So you want to know how to ask someone “what are you doing?” in Spanish.
There are actually numerous ways.
In this article, you’ll find ten different ways to ask “what are you doing?” in Spanish.
But first, I’ll touch on a few important grammar points.
Which verb is important when asking someone what they’re doing in Spanish?
When asking someone what they’re doing in Spanish, there are a couple of important verbs to consider.
One of these verbs is hacer, which means “to do”.
The other verb is estar, which means “to be” and can be used as an auxiliary verb for some interrogative phrases that take the progressive or continuous form.
How do Spanish speakers conjugate the verb hacer in the present tense?
Since you’ll need to know the verb “to do” in Spanish, which is hacer, here’s how you can conjugate it for asking people what they are doing in Spanish.
|English Pronoun||Spanish Pronoun||Verb hacer (present tense)|
|He, She, It||Él, Ella, Usted||Hace|
|They||Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes||Hacen|
Use this table to help you select the correct verb conjugation.
Just look at the subject pronoun and look across to the verb conjugation to choose the right conjugation!
What is the gerund of the verb hacer?
In some instances, you may want to use the gerund of the verb hacer to ask what someone is doing, which is haciendo.
Don’t confuse this with the similarly spelled hacienda, which refers to “tax authorities”!
Use the gerund of the verb hacer if you want to use the progressive or continuous tense.
Different ways to ask someone what they’re doing in Spanish
With the grammatical tips out of the way, let’s consider how you can ask someone what they’re doing in Spanish.
Here are ten different examples.
1. ¿Qué haces?
Qué haces is a short way of asking someone what they’re doing, where qué means “what” and haces is a second-person verb that means “you do”.
It translates to English literally as “What you do?” and you may notice that it is in the present tense.
Spanish speakers often use the present tense even when referring to a continuous or progressive action with gerund verbs.
This similar usage means you can use ¿qué haces? just as you would use the phrase “what are you doing?”
Think of this phrase when you’re completely incredulous or in disbelief when you see someone doing something they shouldn’t do.
Hombre, ¿qué haces? ¡No se puede hacer eso!
2. ¿Qué estás haciendo?
There is a version of ¿qué haces? that uses the gerund, and you can use it for continuous or progressive actions.
You guessed it, it’s ¿Qué estás haciendo?
This interrogative phrase means “what are you doing?” in English.
It uses the second person, tú form of the verb estar, so use it when speaking with friends or people who know you.
Pero ¿qué estás haciendo, Carmencita?
3. ¿Qué hace (usted)?
You may spot someone unfamiliar doing something strange and decide to ask them what they’re doing.
In this case, you should use a formal tone and change the grammar of your sentence accordingly - which is where ¿qué hace? comes into play.
¿Qué hace? also means “what are you doing?” but it has some alternative meanings.
It’s an interrogative phrase that can mean “what is it doing?” and “what is she doing?” or “what is he doing?”
To be more precise, when you’re addressing the person, ask ¿qué hace usted?
¿Puede decirme qué hace usted?
4. ¿Qué está haciendo usted?
This interrogative phrase is the gerund form of number three on the list.
Use ¿aué está haciendo usted? to ask someone what they’re doing if you don’t know them.
Note that when you use this phrase, you should use the third-person singular (él, ella, usted) version of the Spanish verb estar and then the gerund of the verb hacer, which is haciendo.
Lo siento, no le conozco, pero ¿qué está haciendo usted?
5. ¿Qué hacen (ustedes)?
Use qué hacen when you want to ask a group of people what they’re doing, and you don’t know them.
In other words, ¿qué hacen? is a plural usted version, or the ustedes version of the phrase ¿qué hace?
Keep in mind that ¿qué hacen? can also mean “what are they doing?”, so you may wish to modify this interrogative and add ustedes to the end of the phrase.
You may wish to ask ¿qué hacen ustedes? instead of just ¿qué hacen?
Feel free to use a quizzical expression as you use an inflected tone of voice to ask others what they’re doing!
Es muy tarde para salir. ¿Qué hacen ustedes a estas horas?
6. ¿Qué están haciendo (ustedes)?
The plural ustedes version ¿qué hacen? can also take the gerund form, which is ¿qué están haciendo?
If you want to use the continuous tense, use the gerund form you can see in this interrogative phrase (haciendo).
Also, note the structure of this interrogative phrase.
The verb estar always comes before the gerund in the progressive tense, so use the formula: estar (as an auxiliary verb) + second verb in gerund form.
¿Que están haciendo? can also mean “what are they doing?”, so adding ustedes to the end of this interrogative can clarify your meaning.
This modification will give you ¿Que están haciendo ustedes?
¿Qué están haciendo ustedes? ¡No se puede beber en la biblioteca!
7. ¿Qué hacéis (vosotros)?
This interrogative uses the vosotros form of the verb hacer, meaning you can use this phrase to address a group of people as “you all” and ask what they’re doing.
But what is the difference between the vosotros form and the ustedes form?
In European Spanish, use vosotros when speaking to a group you know to ask them what they’re doing.
Use ustedes when you’re speaking to a group you don’t know. Vosotros is informal, and ustedes is formal.
In Latin America, Spanish speakers do not use vosotros.
Use ¿qué hacen ustedes? if you want to ask what a group of people is doing.
¿Chicas, qué hacéis? ¿Salimos un rato?
8. ¿En qué andas?
Even though the verb andas means “you walk”, this entire phrase is an informal interrogative you can use with friends and family.
Use ¿en qué andas? if you want to learn more about someone’s life after a lot of time has passed since you last saw them and want to know what they’re doing at that moment.
Hombre, ¡cuánto tiempo sin verte! ¿En qué andas?
9. ¿Qué andas haciendo?
This interrogative phrase is another variation of the question “what are you doing?“.
It can mean “What are you up to?” just like ¿en qué andas?
¿Qué tal chica? ¿Qué andas haciendo? ¿Tomamos un café en la plaza?
10. ¿Cómo vas?
If you want to ask someone what they’re doing, you can broach the subject by asking them ¿cómo vas?
This interrogative phrase means “how are you doing?” so it’s not an exact translation of “what are you doing?”
However, you could combine this phrase with one of the other interrogative phrases on this list to make your conversation flow slightly better.
¡Hola! ¿Cómo vas? ¿Qué andas haciendo?
Ask someone on what they’re doing in Spanish
You’ve now added ten different phrases to your vocabulary list for asking someone what they’re doing in Spanish.
All you need to do now is to ask someone what they’re doing.
Try to practice using these phrase alternatives, and they’ll soon be ingrained in your memory.
Have I missed any phrases for asking someone what they’re doing in Spanish?