Wh- Question Words

Lesson 4.1 Wh- Questions

4.1.1  The two main kinds of question in English are:

  • wh-questions
  • yes / no questions (see Lesson 4.2)

4.1.2  The technical name for wh- questions is interrogatives, but they are sometimes called ‘open questions’ or ‘information questions’. We use them when we need to find out information. We cannot answer yes or no, because it wouldn’t make sense:

Mandy: ‘Who did you meet yesterday?’

George: ‘Yes.’

There should be a question mark [ ? ] rather than a full stop [ . ] at the end of a question.

4.1.3  We use yes / no questions when we need a straightforward positive or negative reply:

Mandy: ‘Did you meet Amy yesterday?’

George: ‘Yes.’

4.1.4  There are eight main wh- question words in English:

wh- question word:        to find out about:

what – thing / action

where – place

why – reason

when – time / date

how – method

which _____ – choice

whose _____ – possession

————————————————–

who – person

  • how is an honorary wh- question word – although it does not begin with wh-, it does contain the letters wh
  • after which there is usually a noun or noun phrase, e.g. ‘Which book do you want?’ Or you might be pointing at two options and say, ‘Which do you want?’
  • after whose there is usually a noun or noun phrase, e.g. ‘Whose book did you borrow?’
  • what and how can also be part of wh- question phrases, for example:

  • where, why, when, and who cannot be part of wh- question phrases.

4.1.5  The word order in wh- questions is usually:

For example:

Note the inversion of subject and auxiliary verb, which contrasts with statements, e.g.

They are going. / Where are they going?

He will spend. / How much will he spend?

This word order can be the hardest part of this topic for many students to accept. It may feel far more natural to put the subject directly after the wh- question word, e.g.

What you want?

Where they going? etc.

…and to delete the auxiliary verb column completely. We have to accept and use the word order above, rather than trying to make English more like our own language.

As we know from Lesson 4.6, the auxiliary verbs, forms of the main verb, and times vary from tense to tense. We have to learn them:

We can see that infinitive form is used by three of the most common tenses.

This information does not change, so if we learn it by heart, asking questions in these five tenses will be much easier.

4.1.6  If the tense is present simple or past simple and the verb is BE, the word order will be different because BE is the main verb and there is no auxiliary verb:

For example:

…and so on.

4.1.7  In the table in 4.1.4 we put who at the bottom of the list on its own to remind us that questions with who usually follow a different word order to:

Very often who is the subject in the question, so the above word order does not apply and who takes the main verb:

  • Who went to the party last night?
  • Who did go to the party last night?

However, if the subject does something to another person in the question, we can use the normal word order:

  • Who does Jenny like? (Jenny is the subject, who is a different person)

This rule also applies to other wh- question words and phrases. In short, if the wh- word or phrase is the subject, it will take the main verb and the normal word order does not apply. For example:

What came in the post today?    (not ‘What did come…?’)

What happened at work?    (not ‘What did happen…?’

Which horse won the race?    (not ‘Which horse did win…?)

Whose dog eats the most?    (not ‘Whose dog does eat…?)

4.1.8  Another wh- question word that you might meet is whom. However, use of whom is very formal and will sound outdated. You should use who instead:

  • Whom did you meet at the office today?
  • Who did you meet at the office today?

4.1.9  Wh- question words are function words – pronouns, determiners, and adverbs, depending on the context. As such they are not usually stressed, except for extra emphasis:

(content words with stress)

What did you say to Joanna?

WHAT did you say to Joanna?

Because there are many unstressed function words in a typical question, there can be some quite interesting contracted forms, for example:

What do you want?        becomes >       wo_ ch Wont?

What are you doing?     becomes >       wo_ ch Doo win?

What did you say?        becomes >       wo_ ch Sei?

and so on.

Wh- questions usually have falling intonation, while yes / no questions have rising intonation. (See Lesson 3.3.) For example:

However, when we ask a wh- question to check information, we can use rising intonation:

4.1.10  Each wh- question refers to a different part of the sentence and a different kind of word or phrase. For example:

We generally use short answers to answer wh- questions. This feels far more natural than replying with a full sentence. For example:

Who ate a red apple quickly yesterday?

