Questions

In English, there are different types of questions. In this lesson, you will get to know them briefly and see some examples for each type. Are you ready?

"Questions" in the English Grammar

What Is a Question?

Questions allow us to gather information, express our thoughts and opinions, and engage in conversation with others. In writing, questions are usually followed by a question mark. In technical terms, questions are called 'interrogatives'.

Questions: Types

Questions can be formed in different ways depending on their structure and purpose. Here are some of the different types of questions in English:

  • Close-Set Questions
  • Open-Set Questions
  • Null Questions

Close-Set Questions

Close-set questions (also called invariable questions or polar questions) require a limited (or closed) set of answers. They are further categorized into three groups:

  1. yes/no questions
  2. alternative questions
  3. tag questions

Yes/No Questions

Yes/No questions are the most basic type of questions in English grammar. We can answer these types of questions using a simple 'yes' or 'no.' However, we can sometimes (but not always) provide a longer answer to them.

Is Carla your sister?

Do you know a good restaurant downtown?

Alternative Questions

Alternative questions (also called choice questions) ask the listener to choose between two or more options. These options are linked to each other using the conjunction 'or'. Pay attention to the examples:

Do you prefer to wake up early or late?

Did Mike eat spaghetti or pizza?

The question could be a yes/no question or could be an alternative question. There are two possible ways to answer this question: 'Yes, he did/No, he did not'. Or either of the choices 'spaghettis' or 'pizza'.

Tag Questions

Tag questions (also called disjunctive questions) can transform a statement into a yes-no question. Normally, the tag questions contain an affirmative main clause and a negative tag, or a negative main clause and an affirmative tag. Take a look at the examples:

Myra makes the best chocolate cake, doesn't she?

He's not a very good friend, is he?

Open-Set Questions

Open-set questions (also called variable questions or non-polar questions) require different answers. There is no limit to the range of possible answers given to these questions. They are further categorized into two groups:

  1. Wh-Questions
  2. Embedded Questions

Wh-Questions

Wh-questions start with wh-words such as why, when, where, what, who, whose, and which (how is also considered a wh-word.)

What do you do for a living?

Where is the nearest pharmacy?

Indirect Questions

Indirect (also called embedded) questions are the types of questions that are not asked directly. Instead, they are embedded within another sentence or question. An embedded question is a subordinate clause rather than the main clause of the sentence.

Can you tell me where he plays tennis?

Do you know what time it is?

I'm not sure which way is the correct way home.

Pro-Sentences

In informal or spoken English, sometimes we ask two questions together. The first question is kind of an introduction for the listener. They tend to make the first question less direct. The second question is a pro-sentence, because it is a single word that acts as a whole sentence.

What are you making? Pizza?

What are we playing tonight? Poker?

Wh words + Prepositions

Particularly in spoken English, when the speaker(s) and the listener(s) know the context of the conversation, they often shorten the wh-questions:

- 'I've decided to work part-time.' +'What for?'

-'I'm going out.' +'Who with?'

(Who are you going out with?)

an example of an alternative question

Null Questions

Null Questions are the type of question that do not require an answer. They are either used to express sarcasm or surprise and wonder. They are further categorized into four groups:

  1. Rhetorical Questions
  2. Statement Questions
  3. Echo Questions
  4. Polite Requests

Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions do not require any answers. They are merely used as expressions or reactions to persuade the listener or to induce a specific effect in them.

Duh... Is the sky blue?!

Do you want to be a failure for the rest of your life?

Can't you do anything right?

Statement Questions

Statement questions are declarative sentences (statements) that are used to ask yes/no questions. These sentences have a different intonation in speech depending on whether they are used as a statement or as a question.

Jackson is getting married?!

He's your brother?

Echo Questions

Echo questions, also known as confirmation questions, are a type of question that repeats or echoes part of a statement made by someone else. They are often used to seek confirmation or clarification of what was said by the other person. Sometimes, they are formed with a 'wh-word' at the end.

'Paul's getting married again.' 'Paul's getting married again?'

'He's moving to Rome'. 'He's moving where?'

Negative Questions

A negative question usually starts with negative contracted or uncontracted verbs. Contracted and uncontracted negative questions have different word order.

Didn't you see Brian at the party?

Aren't you coming? or Are you not coming?

Negative questions typically require a 'no' as the response for an affirmative answer and a 'yes' as the response for a negative answer.

Intonation of Questions

In speech, questions have a particular intonation that tells the listener a response is expected.

Review

Questions are interrogative sentences that are used to ask for information about things, people, etc. Here are different kinds of questions:

Yes/No questions Are you having fun?
wh questions Where are you from?
Alternative questions Do you travel tomorrow or next Monday?
Indirect questions Do you know where they are?
Rhetorical questions Why am I dating you?
Statement questions He is cheating on you?
Two-step questions Which one is better? Working or studying?
Follow-up questions Take a look at this hat! Which one?
Echo questions 'Mira is in the China' 'Mira is in China?'
Negative questions Don't you come?
Tag questions She is fabulous, isn't she?

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