It's mid morning on a Sunday. Oliver has just got up and is in the kitchen when Daisy comes home. Sophie is in Tanzania for work. 

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We use the question words who (for people), what/which (for things), when (for time), where (for places), why (for reasons) and how (for more details).

What do I need to know about question words?

I know you know the basics, but questions are quite tricky. Let’s just go over the main rules.

We usually form questions by putting an auxiliary verb, or a modal verb, before the subject.

Does it suit me?
Has Mum called?
Can you get the tea?
Shall I pass you to Oliver?

When the verb 'to be' is the main verb, we don’t use auxiliary verbs.

Is Oliver there?
Was it good?

We can add question words to get more or different information.

Where did you go swimming? > In the swimming pool in town.
Why did you go there? > Because it’s a nice, big pool.
Who did you go swimming with? > With Amy.
What time did you meet Amy? > At 10 o’clock.
Which pool did you go in? > The serious one, without the slides!
How did you get there? > On the bus.

I see that questions sometimes finish with prepositions.

Yes, that’s very common.

Who were you out with?
What have you got that bag for?
What’s all that about?
Where are you calling from?

OK, that all seems straightforward.

Yes, but do you know about  subject  and object questions? 

Sorry?

If who, what or which is the subject of the question, it comes before the verb and we don’t use do as an auxiliary.

Who went out for curry? (subject – who)
What happened? (subject – what)
Which looks better, this or that one? (subject – which)

Object questions follow the structure we looked at before.

Who did you go out for curry with? (subject – you; object – who)
Which restaurant does Oliver like most? (subject – Oliver; object – which)
What did they do after the restaurant? (subject – they; object – what)

I think I understand …

Here’s a little test for you, then. A cat killed a mouse and a dog killed the cat.

1 What killed the mouse?
2 What did the cat kill?
3 What killed the cat?
4 What did the dog kill?

OK, 1 the cat, 2 the mouse, 3 the dog, 4 the cat. Right?

Exactly! You’ve got it.

Any more tricky things about question words?

Well in reported speech or indirect questions, question words come in the middle of sentences. In these types of sentence, the word order does not change. We don’t put the verb to be before the subject or use an auxiliary to form a question, as in a normal question:

I asked her what she was doing at the weekend. 
Do you know where the post office is?
Can you tell me how much it costs?

What are you doing at the weekend?
Where is the post office?
How much does it cost?

Hmm, why do you use indirect questions if they are more complicated?

Well, they are more polite, especially if you are talking to a stranger.

OK, I’ll remember to say: 'Do you know where the post office is?'

Good. Can you make that even more polite?

How about: 'Excuse me, could you tell me where the post office is, please?'

Fine! That’ll do. Do you really need a post office?!

 

You voted 5. Total votes: 1123
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Discussion

What questions do you like to ask people when you first meet them?

Comments

pparedes984's picture
188x
17x
3 January, 2017 - 03:12

what's your name?
Where are you from ?
How old are you?
How often do you like to go out ??
Who are your parents?

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9 users have voted.
120915Sania's picture
409x
5x
13 December, 2015 - 10:39

What's your name? How old are you? where are you from? what's your hobby? Do you like One Direction? because I'm Directioner (if is a teenage girl)

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75 users have voted.
nandosc9's picture
2493x
19x
7 July, 2015 - 13:36

What's your favorite kind of music?
Where you live?
Wo you like video games?
What do you study?

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97 users have voted.
stephania1799's picture
2545x
22x
7 July, 2015 - 06:34

What is your name?
How old are you?
what activities do you do?
Where do you live?
What class are you?

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93 users have voted.
JennySam's picture
2519x
21x
6 July, 2015 - 18:00

What is your name?, Where are you from?, What's your favorite music?, How old are you?, Where do you live? ,What do you do?, What's is your favorite sport?

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90 users have voted.
ibyirojas's picture
340x
2x
18 April, 2014 - 21:30

What is your name?, what do you do? where are you from? What's your favorite music?, How old are you? How are you?, what time is it? Whose do you live with?

