How to Form a Question in English
Forming questions in English can be challenging when you are trying to learn the language! Depending on the type of question you want to ask, you may need to move words around in the sentence. In some cases, you may also need to add additional words and phrases. With some practice and patience, you will be asking all kinds of questions in English before you know it!
Asking a Basic Yes or No Question
Write out a basic sentence in English.Start by writing a simple sentence in English. The sentence can be 1 that includes a form of the verb “to be,” or another simple sentence that expresses what you want to ask a question about. The sentence can be anything you like, as long as it is not too complicated. Some examples if statements you could use to form a question include:
- “It is cold outside.”
- “You are happy.”
- “You can drive a car.”
- “You will be working tomorrow.”
Move the “to be” verb to the beginning of the sentence.To turn a simple sentence that includes a form of “to be” into a question, reverse the order of the first 2 words in the sentence. Place the verb at the beginning of the sentence. Then, add a question mark at the end of the sentence if you are writing it, or raise your voice slightly when you speak the sentence. For example, you could ask:
- “Is it cold outside?”
- “Are you happy?”
- “Can you drive a car?”
- “Will you be working tomorrow?”
Start the sentence with “do” or “does” when the verb is not "to be." When the verb is not something that will easily form a question, such as a sentence that includes a form of "to be," you will not be able to simply flip the first 2 words. In these cases, leave the verb where it is and add “do” or “does” to form a question. Use “do” for plural nouns and pronouns and “does” for singular nouns and pronouns.
- For the sentence, “Charlie and Pam cook together often,” add “Do” to the beginning to ask, “Do Charlie and Pam cook together often?”
- If the sentence is “Kyle played soccer yesterday,” turn the statement into a question by adding “Did” to the beginning and dropping the “-ed” off of the verb. The question would be, “Did Kyle play soccer yesterday?
Forming Different Types of Questions
Ask “what” or “which” to ask about things.“What” and “which” are the question words you will need to use to ask about a thing, such as an object, food, or activity. Use 1 of these words to start a question about a thing.
- For example, you could ask, “What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?” or “Which flavor is your favorite?”
- Or, you could ask “What do you want to do today?” or “Which museum would you like to visit today?”
Use “where” to ask about locations.“Where” is the question word for asking about places. Start a sentence with “where” to find out about a meeting place, a location you are trying to find, or to ask something else to do with a location.
- For example, you could ask, “Where do you want to meet for lunch?”
- You could also ask someone, “Where are you from?” as part of a conversation.
Form a question with “who” to ask about people.If you want to know something about a person, then start the sentence with “who.” This works well if you are trying to find the identity of someone or locate a specific person.
- For example, you could ask, “Who is the manager?” if you need to know who is in charge of a business.
- You could also ask, “Who will pick me up to go to the airport tomorrow?” to find out the name of the person.
Say “when” to ask about time.You may need to know the time, day, or other time-based details about something, and “when” is the word to use for these situations. Start a sentence with “when” to ask a time-based question.
- For example, you could ask, “When are we going to the theater?”
- You could also ask, “When should I expect you?”
Use “how” to ask about a process.“How” is a word that can help you to find out about an order or process, such as following a recipe or driving to someone’s house. Place “how” at the beginning of a sentence when you need to know what steps to take to get something done.
- For example, you could ask, “How do you get to the university?” to get directions.
- You could also ask, “How do you cook this?” to get instructions for completing a recipe.
Ask “how many” or “how much” to learn about a quantity.If you are trying to find out about the cost of an item or service, then ask “how much.” If you want to find out about the number of something that is needed or the amount of people who will be in attendance for something, then ask “how many.”
- For example, to find out about cost you could ask, “How much does a haircut cost?” or “How much for a hot dog?”
- To determine a quantity, you could ask, “How many cookies should I bake?” or “How many people will come to dinner?”
Asking Indirect Questions
Use an indirect question to be polite.Sometimes questions that you ask in English can sound blunt and a bit harsh. When you need to ask a stranger a question or when you want to ensure that your question sounds polite, you may want to soften it with an indirect phrase at the beginning.
- For example, if you need to know the time, asking a stranger, “What time is it?” may sound a bit rude or abrupt. This would be a good situation to use an indirect question.
- The same goes for a question about directions. For example, if you just walk up to a stranger and ask, “How do you get to the airport?” they might be taken aback by the directness of the question. This is another good situation to use an indirect question.
Start the question with a “Could you please tell me” or “Do you know.” The 2 main phrases for indirect questions are “Could you please tell me…” and “Do you know…” so begin your sentence with 1 of these phrases, and follow the phrase with what you want to know.
- For example, you could ask, “Could you please tell me how to get to the airport?” or “Do you know how to get to the airport?”
- You could also ask, “Could you please tell me the time?” or “Do you know the time?”
Move the “to be” verb to the end of the sentence.If you are asking a question that starts with a form of “to be,” then you can move it to the end of the sentence after adding the indirect question phrase.
- For example, if you want to ask, “Where is the bus stop?” you could say, “Do you know where the bus stop is?”
- To find out the time, you could ask, “Could you please tell me what time it is?”
Asking Tag Questions to Confirm Something
Use a tag question to confirm something.You might encounter situations where you think you know what the answer is, but you want to make sure. In these situations, you can ask a tag question. A tag question includes a statement that could be a standalone sentence and that is followed by a short question phrase, such as “don’t you,” “aren’t we,” or “doesn’t she.”
- For example, if you want to confirm when you need to head to the airport, you might say to your travel companion, “We need to leave for the airport at 7:00am tomorrow morning, don’t we?”
- Or, you might confirm that a friend is picking you up at a certain time by saying, “You will be here to get me at 6:30pm tonight, won’t you?”
Say the sentence that you want to confirm and then pause briefly.Tag questions are very easy to form because you only need to say the sentence you want to confirm, and then add a question phrase at the end. Start by speaking the sentence as you normally would with a short pause at the end.
- For example, if you want to confirm when dinner will be served, you might say, “Dinner is served at 6:30pm.”
- To find out where you are meeting up with someone, you could say, “We are meeting at the fountain.”
Ask “doesn’t it” or “isn’t it” to confirm that something is happening.To add a tag to a sentence about an event, you would add “doesn’t it” or “isn’t it.” The 1 you use will depend on the sentence.
- For example, if you say, “Dinner is served at 6:30pm,” you would add the tag question, “isn’t it?” to confirm this statement.
- Another option would be to say, “The dining room closes at 9:00pm, doesn’t it?”
Use “don’t you,” “isn’t he/she,” or “aren’t they” to confirm someone's activities.When you want to confirm something about a person, use the appropriate noun or pronoun and form of “to be.”
- For example, you might ask, “You are coming to dinner with me, aren’t you?” or “You want to go to the Chinese restaurant, don’t you?” if you are speaking directly to someone.
Video: An easy way to form almost any question in English
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