it is more a peculiarity of some speakers).

So, in your case, I guess the difference lies in the a sound before ser or -cer. In the first sentence, the a sound would be shorter than in the second one. A native speaker would pronounce something like this:

  • Ke-va-ser ("¿Qué va a ser?", as the "va a" group would sound somewhat compressed).
  • Ke-va-a-ser ("¿Qué va a hacer?", as the "va a" group would be also compressed but you still need to pronounce a new syllable, "ha").

Nonetheless, be aware that I am speaking from my Spain-ish point of view, as there could be regional differences in the pronunciation.

  • Spain-ish -- very nice. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 1:42
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    I disagree that seseo is considered incorrect anymore, unless you come from a region where the z and s sounds are different. OK; there are always people who think everything is wrong unless it is done the way they do it; but, aside from that, regional variations used by smart users are no longer considered invalid.
    – Gorpik
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 6:11
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    @Gorpik you're right, I had doubts even when I wrote that sentence, I don't know why I included it in the first place. Fixed.
    – Charlie
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 6:18

In practice, how does one distinguish between

¿Qué va a ser? | What are you going to be?

¿Qué va a hacer? | What are you going to do?

The answer, in my opinion, is that you assume it is "¿Qué va a hacer?" because people will very rarely say, "¿Qué va a ser?"

If you provide a context where you are imagining that someone might say, "What are you going to be?" then I can suggest some realistic ways that might be expressed in Spanish.

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    a waiter in a restaurant may ask "¿Qué va a ser?" referring to what you want to order. then again, i can hardly imagine a waiter asking you what you are going to do, so while i disagree with the fact that you should always assume one over the other, i do agree with the fact that it will almost always be obvious given enough context.
    – Brian H.
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 7:18
  • @Brian - You're right. I guess it's obvious what you're going to do in the restaurant -- you're going to have lunch or dinner! Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 4:27

Soy de Argentina, y como nativa no soy buena explicando mi idioma, así que solo daré mi punto de vista.

  • ¿Qué va a ser? | What are you going to be? When you grow up? Creo que este es el significado, algo del futuro. Suena muy raro. Quizás pecamos de utilizar muchas "s" en mi zona. Pero si el intento es de ver quién te convertiras cuando crezcas, corresponde más una pregunta del tipo "¿Quién vas a ser?"

  • ¿Qué va a hacer? | What are you going to do? Corresponde a una actividad que se desarrollará en un futuro cercano o para una determinada actividad.
    ¿Qué va a hacer para esta noche? ¿Qué va a hacer para la fiesta de año nuevo? Está bien escrito. También puede ir "Qué vas a hacer" y no cambia el significado.

Si hablan bien el español, y no peten letras pegadas (depende del acento de la zona, en la mía se ve en la gente de otras provincias) el "va-a-ser" y "va-a-ha-cer" se suena distinto, no tengan miedos de ir pausados pero seguros.

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    La pregunta "¿Quién vas a ser?" no es correcta. La persona seguirá siendo la misma, no cambiará de identidad. Sólo se trata de preguntarle a qué se va a dedicar.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 19:31

As a speaker of Spanish living in a country where there is no phonetic difference between s, c and z, I'd say those two questions sound practically, if not exactly, the same.

It is the context that will tell what the speaker means, and the interlocutor will answer accordingly:

  • ¿Qué vas a ser cuando seas grande? // Voy a ser bombero.

  • ¿Qué vas a hacer mañana? // Voy a ir a la escuela.

  • Strange, when I upvote this answer, it went from 0 to -1. Why does this happen? Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 14:32
  • I agree (Argentina)
    – leonbloy
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 12:19

You have to listen for the glotal stop. When one says Voy a hacer algo they make a glotal stop right before the other a that occurs in hacer.

When hearing que vas a ser there is no glotal stop. It just rolls off the tongue. K'vasa'ser. Meanwhile, the other phrase sounds like this: K'vasa'a'ser

  • I agree. There's always a stop and you could hear both "a"
    – DGaleano
    Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 13:16
  • Hmm. My (limited) experience with listening is that native speakers rarely have a glotal stop whenever two of the same vowel sounds are adjacent. When this happens, a syllable is dropped as the speaker just runs it all together. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 14:29
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    @RockAnthonyJohnson - Correct, no glottal stops in Spanish. "Vamos a hacer" has an elongated "a" sound compared to "Vamos a ser." The two "a" sounds that run together have the tiniest separation but it's not a glottal stop. I don't know how to describe it. I guess I change my mouth shape slightly at the end of the first "a." A little more closed. And then it opens up again for the second "a." Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 4:30

There's no difference whatsoever in spoken form (at least in Mexico.) Of course one may take extra care when pronouncing the linked aes but, in practice, it is not common. Luckily, in this case, context will determine the right meaning.

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