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159 users have voted.
Nerminka's picture
25730x
176x
9 March, 2014 - 17:16

What is yor name? How olad are you? where are you from? where do you live? More" what is your hobby?"

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157 users have voted.
Nazrin's picture
14656x
116x
2 March, 2014 - 08:21

hello.what is your name?How are you?What do you do?Where are you from?Where do you live?do you like plat basketbal? and so on...

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152 users have voted.
Fatime143's picture
96980x
948x
1 March, 2014 - 10:16

Hi.What is your name?How old are you?In which school you study?I like meeting new friends.

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161 users have voted.
AnaB's picture
25766x
144x
13 November, 2013 - 15:01

Hi! What's your name? How old are you? Where you from?Do you have any brothers or sisters?In which school you study? Who are you favourite gropus, acters, singers, place, sity, country.... ? Do you love yor country or sity? etc ..
I like meeting new people. And because of that I have friends in Italy, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Germany and Englend. ^_^
Ohh and "Nice to meet you" or "See you" in the end, :D

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164 users have voted.
MALINE's picture
85731x
677x
7 September, 2013 - 03:36

hi ellen i´m sorry to hear that you´re not ok. Here all week was raining,the temperature has been aroun 13-15°,it´s really cold considering the temperature is always around 20°C.
The most important dish here I think is MOLE POBLANO,it´s a sausace made out of like 30 ingredients from sweet to sour an lots of spices in fact many foreigners people that tase it find it too hot,but i love it and i´ts cooked for special ocassions like marriage and birthdays.
Another famous dish here is CHILE EN NOGADA is a poblano chile filled with meat,apple,banana and it´s covered with a mix of crem and CASTILLA NUTS and a little of sugar,mmmmm my mouth just water,this dish we do it in this month to celebrate our Independence.

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208 users have voted.
ellen's picture
77933x
671x
30 August, 2013 - 09:22

Hello MALINE.
I am not very fine, because, in my country temperature it is very bad. Temperature is 35C.
And you country temperature and climate?
In Azerbaijan Tourism development it is most.
Azerbaijan cooking it is very popular.
For example, stuffed, stuffed vine-leaves and s.on
İn my country Azerbaijan most popular main course in Azerbaijan is plov (made rice).The popular soft drinks are sharbats. They are made of sugar, lemon, saffron, seeds of mint and other fruit.
Do you like talking to people?
Do you prefer to work alone?
Are you energetic?
Do you like orqanizing things?
Are you patient?
your Azerbaijanian friend Ellen

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172 users have voted.
MALINE's picture
85731x
677x
24 August, 2013 - 23:15

Hi Ellen how are you?
Here the careers last for four years is you do it in a public University and if it´s private you can do it in three an a half years moreless.
The most famous carrers used to be Medicine,Laws and Accountant but these days are Robotics,Tourism and International cooking what about there?
Take care.

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168 users have voted.
ellen's picture
77933x
671x
11 August, 2013 - 16:24

Hello my friend Maline.
I think University of USA is Harvard Univercity.
Harvard it is my desire univercity.
Azerbaijan has got a lot of univercity.
for example, ~Baku State Univercity~, ~Qafqaz Univercity~, ~Khazar Univercity~ and s.on.
Maline, How are universities in Mexico?
Which are you go University of Mexico?
My friend.

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211 users have voted.
MALINE's picture
85731x
677x
11 August, 2013 - 02:09

The most important universities hera are IPN and UNAM and it´s really difficult to get there,because just are space at the universities for 1/6 of the students and the students left can´t continue their studies.
What University of USA would you like to go?
Bye,bye.

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167 users have voted.
ellen's picture
77933x
671x
4 August, 2013 - 10:33

Hello my friend Maline.
The difference is only 3 days of school time.
Yes, i prepare the Univercity.
I think one years I will read in Azerbaijan, and then i think and i want will go to the USA.
And you?
Which you are favorite Univercity?
Bye-bye.

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176 users have voted.

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