John did.

John ate a red apple quickly yesterday.

What did John eat quickly yesterday?

A red apple.

John ate a red apple quickly yesterday.

4.1.11  A wh- question word can be a complete sentence on its own. For example:

  • I’m going out later.    Where? When?
  • I saw something funny today.    What?
  • I fixed the sink.    How?
  • I bought a new TV.    Why?

Exercises:

Ex. 4.1.1 Writing  The word order in wh- questions is usually:

Ex. 4.1.2 Reading  a) Complete each sentence with the best question word.  b) Write the tense.  c) Write an answer to each question.

what (information)    where (location)    when (time)

who (people)    why (reasons)

Ex. 4.1.3 Reading  a) Complete each sentence with the best question word.  b) Write the tense.  c) Write an answer to each question.

what (information)    where (location)    when (time)

who (people)    why (reasons)

Ex. 4.1.4 Reading  Match the wh- question word to the function:

Ex. 4.1.5 Writing  Complete the table:

Ex. 4.1.6 Writing  Complete the table:

Ex. 4.1.7 Writing  Follow the instructions below:

a) Write a wh- question word for each part of the sentence:

b) Write 9 questions with short answers:

Who _____________________________________________________________________?

What _____________________________________________________________________?

Which ____________________________________________________________________?

Whose ___________________________________________________________________?

What ____________________________________________________________________?

How _____________________________________________________________________?

Where ___________________________________________________________________?

When ____________________________________________________________________?

Why ____________________________________________________________________?

Ex. 4.1.8 Writing  Follow the instructions below:

a) Write a sentence to match the wh question words:

b) Write 9 questions with short answers:

Who _____________________________________________________________________?

What _____________________________________________________________________?

Which ____________________________________________________________________?

Whose ___________________________________________________________________?

What ____________________________________________________________________?

How _____________________________________________________________________?

Where ___________________________________________________________________?

When ____________________________________________________________________?

Why ____________________________________________________________________?

Ex. 4.1.9 Writing  Write wh- questions and short answers based on the underlined words in each sentence:

Ex. 4.1.10 Writing  Write 10 wh- questions to ask your friend / classmate / family member. Write down their answers:

  1. __________________________________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________________________________
  3. __________________________________________________________________________
  4. __________________________________________________________________________
  5. __________________________________________________________________________
  6. __________________________________________________________________________
  7. __________________________________________________________________________
  8. __________________________________________________________________________
  9. __________________________________________________________________________
  10. __________________________________________________________________________

Ex. 4.1.11 Writing  Write a quiz with wh- questions about your favourite topic, e.g. a book, film, place, celebrity, etc. to ask your friend / classmate / family member. Write down their answers:

  1. __________________________________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________________________________
  3. __________________________________________________________________________
  4. __________________________________________________________________________
  5. __________________________________________________________________________
  6. __________________________________________________________________________
  7. __________________________________________________________________________
  8. __________________________________________________________________________
  9. __________________________________________________________________________
  10. __________________________________________________________________________

Ex. 4.1.12 Reading  Rearrange the words in each sentence to make a question – and write the tense. Don’t forget to put a capital letter at the start of each sentence and a question mark at the end:

  1. do want leave when to you __________________________________________
  2. did Tina say to what you __________________________________________
  3. the working who in garden is __________________________________________
  4. want why you married do to get __________________________________________
  5. capital is India the what of __________________________________________
  6. have you abroad how travelled often __________________________________________
  7. bus here when get will the __________________________________________
  8. for staying how you are long __________________________________________
  9. he is his when meeting friend __________________________________________
  10. company you which did recommend taxi __________________________________________
  11. baby you what your call will __________________________________________
  12. work my why won’t phone __________________________________________
  13. go how your did exam __________________________________________
  14. the rest did where go cheesecake of the __________________________________________
  15. arranged you have when Steve to meet __________________________________________
  16. cup using which you are __________________________________________
  17. dress have which chosen wedding you __________________________________________
  18. better jumper which looks __________________________________________
  19. got the conkers who’s most __________________________________________
  20. the first who be queue in will __________________________________________

Facebook Comments