We use some specific words to ask questions. Wh-words are some of such words that usually begin with “W” and “H.” The questions that we produce with wh-words are called wh-questions. They are very commonly used in our everyday conversation. In this post, I’ll share the structure of wh-questions and how you can respond to such questions.
Interrogative sentences or questions that begin with wh-words: what, when, where, who, whom, which, whose, why, and how are called wh-questions. We use wh-questions to ask about specific qualities, manners, reasons, processes, things, times, places, choices, possessions, people, etc. Here are some examples of such sentences:
- What do you want?
- Where do you come from?
- When will you go to bed?
- Who is that man?
- Whose book is this?
- Why are you crying?
- Whom do you like most?
- Which dress do you prefer?
- How are you?
Note: Although “How” does not begin with “W” and “H,” it is considered to be a wh-word. The letters “W” and “H” are present in “How” but in a different order.
There are nine wh-words in English. Each of them has its specific use in interrogative sentences. In this part, I’ll discuss the structure of wh-questions and provide examples of all the nine wh-words in sentences. Moreover, later in this post, I‘ll show how to respond to wh questions. Let’s go!
Structure of WH Questions
We can make wh-questions in two ways. One is with a helping verb, and another is without any helping verb.
Structure 1: Wh-word + Helping verb + Subject + Main verb + …?
- What do you prefer for dinner?
- Why should they go there too early?
- When will they leave for the station?
Structure 2: Wh-word + Main verb + …?
- What happened to Samuel?
- Who called you?
- Who bought you this car?
Now, let’s look at the uses of all the wh-words in wh-questions.
What: Used to Ask for Information about Things or Action
The word “What” is one of the common wh-words used to ask for information about something or any action. For example:
- What are you doing now? (Action)
- What are you looking for? (Thing)
Remember! “What” is also used in indirect questions. For example:
- The teacher asked the students what their preferences regarding the exam date were.
- Jim wonders what his brother does nowadays.
Where: Used to Ask about Places
“Where” is used to ask for information about places. For example:
- Where did you get this?
- Where have you been for the last couple of years?
- Where do you find such beautiful showpieces?
Note: “Where” is also used in indirect questions. For example:
- I asked my students where they wanted to go for an excursion.
- He called me to know where I was yesterday morning.
When: Used to Ask about Time
We use the word “when” to ask for information about the time of any action. Let’s see some examples.
- When will you go to the gym?
- When did they meet you?
- When do you wake up?
Remember! “When” is also used in indirect questions. For example:
- John asked us when we would be there.
- The client wonder when we will be able to
Who: Used to Ask about People
“Who” is a wh-word used to ask for information about people.
- Who is the captain of the team?
- Who do you talk to about your problems?
- Who helps you most?
Note: We also use “Who” in indirect questions & statements.
- Please tell me to who I should send the parcel.
- I can’t tell you who gave it to me.
Whose: Used to Ask about Possession
We use “Whose” to ask for information about one’s possession. For example:
- Whose car is this?
- Whose computer is ok?
- Whose are these books?
Remember! We can use “Whose” in indirect questions.
- The stranger wondered whose the phone was.
- He asked me whose flat is this.
Why: Used to Ask for Reasons
The wh-word “Why” is used to ask for reasons or explanations. Let’s see some examples.
- Why do you like this place most?
- Why are they so weak?
- Why did he call you?
Note: “Why” is also used to make indirect questions & statements.
- They asked me why I missed the last class.
- I don’t know why he did it.
Whom: Used to Ask about People
“Whom” is also used to ask for information about people as we use “Who.” However, we use “Whom” as the object of “Who.”
- Whom do you work with?
- Whom did they finally hire for the project?
- Whom will you select for the job?
Remember! We also use “Whom” in indirect questions or statements.
- He didn’t meet the man whom I sent.
- They asked me with whom I visited India.
Which: Used to Ask for any Specific Information
We use “Which” to ask for any specific information about anything. Some examples can be:
- Which one is yours?
- Which bike would you like to buy?
- Which teacher is your favorite?
Note: We also use “Which” in indirect questions & statements.
- Let them decide which one to buy.
- She knows which machine is not working.
How: Used to Ask about Manners or Quantity
“How” is a wh-word used to ask for information about the manner, degree, or quantity of anything. Examples are:
- How do you go to the office?
- How hot is the coffee?
- How old are you?
Remember! “How” is also used to make indirect questions or statements.
- I have no clue how fit he is now.
- Did you know how difficult the situation was?
How to Respond to WH-questions
As we use wh-questions to ask for information about people, things, places, etc., we cannot answer them with “Yes” or “No.” We are expected to provide specific information in response to wh-questions. Let’s see some examples.
|What||What is your favorite meat?||My favorite meat is beef.|
|Where||Where did you go yesterday?||I went to my hometown.|
|When||When will you arrive?||I will arrive by 6 pm.|
|Who||Who is your favorite poet?||Tennyson is my favorite poet.|
|Whose||Whose movie do you like most?||I like Satyajit Ray’s films.|
|Why||Why are you here?||I’m here to give you the file.|
|Whom||Whom do you like most in school?||I like my English teacher most.|
|Which||Which tea do you think is better?||I think green tea is better.|
|How||How much do you pay for the flat?||I pay $1000 every month.|
We talk to friends, colleagues, family members, or strangers every day. We look for information regarding many things. At the same time, we need to respond to the different questions from the people surrounding us.
There are different kinds of questions, such as yes/no, tag, wh, indirect, etc. I have discussed wh-questions in detail in this post.
Thanks for reading.