There are two types of questions used in English: yes/no questions, and wh-questions. These wh-questions are used when a specific piece of information is missing.

The first part to learning wh-questions is to learn when to use which word. Below is a table which includes examples of how each word is used.

Wh-words When to use it Example
Who People Who(m) are you going to the movies with?
What Things, actions What are you doing?
When Time (either specific/general) When are we meeting?
Where Location Where is the restaurant?
How Specific characteristics, qualities, quantities How tall are you?
Which Used when there are options Which car do you like best?
Why Reason Why did he leave?
Whose Possession Whose purse is this?

The second part to learning wh-questions is of course learning how to use them.

The first question to ask yourself is: are you asking for missing information about the subject, or are you asking for missing information about the object?


  • The subject is who or what the sentence is primarily about/ who is performing the action.
  • The object usually follows the verb.

Let’s look at an example:

The girl is smart.
Subject: The girl
Object: smart

If you are asking a question about the subject, the subject is simply replaced by the wh-word when you form the question. Let’s form a question about ‘the girl’:

  • The girl is smart. — Who is smart?

When you are asking about the object, it is a little more complicated. Similar to forming yes/no questions in English, you need to take a look at the verb and ask yourself: 1. is it a modal verb? 2. is it the verb ‘to be’? 3. is it neither a modal verb nor ‘to be’?

Is there are modal verb in my sentence? If yes, simply add a wh-word before the modal verb.

  • I should swim in the pool. — Where should you swim?
  • I could go tomorrow. — When could you go?

Is there a ‘to be’ auxiliary verb? If yes, then add the wh-word to the beginning of the sentence, before the ‘to be’ verb.

  • I am leaving soon. — When are you leaving?
  • You are speaking very quickly. —How am I speaking?

In the case that there is no modal or auxiliary verb in the affirmative sentence, then the conjugated auxiliary ‘do’ must be added. (do/does)

  • She wakes up at 5AM every morning. — When does she wake up?
  • I work at the mall. — Where do you work?