Portuguese Grammar Reference ("QuickGrammar")
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>>Portuguese Pronouns > Interrogatives

Interrogatives are the words you will use to ask a direct question. For the most part, they match the wh- words in English (who, what, when, where, why).

Portuguese has a number of these words. The number and gender of most of these words are invariable.

que...? what?
quem? who?
onde? where?
por que...? why?
quanto? how much?
qual? which?
como? how?

The word quem? who? has a plural form quens? for asking about more than one person.

The word onde is frequently used with the prepositions a to, at and de of, from. De onde você é? asks where are you from?. When used with a, it is written as one word (aonde), which then takes on the meaning (to/at) where. It is used for any where? that involves location or direction. Aonde você vai? translates to where are you going (to)? and aonde estou means where I am (at).

When used in a sentence, the words que...? what?and  por que...? why? are often found with the definite article o, but this does not change the meaning. O que dizem? and que dizem? both mean what are they saying?. O por que ele faz isso? and por que ele faz isso? both mean why is he doing that?.

(O) por que...? means why...?, but when said in isolation, you should write (o) por quê? why!?.  Similarly, when used alone, (o) que...? should be written o quê? what!?. The single-word porque means because.

Portuguese speakers also use a couple of interrogative adjectives. These are words like how much and which when they modify nouns instead of standing in for them. How much does it cost? uses an interrogative pronoun, whereas how much time is left? uses an interrogative adjective.

quanto...?, quanta...? how much?
quantos...?, quantas...? how many?
qual...?, quais...?

These words act as adjectives, so they must match the number and gender of their noun. If the noun is the masculine plural nomes names, you can quickly ask quais nomes? which names?. English makes a distinction between how much and how many, but Portuguese uses the plural forms of quanto to ask how many?. Quanto tempo? means how much time? and quantos dias? means how many days?.

It is not incorrect to leave out the verb be when asking a question with qual or quais. Qual o preço? means what is the price? (literally "which the price?").

Avoid confusion between que...? what? and qual? which? by determining if you are using your question to narrow down an answer (qual?) or are asking a general question (que?). In Portuguese, you must ask for set information, such as an address or phone number, using qual and not que (compare to English what's your address?).