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
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?