Wh- Questions

Wh-questions are questions that begin with one of the 'wh-' words. In order to learn about them and to know how to form a wh- question, read this article!

Intermediate
"Wh- Questions" in the English Grammar

What Are Wh- Questions?

Wh- questions begin with wh- question words. Below, you can see the list of these words:

Tip

'How' does not start with Wh- but nonetheless, it is considered a wh- question word.

We use them to ask for information. You cannot answer Wh- Questions with 'yes' or 'no.'

Where do you live?

Who is your favorite author?

Wh- Questions: Structure

1. With an Auxiliary Verb

Wh- Questions are formed with these structures:

wh- word + an auxiliary verb + subject + main verb

When are you moving out?

Where do you live?

What have you done?

or

wh- word + a modal verb + subject + main verb

Who would you like to talk?

What should I do?

2. Without an Auxiliary Verb

Some wh- question words can either be the object or the subject of the questions. When this is the case, we do not use an auxiliary verb. These wh- question words are:

  1. what
  2. who
  3. which
  4. whose

The word order of the question would be:
wh question word + main verb + rest of the sentence

What fell off the wall?

Who bought this?

Whose phone rang?

How to Answer Wh- Questions?

We ask Wh- questions to receive information. You cannot answer a Wh- question with a simple 'Yes' or 'No.' You should answer in such a way that gives information.

'Where is that book you were reading last night?' 'It is in the bedroom.'

'How old is your son?' 'He's 12.'

Negative Wh- Questions

We can make a negative Wh- question with the negative form of the auxiliary verbs 'be,' 'do' and 'have.'

Why are you surprised? → Why aren't you surprised?

When do you want to leave? → When don't you want to leave?

Tip

Even when the wh-word is the subject of the clause, the above rule applies.

Who wants chocolate? → Who doesn't want chocolate?

Which door opened? → Which door didn't open?

How to Add Emphasis to Wh- Questions?

Sometimes we want to put emphasis on a question; either because we have not already get the answer or information that we wanted, or we have wanted to show strong interest.
When we want to put emphasis on Wh- questions, we can stress the auxiliary verb 'do.'

Where did you go?

When the wh-word is the object of the sentence, the do auxiliary is stressed to make it more emphatic.

So who does live there?

The non-emphatic version of the question would be: 'So who lives there?'

How Is the Intonation of Wh- Questions?

Normally, the intonation of Wh- questions is falling (↘). The falling intonation is on the most important syllable.

To Question the Subject

Whenever we questioning the subject, an auxiliary verb is not needed. But when the object is questioned we always need an auxiliary to make questions.

Who drinks tea?

Who do you drink tea with?

In this example, we mean 'with whom do you drink tea?'

Review

Wh- questions are used to ask for information about something. The answers to these questions are not 'yes' or 'no.'
Here are some wh-words that are used to ask wh-questions.

what when where
who whom which
whose why how

The general structure for wh-questions is to put the wh-word at the beginning of a sentence followed by a yes/no question. Look at the following examples:

What are you doing?

Who eats chicken?

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