interrogative-words

Master the Interrogative Words in English | ABA English

Master the Interrogative Words in English

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These three question words, also known as interrogative pronouns, are used when forming questions in English. They are especially useful when we want to find out information.

Question words are very important in a number of contexts in any language. We use them for introductions, to ask for instructions when lost, to ask for things in shops, and so much more. This article is here to clear up any doubts you may have about the questions words in English and how they are used. 

Asking Questions in English Conversation

Where should we start with question words? The best thing would be to go over the basic rules. As you probably learned in your in-person or online English course, the easiest questions are made using the verb “to be”. 

For these, you simply have to invert the order of the subject and verb, then add a question mark at the end. For example, “She is hungry.” becomes “Is she hungry?”

For other verbs, you need to add a helping verb, either an auxiliary or modal, before the subject. 

My brother called. → Has my brother called?

You want to see a movie. → Do you want to see a movie?

We can go to Paris next summer. → Can we go to Paris next summer?

Now that interrogative sentences are a bit clearer, shall we go on to question words? Question words are added to the front of a question to clarify the type of information you are looking for

There are a number of interrogatives in English. Today, we will look at who, what, when, where, why, and how. We will look at how they are used and when along with some examples.

Asking Who

Let’s start with the question word “who”. It is used to ask about people.

  • Who are you?
  • Who is at the door?
  • Who is the person you admire most?
  • Who was your favourite teacher in primary school?

With question words that begin with who, the “who” comes at the beginning of the interrogative, before the verb.

For example:

  • Who did you have dinner with last night?
    • I had dinner with my friend Sean.
  • Who made that sculpture?
    • Michelangelo did.

English Question Words: What

Next up is the word “what”. What is used to ask for something specific, like an item or object.

  • What time is it?
  • What is that sound?
  • What film are you going to see?
  • What did you eat for breakfast today?

As with who, the word what comes at the beginning of the sentence, followed by the verb.

For example:

  • What happened?
    • I tripped and fell down.
  • What are we going to do tomorrow?
    • We’re going to the beach. The weather looks perfect!

Question Word of Time: When

Now, let’s learn about the question word “when” and how to use it correctly.

When is used when we want to find out the time of an event or action. There is no other interrogative word which indicates that we want to know the time something happened or will happen. Look at the following examples:

  • When are you going to study for your exam?
    • Tomorrow evening.
  • When do you want to come to my house?
    • I’ll come at 11 am.
  • When is your birthday?
    • It’s in August.

Question Word of Place: Where

The word “where” is used to discover the location, place, or position of something.

  • Where do you live?
  • Where are you from?
  • Where is the nearest café?
  • Where did your parents go on holiday this year?

The answer to where questions always comes with the location in the answer. This question word is very helpful when you are travelling and need to know where to find something!

For example:

  • Where are my keys?
    • I think I saw them on your nightstand.
  • Can you tell me where an ATM is?
    • Yes, there is one just around the corner.

English Question Words: Why

Now we have come to the word “why”. It is used to ask for reasons or explanations.

  • Why do you play tennis?
  • Why do you like vegetables?
  • Why are you late?
  • Why did you start learning English?

All of the why questions are asked in order to find out information. We usually respond with the conjunction because.

For example:

  • Why are you late?
    • Because I missed the train!
  • Why did you leave the party?
    • Because I wasn’t enjoying myself

English Question Words: How

Finally, we have come to the word “how”. This is used to ask for the manner, way, or form

  • How do you go to work?
    • I take the bus.
  • How old are you?
    • I am 34 years old.

“How many” and “how much” are used with nouns to ask about quantity. “How often” is used to ask about frequency.

  • How many apples should I buy? (Used with countable nouns.)
    • 5 apples should be enough.
  • How much bread do you want? (Used with uncountable nouns.)
    • 2 loaves of bread, please.
  • How often do you go to the gym?
    • I go to the gym three times a week.

That was easy, right? Now that you have the basics of question words down, would you like to continue improving your English? We invite you to try the ABA English method. You can get the most out of your studies with our free video classes and short films that use everyday English to teach you what you need to know while keeping it interesting. 

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