What does the upside down question mark mean? - Is it necessary? - what is it called?
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It is used to show the beginning of a question.

Much like in English where you put the ? at the end to show it's a question, in Spanish you need to put the ¿ at the beginning of the question as well as the ? at the end.
Thanks,

one more question on the same topic. Why isn't Hola ¿cómo estás? this ¿Hola cómo estás?
Because Hola (=Hi) and is not a part of the question. If you put the question mark before the Hola, it would sound like you are saying "Hi?" (and you would be making Hi a question).
i know that i don't know much spanish, but they use ¿ before a question and ? after a question and ¡ before an exclamation statement.

so like ¿Hola, como estas? or ¡Hola!

to write them out with a non-spanish keyboard

Hold Alt and press 191 for ¿

Hold Alt and press 161 for ¡
Yes, good point. The same rules apply to using exclamation marks.

The inverted exclamation mark goes at the beginning: ¡Ayúdame! (= Help me!)
I have heard that when you have two or more questions in a row, you don't use the leading (upside down) question mark in the succeeding questions. Is this true?

ex:

¿Cómo estás chica? Y tú mamá? Y la casa nueva?
AnonymousI have heard that when you have two or morequestions in a row, you don't use the leading (upside down) questionmark in the succeeding questions. Is this true?
ex:
¿Cómo estás chica? Y mamá? Y la casa nueva?

Formas correctas:

¿Cómo estás?, ¿y tu mamá?, ¿y la casa nueva?

Saludos
¿Es un error omitirlo? Gracias.
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