Lezioni spagnolo


En qué quedamos...

One of our latest videos includes an example of an interesting way to pose a question:

¿En qué le puedo ayudar?

How can I help you?

Caption 6, Cita médica - La cita médica de Cleer - Part 1

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In this example, the combination of the preposition en (in, on) and the interrogative word qué (literally “in what”) means how (cómo)Even though the expression cómo puedo ayudarle (how can I help you) exists in Spanish, using en qué instead is a very common choice for native speakers, especially when the expression is meant to be a greeting. In fact, it can be argued that there's a subtle difference between saying ¿en qué puedo ayudarle? (literally "what can I help you with") and ¿cómo puedo ayudarle? (how can I help you): the first one is a polite greeting, while the second one is a general question. Compare the following examples:
Hola ¿en qué puedo ayudarle? - Quiero ordenar a domicilio.
Hi, how can I help you? -I want to order for delivery.

¿Cómo puedo ayudarle, tía? - Ayúdame a rebanar el pan.
How can I help you, Aunt? -Help me slice the bread.
But that’s not the only meaning of en qué. Here’s a notable example:

Oye, y ¿en qué trabajas?

Hey, and what do you do [for a living]?

Caption 82, Ricardo - La compañera de casa - Part 1

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 En qué can also be used to ask about a location. It's roughly equivalent to dónde (where):

¿En qué lugar se enamoró de ti?

In what place did he fall in love with you?

Caption 7, Marc Anthony - Y cómo es él

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 En qué can also be used to talk about time. It's roughly equivalent to cuándo (when):
¿En qué momento sucedió?
When (in what moment) did it happen?
There are many fixed questions that use en qué. The question en qué consiste is worth learning:

¿En qué consiste tu trabajo, Paco?

What does your job consist of, Paco?

Caption 42, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 13

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Finally, there are also idiomatic expressions that use en qué. For example, en qué quedamos (literally "in what we agreed”):

¿En qué quedamos? ¿Va a tener una herencia o no?

What did we settle on? Is he going to have an inheritance or not?

Caption 46, Muñeca Brava - 30 Revelaciones - Part 9

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