Unit 11.1

Wh- Questions in Present Form

Syntax

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Introduction

Wh- questions always begin with one of the wh- question words (interrogative pronouns), which show what kind of information is wanted.

The wh- questions in the present tense are used to ask for information in the present.

Form

To create a wh- question, we place an auxiliary or a modal verb after the wh- question word and before a subject.

In the present tense (both simple and continuous), we use the present forms of the auxiliary and modal verbs.

The structure of wh- questions in present form is:

  • With an auxiliary verb:
    Wh- question word + auxiliary verb (present form) + subject + verb + …?
  • With a modal verb:
    Wh- question word + modal verb (present form) + subject + verb + …?
  • Without an auxiliary verb:
    What/who + verb (third person singular) + …?
    Which/whose + noun + verb (third person singular/plural) + …?

The wh- question words are: whenwherewhywhichwhatwhosewhowhom and how.

Example

  1. When does she read a magazine?
  2. Where do you buy bread?
  3. Why have you got 5 cars?
  4. Which house is yours?
  5. What can I do now?
  6. Whose computer is this?
  7. Who speaks German in our group?
  8. Whom does he like?
  9. How old are you?

Use

The wh- words that are used to make questions are:

  1. When (to ask for information about time);
  2. Where (to ask for information about place);
  3. Why (to ask for a reason);
  4. Which (to ask for information about a preference between two or more things);
  5. What (to ask for information about something);
  6. Whose (to ask for information about who something belongs to);
  7. Who (to ask for information about people, as a subject);
  8. Whom (to ask for information about people, as an object);
  9. How* (to ask for information about the way something is done, the way something happens).

These questions are also called open questions because the possible answers to them are infinite.

*How does not start with wh-, but it is also considered to be a wh- question.

Summary

Wh-questions start with one of the wh- question words: what, when, where, which, who, whom, whose, why and how.

The wh- question words introduce the questions.

For example:
— “Where is the toilet?” = Where introduces an open question, because you can give an infinite number of answers.
♦ “Is there a toilet?” = Yes/no questions require short answers followed by yes or no, they are also called closed questions.

NOTE: An auxiliary (be/have) or a modal verb (can/could/would) must be placed after a wh- question and before a subject.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.

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