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WH questions (interrogative pronouns)


Introduction and form

When we make a question we put the auxiliary (helping) verb before the subject.

Positive:
Carl   likes   chocolate.  
Subject   verb   object  


question:
Does   Carl   like   chocolate?  
Auxiliary verb   Subject   verb   object  

Examples:

Tense Auxiliary verb Subject Main verb Complement
Present simple Do I / you / we / they watch television every day?
Does he / she / it
Past simple Did I / you / he / she / it / we / they watch television last night?
Present perfect Have I / you / we / they watched television yet?
Has he / she / it
present continuous Am I watching television
Is he / she / it
Are you / we / they
Past continuous Was I / he / she / it watching television?
Were you / we / they
"be going to" Am I going to watch television?
Is he / she / it
Are you / we / they
Future simple Will I / you / he / she / it / we / they watch television?

When the verb "be" is the main verb, we do not need an auxiliary verb, for example:

Practice

Complete the questions with the correct verb:
  • you going to the party tomorrow?
     
  • he ever been to Italy?
     
  • they climb Everest last year?
     
  • Where you yesterday?
     

Sometimes we need to use an interrogative pronoun, or question word, at the beginning of a question: The interrogative pronoun represents the thing we are asking about - it is what we want to know.

Examples:

What time do you get up? I get up at 6 a.m.
Where do you live? I live in London.
How old is he? He is 26 years old.
How often does he go shopping? He goes once a month.
When did they leave? They left yesterday.
How long have you lived here? I've lived here for 4 years.
How far is London? It's 400 miles from here.
Why are you sad? I'm sad because it's a sad movie.
Who wrote that book? Stephen King.

In simple tenses, we do not use the auxiliary verb do, does or did if the question word is the subject of the sentence:
"Who left the door open?" not "Who did leave the door open?"

Practice


Complete the questions with the correct question word:

  • have you studied English? - For 5 years.
     
  • were you born? - On 1st January 1955.
     
  • did you study English? - At university.
     
  • is that woman? - She's my sister.
     

Further practice

Complete the sentences with the correct answer from a, b, c or d:



Check my answers

Intermediate level language point

Indirect Questions

Indirect questions are more polite than direct questions.

They are usually introduced by phrases such as: Example:

Note that the introductory phrase contains the question: The secondary phrase retains normal word order:

Tag Questions

Tag questions come at the end of a positive sentence and, depending on intonation, are usually used to ask for confirmation of what we are saying, or to encourage agreement with what we are saying.

Tag questions are made using the auxiliary verb and the subject:
Note that a positive sentence will have a negative tag, and a negative sentence will have a positive tag.


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