Wh - Questions

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Wh- Questions allow a speaker to find out more information about topics. They are as follows:













Other words can also be used to inquire about specific information:

Which (one)?



How much?

How many?

How long?

How often?

How far?

What kind (of)?

Choice of alternatives


Person (objective formal)

Price, amount (non-count)

Quantity (count)





The "grammar" used with wh- questions depends on whether the topic being asked about is the "subject" or "predicate" of a sentence. For the subject pattern, simply replace the person or thing being asked about with the appropriate wh-word.

(Someone has my baseball.)

(Something is bothering you.)

Who has my baseball?

What is bothering you?

For the predicate pattern, wh- question formation depends on whether there is an "auxiliary" verb in the original sentence. Auxiliary or "helping" verbs are verbs that precede main verbs. Auxiliary verbs are italicized in the following sentences.

I can do it.

They are leaving.

I have eaten my lunch.

I should have finished my homework.

To make a question using the predicate pattern, first form a yes/no question by inverting the subject and (first) auxiliary verb. Then, add the appropriate wh- word to the beginning of the sentence.

(You will leave some time.)

? will you leave
When will you leave?

(He is doing something.)

? is he doing
What is he doing?

(They have been somewhere.)

? have they been
Where have they been?

If there is no auxiliary and the verb is "be," invert the subject and verb, then add the appropriate wh- word to the beginning of the sentence.

(He is someone.)

? is he
Who is he?

(The meeting was some time.)

? was the meeting
When was the meeting?

If there is no auxiliary and the verb is not "be," add do to the beginning of the sentence. Then add the appropriate wh-question word. Be sure to "transfer" the tense and number from the main verb to the word do.

(You want something.)

? do you want
What do you want?

(You went somewhere.)

? did you go (past tense)
Where did you go?

(She likes something.)

? does she like (third person -s)
What does she like?

For Practice :

Question Words (from The Internet TESL Journal)

What, When or Where? (from The Internet TESL Journal)

See also :

Speaking : Simple Questions

Speaking : Asking for information

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Last updated: 15 February, 2010 02:43:16