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Quick answer
"Why" is an adverb which is often translated as "por qué", and "what" is a pronoun which is often translated as "qué". Learn more about the difference between "why" and "what" below.
why(
way
)
An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or other adverbs (e.g. to run quickly, very tired).
1. (in questions)
a. por qué
Why are you crying?¿Por qué lloras?
A conjunction is a word that connects words, phrases, clauses, or sentences (e.g. The cat and the dog slept.).
2. (in relative clauses)
a. por qué
I don't know why she left me.No sé por qué me dejó.
A noun is a word referring to a person, animal, place, thing, feeling or idea (e.g. man, dog, house).
3. (explanation)
a. el porqué
(m) means that a noun is masculine. Spanish nouns have a gender, which is either feminine (like la mujer or la luna) or masculine (like el hombre or el sol).
Do you really want to know why?¿De verdad quieres saber el porqué?
An interjection is a short utterance that expresses emotion, hesitation, or protest (e.g. Wow!).
4. (well)
a. vaya
Why! Look who just arrived!¡Vaya! ¡Mira quién acaba de llegar!
b. anda
Why, surely you don't think Anna stole your ring!Anda, ¡no pensarás que Anna te robó el anillo!
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what(
wuht
)
A pronoun is a word that stands in for a noun (e.g. she).
1. (in questions)
a. qué
What do you want me to do?¿Qué quieres que haga?
b. cuál
What was the reason for Jim's departure?¿Cuál fue la razón por la que se fuera Jim?
c. cómo
What's the weather like where you are?¿Cómo está el tiempo donde estás tú?
What's their house like?¿Cómo es su casa?
2. (in relative clauses)
a. lo que
He smoked what he had left in the pipe.Se fumó lo que le quedaba en la pipa.
An adjective is a word that describes a noun (e.g. the big dog).
3. (in questions)
a. qué
What movie did you want to see?¿Qué película querías ver?
4. (in exclamations)
a. qué
What a nice day!¡Qué bonito día!
An interjection is a short utterance that expresses emotion, hesitation, or protest (e.g. Wow!).
5. (used to express surprise)
a. qué
What? That can't be true!¿Qué? ¡No puede ser verdad!
6. (not understanding)
a. qué
What? Speak louder, please.¿Qué? Hable más alto, por favor.
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