Interrogative sentences masterclass in English

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interrogative sentences in English
interrogative sentences in English

This post helps you understand what interrogative sentences are, how to form them, and when to use them correctly.

Interrogative sentences infographic
Interrogative sentences infographic

What are interrogative sentences in English?

Interrogative sentences are used to ask questions: to get information out of someone or confirm some information. We use interrogative sentences when we want to know something we don’t or we want to confirm something we are not sure about. Note that interrogative sentences end with a question mark.

There are two main types of questions: general questions and specific questions. General questions are answered in YES or NO and start with an auxiliary verb. These questions are used to confirm something. Specific questions are used to get a specific type of information out of someone. These questions start with a WH question word (what, why, where, when, who, whom, whose, how) followed by an auxiliary verb.

Jon: I have heard Max is in Dubai.
You: No, he is not. He is in India.
Jon: You can talk to him and ask where he is. I am not lying here.
You: Ok, I will. I will just call him.
You to Max on a call: Hi, Max. I just had a chat with Jon. He said you are in Dubai. Is that true? Are you in Dubai?
Max: Yes. Sorry I did not tell you.

In the conversation, you had a piece of information that you didn’t completely believe. So, you used an interrogative sentence (general) to conform the information you had.

Ashu: Do you know Rahul is throwing a party tomorrow?
Ashish: No, I don’t.
Ashu: Wow! I thought you’d known it already.
Ashish: I have no idea about the party. Let me talk to Rahul about it.
Ashish: Hey, Rahul. Are you throwing a party tomorrow?
Rahul: Yes.
Ashish: Where is it happening?
Rahul: It’s happening on my terrace.

There are three interrogative sentences (questions) used in this conversation. The first two are general questions used to confirm some information. The last question is a general question that intends to know the place of the action.

Interrogative sentences that seek confirmation

The answers to these questions always end up in either YES or NO. In the structure, the main verb can have an object, modifier or a complement, based on the verb it is and information that is required to be there.

Structure: auxiliary verb + subject + main verb?

Examples:

  • Do you want my help?
  • Does I look fat to you?
  • Can we come later?
  • Have you seen my wallet?
  • Are you going to Ron’s?
  • Have you been working out lately?
  • Has she not been eating properly?
  • Did the meeting start on time?
  • Were you sleeping when I called?
  • Could you do this for me?
  • Should I talk to your father about this?
  • May I go now?
  • Would you mind switching seats?
  • Will you work with me?
  • Will you be staying here tonight?

Interrogative sentences that seek information

These are specific questions asked in order to get some specific information out of the person. The question word used in the beginning of an interrogative sentence helps us get the information we want from the listener/reader.

Structure: WH question word + auxiliary verb + subject + verb/verb phrase?

Question wordsUsage
WHATto find out the subject (thing) or an object (thing)
WHO to find out the subject (person) of the sentence
WHOM to find out the object (person) of the verb or preposition
WHENto find out the time of the action
WHEREto find out the place of the action
WHYto find out the reason of the action
WHICHto find out the subject complement or subject
HOWto find out the manner of the action

1. WHO

Subject

Structure: Who + verb/verb phrase + object/modifier/complement?

  • Who loves you more than I do?
  • Who trains the kids here?
  • Who has given you the power to sell office furniture?
  • Who is your father?
  • Who is your best friend?

Object

Structure: Who + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb?

  • Who do you love the most?
  • Who did you call in the meeting?
  • Who are you dating these days?
  • Who was she going out with?
  • Who will you teach?
  • Who can you beat in the rematch?
  • Who are you looking at?

Both ‘who’ and ‘whom’ can be used to refer to the object of a verb or preposition.

2. WHAT

Subject

Structure: What + verb/verb phrase + object/modifier/complement?

  • What keeps you up at night?
  • What is troubling her?
  • What is used in this drink?
  • What makes you think you can take decisions on my behalf?

Object

Structure: What + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb?

  • What do you want from me?
  • What did you have at the party?
  • What you have done?
  • What did you say to my brother at office? He is not talking to me.
  • What do you teach at college?
  • What have you bought for me?

Subject complement

Structure: What + linking verb + subject?

  • What is your favorite fruit?
  • What is the capital of India?
  • What is your hobby?
  • What was his favorite drink?
  • What is your dream job?

The answers to these questions is the subject complement. Let’s try answering some of these questions.

Question: What is your favorite fruit?
Answer: My favorite fruit is mango.
or
Answer: Mango is my favorite fruit.

We can reverse the placement of the subject and the subject complement.

Question: What is the capital of India?
Answer: The capital of India is Delhi.
Answer: Delhi is the capital of India.

3. WHOM

It is specifically used to refer to the object of the verb or preposition.

Structure: Whom + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb?

  • Whom do you want more?
  • Whom does she want to study with?
  • Whom has he selected for the job?
  • Whom will you blame for this?

