What Is an Embedded Question?
An embedded question is a type of sentence in which a question is included as part of a larger statement or question. It is also known as an indirect question.
Embedded question: Structure
The embedded questions usually begin with introductory phrases such as:
- Do you know...
- I wonder...
- The question is...
- Would you mind...
- Could you tell me...
- I'd like to know...
- Let's ask...
- I'm not sure...
- Who knows...
Where Can We Use Embedded Questions?
There are two ways we can use embedded questions:
- as a part of another question
- as a part of a statement
As a Part Of Another Question
Sometimes embedded questions can be used within another question. This is also called an indirect question and is used to sound more polite. For example:
normal question: What time is it?
As a Part Of a Statement
Embedded questions are not always a part of another question. Sometimes, they are a part of a statement. Since the embedded question is a noun clause it can be treated like a noun. It can serve as the object or the subject of the main clasue. For example:
Normal question: Where does he live?
Embedded question in a statement: I don't know
Here, 'where he lives' is the object.
Embedded question in a statement:
Here 'where he lives' is the subject.
Some Rules For Embedded Questions
When using embedded questions in a statement, we end the sentence with a period instead of a question mark. Additionally, if we are making a question in the past or present simple tense, we should remove the auxiliary verbs do/did/does and adjust the verb accordingly. Let's see some examples:
Embedded question: I wonder what time you
The auxiliary verb is removed and the past tense is reflected in the main verb.
Embedded question: Who knows when you
Direct question: Will she come to the wedding?
Embedded questions: Do you know
Do you know
Do you know
The infinitives can follow a question word or 'whether' in embedded questions. As you can see in the following examples:
Normal question: What should I eat?
Embedded question: I wonder
Embedded question with to-infinitive: I wonder what
Normal question: What can I say?
Embedded question: I'm not sure
Embedded question with to-infinitive : I'm not sure what
Embedded Questions: Uses
Embedded questions can be used to:
- Be Polite
- Express more information
- Change direct speech to indirect speech
To Be Polite
As mentioned earlier, we can use embedded questions to sound more polite, for example:
Normal question: Do you have a watch?
Embedded question: Could you please tell me
To Express More Information
Sometimes we use embedded questions to express more information, for example:
Here, it expresses curiosity.
I don't know
Here, it shows lack of knowledge.
I'd like to know
Here, it's showing desire to know something.