There are four types of questions:
- YES / NO QUESTIONS
- QUESTION TAGS
- ALTERNATIVE QUESTIONS
- WH QUESTIONS
1. YES / NO QUESTIONS have very simple answers:
- Question: Has she passed the test? — Answer: No, she hasn’t.
- Question: Will you bring your book? — Answer: Yes I will.
- Yes / No questions are introduced by an auxiliary verb.
2. QUESTION TAGS. These are added (tagged) on to the end of a sentence:
- David plays the piano, doesn’t he?
- We’ve forgotten the milk, haven’t we?
- Question tags are generally used to ask for confirmation of a statement.
3. ALTERNATIVE QUESTIONS give you a choice of two or more answers, using the word OR.
- Should I telephone you or send an email?
- Will you go dancing tonight or tomorrow night?
- Alternative questions are introduced by an auxiliary or a modal verb.
- (The auxiliary verbs are Be, Do, and Have. Read Lessons A2 / 5 and 6 for Modal Verbs).
4. WH QUESTIONS. These questions are used to obtain more information.
They are formed using a WH question word and / or an auxiliary verb.
There are eight WH question words: who, what, which, why, when, where, whose and how.
- Who – asks what or which person / people.
- What – asks about a thing / person / idea, etc.
- Which – asks you to choose between two or more things.
- Why – asks for what reason / cause, etc.
- When – asks at what time / day / year, etc.
- Where – asks in what place / area / country, etc.
- Whose – asks of whom, or of which person.
- How – asks in what way or by what means.
Who always refers to people:
- Question: “Who won the prize?” — Answer: “Kevin won the prize”.
Which & what, in front of nouns, can refer to either things OR people.
- Question: “Which child broke the window?” — Answer: “Mary did”
- Question: “What colour do you like best?” — Answer: “I like red.”
If there are only two or three possibilities to choose from, we use which.
When there are a lot of different choices, we normally use what.
- Question: Which subject do you like best, history or geography? — Answer: I prefer history.
- Question: What type of job do you have? — Answer: I work at the school teaching English.
The question words who, which and what can be used as the subject or the object of a verb.
- Who broke the window? — (As the subject)
- Which dress did you wear to your party? — (As the object)
If the question word refers to the subject of the verb – an auxiliary is not used.
When the question word refers to the object of the verb – an auxiliary is used.
- What hit you? — The auxiliary DO is not needed because WHAT is the subject of the sentence.
- What did you hit? — The auxiliary DID is needed because WHAT is now the object of the sentence.
NOTE: When using who as the object of the sentence, we should say whom. However, in spoken English we normally use who instead of whom because it is less formal, even though this is not grammatically correct.