In modern English, people prefer using ‘who’ to ‘whom’ to refer to the object.

4. WHICH

The interrogative pronoun ‘which‘ is used when the area of the answers is limited.

  • Which is your favorite movie out of these?
  • Which is your answer: A or B?
  • Which car are you taking today?
  • Which company do you want to work with?
  • Which proposal did you like the most?

5. WHY

Questions using ‘why‘ can be formed in 2 different ways. We already know it is used to know the purpose/reason of the action.

Structures:

Why + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb?
Why + linking verb + subject + subject complement?

Examples:

  • Why do you work here?
  • Why do you put up with this guy?
  • Why are you calling me now?
  • Why did you invite Rohan to the party?
  • Why is the bill so high?
  • Why are you so smart?
  • Why was he so rude to me at the party?
  • Why are you all so happy?

6. WHEN

The interrogative pronoun ‘when’ is used to find out the time of the action.

Structures:

When + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb?
When + linking verb + subject + subject complement?

Examples:

  • When do you wake up everyday?
  • When does she call you?
  • When does your History class begin?
  • When did they call you?
  • When will she open her shop?
  • When is your birthday?
  • When was the last time you talked to your father politely?
  • When is the project supposed to be submitted?
  • When is the deadline?

7. WHERE

The interrogative pronoun ‘where’ is used to find out the place of the action.

Structures:

Where + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb?
Where + linking verb + subject?

Examples:

  • Where do you live?
  • Where have you hidden the papers?
  • Where is she going tonight?
  • Where are you?
  • Where is your mother?
  • Where will we go for the vacation?
  • Where has she been working lately?
  • Where were the boys playing?
  • Where is the class going on?

8. HOW

The interrogative pronoun ‘how’ is used to find out the manner in which an action is done or the state of a person or thing.

Structures:

How + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb?
How + linking verb + subject?
How + linking verb + subject + subject complement?

Examples:

  • How do you do this?
  • How did he drink 4 cans of beer? He has never had more than 1 can.
  • How do you teach English effortlessly?
  • How have you been working with these barbarians?
  • How will you solve this question?
  • How would you react if you were in my situation?
  • How can I pass the test with minimum efforts?
  • How should I talk to my father about it?

These questions want to find out the manner in which an action is done. We can also use how to find out the state of the a person of a thing. Below are some examples that do that.

  • How are you?
  • How is your mother’s health?
  • How is everyone at home?
  • How was the meeting?
  • How was the property? Did you like it?
  • How is your new car?
  • How was the party?
  • How are you so calm?
  • How is she so red?
  • How was the question stupid?

Other question words (how often, for how long, since when)

1. HOW OFTEN

We use this phrase to find out the frequency at which an action takes place. Like any other question word, this comes at the beginning of an interrogative sentence. Note that this phrase is usually used in the Simple Present tense.

Alternative: how frequently

Examples:

  • How often do you come here?
  • How often does she go shopping?
  • How often do they play cricket?
  • How often does she come to this temple?
  • How often do you smoke?

2. FOR HOW LONG

This question phrase is used at the beginning of an interrogative sentence to find out the time duration (length) for which an action has been taking place. The expression is usually used in the Present Perfect Continuous and the Present Perfect tense but can also be used in Simple Present and Simple future tense.

Examples:

  • For how long you have been working here?
  • For how long has she been waiting outside?
  • For how long have you had this problem?
  • For how long do you exercise here?
  • For how long will the meeting go on?
  • How long have you been studying here for?

We can also start an interrogative sentence with how long and use the preposition for at the end, like we did in the last example.

3. SINCE WHEN

This expression is used to find out the starting point of an ongoing action or state. It is specifically used in the Present Perfect tense and the Present Perfect Continuous tense.

Examples:

  • Since when you have lived here?
  • Since when has she been sleeping?
  • Since when has it been raining?
  • Since when you have started eating chicken?

QUESTION TAG

A question tag is a short question put at end of a positive or negative sentence. If the sentence is positive, the question tag will be negative and if the sentence is negative, the question tag is positive.

Structure: Main clause + comma + (auxiliary verb + subject?)

Examples:

  • You like drinking milk, don’t you?
  • We are going to his party, aren’t we?
  • I look good in this, don’t I?
  • The car is too expensive, isn’t it?
  • You don’t know him, do you?
  • We are not going there, are we?
  • She won’t take this offer, will she?

Question tags are used to confirm what comes before it in the sentence.

CHOICE QUESTIONS

These are interrogative sentence that provide options to the person asked.

Examples:

  • Do you want tea or coffee?
  • Should I pick her up, or book a cab?
  • Are you a teacher or student here?
  • Has she met you or not?

We, now, know what interrogative sentences are and how to use them. Do share the post with others to help, and feel free to drop your question, query, feedback, or suggestion in the comment section.

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