There are three kinds of question: those that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”, those that present a range of options to choose from, and those that ask for a particular piece of information.
Additionally, questions can be direct (“Where are we going?”) or indirect (“I asked you where we are going”, “I don’t know who I am”). Direct questions end in a question mark (?).
A sentence can be turned into a yes/no question by adding esce (“is it the case that…”) at the start:
- Esce tu parla deutx? – Do you speak German?
- Esce tu ia come la salada? – Did you eat the salad?
There are two other ways. In speech, in questions that present a possibility and merely ask for confirmation, si? or no? can be added at the end of the sentence. And in very simple questions, a speaker can simply raise the pitch of their voice at the end:
- Tu ia come la salada, si?
- Tu ia come la salada, no?
- Tu ia come, si?
- Nos es perdeda, no?
- Vos comprende?
The answer to a yes/no question is si (“yes”) or no (“no”). Si states that the possibility expressed in the question is true; no states that it is false:
- Tu desira bir? – Do you want beer?
- Si, per favore. – Yes, please. (I do want beer)
- No, grasias. – No, thanks. (I don’t want beer)
If the question was phrased in the negative, si and no convey the same meanings as they would if the question had not been negative. But this can be confusing, so it can be clearer to answer with a full sentence:
- Tu no desira bir? – Don’t you want beer?
- Si. – Yes. (I do want beer)
- No. – No. (I don’t want beer)
- Si, me desira bir. – Yes, I want beer.
- No, me no desira bir. – No, I don’t want beer.
An alternative question simply asks the listener to pick one of a number of options, usually expressed as a list joined with the conjunction o:
- Tu desira te, cafe, o bir? – Do you want tea, coffee, or beer?
- Cafe, per favore. – Coffee, please.
- Tu ia veni par auto, o par bisicle, o tu ia pasea? – Did you come by car, or by bicycle, or did you walk?
- Par auto, probable. – By car, probably.
Other questions use interrogative determiners, pronouns, or adverbs such as cual, ci, cuando, cuanto, como, do, and perce. The interrogative word is usually moved to the start of the sentence, but it can also appear in the place where its answer would fit:
- Cual libro tu leje? = Tu leje cual libro? – Which book are you reading?
- Ci es tua autor prefereda? = Tua autor prefereda es ci? – Who is your preferred author?
- Cual es acel musica fea? = Acel musica fea es cual? – What is this ugly music?
- Cuando tu dormi? = Tu dormi cuando? – When do you sleep?
- Cuanto tu ia paia? = Tu ia paia cuanto? – How much did you pay?
- Como vos ia evade? = Vos ia evade como? – How did you escape?
- Do nos es? = Do es nos? = Nos es do? – Where are we?
- Perce tu core? = Tu core perce? – Why are you running?
- Con cual tu come la salada? = Tu come la salada con cual? – What do you eat the salad with?
- Cual force tu usa per come la salada? = Tu usa cual force per come la salada? – Which fork do you use to eat the salad?
- Con cual force tu come la salada? = Tu come la salada con cual force? – Which fork do you eat the salad with?
- Como rapida tu pote come la salada? = Tu pote come la salada como rapida? – How quickly can you eat the salad?
Reported questions (also known as “indirect questions”) are expressed as noun clauses, which normally contain the same series of words as a direct question would have, including the same verbal tense. In a reported question, the question word is always placed at the start of the subordinate clause:
- Vos va demanda: “Ci tu ia vide?” → Vos va demanda ci me ia vide.
- You will ask: “Who did you see?” → You will ask who I saw.
- Me no recorda: “A ci me ia parla?” → Me no recorda a ci me ia parla.
- I don’t remember: “To whom did I speak?” → I don’t remember to whom I spoke.
- Los no sabe: “Cual nos va fa?” → Los no sabe cual cosa los va fa.
- They don’t know: “What are we going to do?” → They don’t know what they are going to do.
- Me vide: “Do me va senta?” → Me vide do me va senta.
- I see: “Where will I sit?” → I see where I will sit.
- Me no ia sabe: “Cuando nos va parti?” → Me no ia sabe cuando nos va parti.
- I didn’t know: “When will we depart?” → I didn’t know when we would depart.
Yes/no questions, when reported, always use esce:
- El no sabe: “Esce los ia parti?” → El no sabe esce los ia parti.
- He doesn’t know: “Did they depart?” → He doesn’t know whether they departed.
- El ia demanda: “Esce tu pote aida?” → El ia demanda esce me pote aida.
- He asked: “Can you help?” → He asked whether I could help.
In some cases, the difference between a reported question and an relative clause is very subtle:
- (a) Me ia descovre cual cosa ia es en la caxa. – I discovered what had been in the box. (a reported question)
- (b) Me ia descovre lo cual ia es en la caxa. – I discovered the thing that had been in the box. (a relative clause)
In example (a), I discovered the identity of the thing in the box, even if I didn’t see or touch it directly. In example (b), I discovered it, the physical thing itself.