Interrogative Adverbs

Interrogative adverbs are words such as 'why' and 'where' that are used to ask questions. In this lesson, we will learn more about them.

Interrogative Adverbs in the English Grammar

What Are Interrogative Adverbs?

Interrogative adverbs are words such as 'how, why, when, where' that are used to ask a question about a particular aspect of a sentence such as time, place, frequency, or manner. These adverbs are often placed at the beginning of a question, and they are used to elicit specific information from the listener or reader.

Interrogative Adverbs: Types

Based on what kind of information an interrogative adverb inquires about, they are categorized into four main groups:

  1. interrogative adverbs of time
  2. interrogative adverbs of place
  3. interrogative adverbs of reason
  4. interrogative adverbs of manner

Interrogative Adverbs of Time

The interrogative adverbs of time are words that demand time-related information and ask how long, how often, or in which exact time something takes place. Here are a few examples:

When did you get up today?

How long have you been traveling?

Here is a list of interrogative adverbs of time:

  • When
  • Whenever
  • How long
  • How often

Whenever shall we get there?

Interrogative Adverbs of Place

Interrogative adverbs of place ask about the location or place of something. One of the most commonly used interrogative adverbs of place is 'where'. Let us take a look at the examples:

Where were you on holidays?

Where did you get your degree?

Here is a list of interrogative adverbs of place:

  • Where
  • Wherever
  • Wheresoever
  • Whence
  • Whereabouts
  • Wherein
  • Whereto

Whence does the Parliament derive this power?

Whereabouts do you live?

Wherein lies the difference between conservatism and liberalism?

Interrogative Adverbs of Reason

The interrogative adverb 'why' is used when you want an explanation or reason for something. It is commonly used to ask questions about the cause or motivation behind an action or event. Here are a few examples:

Why is he here?

Why did you get fired?

Here is a list of interrogative adverbs of reason:

  • Why
  • Wherefore

Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Interrogative Adverb of Manner

The interrogative adverb of manner is the word 'how' which is commonly used to ask questions about the method, process, or means by which an action is performed. Check the examples:

How did you escape?

How did you make this delicious cake?

Interrogative Determiners vs. Interrogative Adverbs

Interrogative determiners modify a noun, and they are followed immediately by a noun; but interrogative adverbs are used alone and do not modify a noun. Here are a few examples:

What color is your car? → interrogative determiner

Where is your car? → interrogative adverb

"when" is an interrogative adverb of time

Interrogative Adverbs vs. Interrogative Pronouns

Interrogative pronouns are used to ask about people, things, and places, while interrogative adverbs are used to ask about aspects such as place, time, manner, and reason. The only interrogative that can function as both a pronoun and an adverb is 'where', which is commonly used to ask about location or place. Pay attention to the examples:

Where are the keys? → interrogative adverb and pronoun

When is your birthday? → interrogative adverb

Who is your mother? → interrogative pronoun

Using Interrogative Adverbs in Indirect Questions

There are two kinds of indirect questions in English:

  1. a question in a statement
  2. a question in a question

A Question in a Statement

To turn a statement into a question, you can use a declarative sentence with an interrogative adverb placed at the beginning. The verb 'ask' is then used to introduce the question itself. In this case, there is a period at the end of the sentence. Here are a few examples:

She asked why you left the house.

My mother asked where your house is.

A Question in a Question

When we use a declarative clause starting with an interrogative adverb to form a yes/no question, we are creating an indirect question within a direct question. In this case, a question mark is used at the end of the sentence to indicate that it is a question. Here are the examples:

Did she know when the party started?

Did he ask why we are here?

Head of a Noun Clause

An interrogative adverb can also be used as the head of a nominal clause which is used as the object of a transitive verb such as know, wonder, ask, suppose, etc. Check out the examples:

I know why you are sad.

He wondered when she leaves the house.

Questions with Interrogative Adverbs

To make direct questions with interrogative adverbs all you have to do is to use an auxiliary after the interrogative adverb. In other words, a yes/no question follows the interrogative adverb to form a wh-question. Look at some examples:

Why did you change the subject?

How quickly did you finish the project?


Interrogative adverbs are wh-words that are used to ask questions. Here are the interrogative adverbs on the list:

  • when
  • why
  • how
  • where

Interrogative adverbs are used to ask questions about:

  • time
  • place
  • reasons
  • manner
  • degree
  • quantity (amount) and quality


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