What Is the Upside-Down Question Mark?

Quick Answer

In Spanish, the upside down question mark (¿) is used at the beginning of all questions and interrogative clauses. For example:

  • ¿Cómo te llamas?(What is your name?)
  • ¿Cómo estás?(How are you?)
  • Estoy bien, ¿y tú? (I'm well, and you?)

Origins of the Upside-Down Question Mark

In the 1754, the Real Academia Española(Spanish Royal Academy) declared that a signo de apertura de interrogación(opening question mark) must be used at the beginning of all questions. In Spanish, it can be very difficult to distinguish questions from statements. For example, take a look at the following two sentences:

¿Vas a la playa?
Are you going to the beach?
Vas a la playa.
You're going to the beach.

Notice that the only written difference between the two Spanish sentences is punctuation, whereas the English sentences take on a different syntax depending on whether they are statements or questions. For this reason, the Real Academia decided that every question in Spanish must begin with this unique punctuation mark in order to avoid any confusion. Although it took a while for this new rule to catch on, it has now been fully adopted into the language.

Do you want to learn more about asking questions in Spanish? Check out this article!

Using the Upside-Down Question Mark

As already mentioned, the upside-down question mark is used at the beginning of a question. Notice that it can appear in the middle of a sentence when the sentence contains an interrogative clause. Check out the following examples:

Si no hay clases, ¿quieres ver una película conmigo?
If there are no classes, do you want to see a movie with me?
¿Cómo puedo teclear el signo de interrogación de apertura en un sistema de Mac?
How do I type the upside down question mark on a Mac?

An interrogative clause is a grammatical unit that contains a subject and a predicate, and has the syntax of a question. In simpler terms, it is a question-like phrase that may stand alone or be placed within a sentence, such as the purple text in the following examples:


If you're still at work, why am I hearing strange noises in the house?
Si ya estás en el trabajo, ¿por qué oigo ruidos extraños en casa?

Where were you born?
¿Dónde naciste?

Do you want to go to the mall or would you rather stay home?
¿Quieres ir al centro comercial o prefieres quedarnos en casa?

Although it is grammatically incorrect, Spanish speakers often do not use the upside-down question mark in virtual communications, such as text messages and emails.

How to Type the ¿ Symbol

Sometimes the trickiest part of using this symbol is knowing how to type it. ¡No te preocupes!(Don't worry!) Here is how you type the upside-down question mark on a Mac:

mac upside down question mark

If you're not using a Mac computer, check out this table below for some additional keyboard shortcuts that you can use:

WindowsPress "Alt + 0191"
ChromebookPress "Ctrl + Shift" followed by "u + 00bf"
Android and iOSLong hold the "?" symbol and drag finger up to select the upside-down question mark

Don't want to remember all of these confusing shortcuts? Bookmark this page so that you can copy and paste the upside-down question mark whenever you need it!