Unit 11.1

Wh- Questions in Past Form

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 past tense are used to ask for information in the past.

Form

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

The structure of wh- questions in past form is:

  • with an auxiliary verb:
    Wh- question word + auxiliary verb (past form) + subject + verb +…?
  • with a modal verb:
    Wh- question word + modal verb (past form) + subject + verb + …?
  • without an auxiliary verb:
    What/who + verb (past form) + …?
    Which/whose + noun + verb (past form) + …?

Example

  • When was the Second World War?
  • Where did you live 10 years ago?
  • Why did she move to London?
  • Which course did you choose?
  • What did the director tell you?
  • Whose child was that?
  • Who ate all the chocolate
  • Whom did he call?
  • How did you get there?

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 did you buy this coat?” = Where introduces an open question, because you can give an infinite number of answers.
♦ “Did you buy this coat in the new shop?” = 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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Exercises