WH English questions; 9 most important ones

When it comes to English, it is a well-known fact that WH English questions make up a massive part of this language. When a person is asking for explanations from another individual it is best to use these types of structures to question the opposite side. As their name suggests, WH English questions mainly start with words, which have the initials of “W” and “H” as their beginning letters. What distinguishes WH English questions from their other counterparts, which are mainly referred to as Yes/No questions, is that besides asking for clarifications from the respondent, they can also be used in the form of both direct and indirect questions.    

Types of WH English questions

For learners of English, who wish to know more about the grammar and more specifically the structure of questions within the framework of this language, the best suggestion is to invest some of their time in learning WH English questions. Most importantly how WH English questions are used in sentence structures.  

The most frequently used WH words in the structure of WH English questions are what, when, where, which, who, whom, whose, why, and how. The mentioned WH English questions words each have their way of presenting and posing a question. With the right instructions and a little attention to detail, these WH English questions can be acquired by all learners of English with different age ranges. Below each of the WH English questions, words are mentioned with a brief explanation.

What?

If a learner wishes to ask for information from someone in English or ask for repetition or confirmation about something, the most commonly suggested word for them is to use WH English questions, in particular, the word “what”. When composing WH English questions, the students need to remember that most WH English questions follow the grammatical structure:

WH Question word (what, when, where, etc.) + Auxiliary + Subject + main verb

Therefore, once the learner gets to know more about the mentioned overall foundation of the WH English questions and what is meant by each of its sections; it would be easier for him/her to interpret the structure of WH English questions.

In English, auxiliary refers to verbs like “be, do, and have” or modal auxiliary verbs similar to “can, may, should, and will”. On the other hand, the subject is the who does the action in the sentence, which can come in the form of pronoun (I, You, She, He, We, and They) or a name, while the main verb is any other verb like need, go, eat, etc. that shows the significance of the action done by the subject of the sentence.

That being said, forming WH English questions with words like “what” is no different from what has been clarified above and several examples regarding this word can be seen in the sentences below,

  1. What should I do? (Wh- + auxiliary + subject + main verb)
  2. What is your name? (Wh- + main verb)

An important point regarding the grammatical structure of WH English questions is that when posing a question, the position of the subject and the verb are reversed, and in most cases, the verb precedes the latter.

One other use for “what” relates to its use in asking for a reason when it’s followed by “for” as in “what for?”.            

When?

Another common WH English questions word is “when?”. Unlike “what”, which is mainly concerned with drawing a load of information from the respondent, “when” is only used to interrogate another individual about timing. For instance, if a learner wishes to ask about the timing in which his/her exam starts, he/she should ask questions like “when does the exam start?”, “When is the exam starting?”, or any other similar structure that starts with the WH English questions of “when”.  

Where?

Besides “what” and “when”, “where” is also one of the common WH English questions words used in the structure of questions. This word, which follows the same English grammatical rules when used in a sentence, usually makes an appearance at the beginning of a question to ask about locations or positions.

If a person wishes to know more about the whereabouts of another individual or ask for directions, “where” would be the best WH English questions word to use in the structure of the question.  Some examples of the use of “where” can be seen in the sentences below,

  1. Where is John?
  2. Where can I find my water bottle?
  3. Excuse me, where is the bank?          

Which?

On some occasions, a person may decide to know what the person on the opposite side would wish to choose from a number of options given. Within these similar contexts, the questioner is required to put words like “which” into use. The reason why the use of “which” is preferred in some structures of WH English questions is that the respondent is given the option to choose from a minimum of two up to several endless varieties.

Therefore, “which” would be the best word for the speaker to use. For instance, if an individual decides to ask a friend about the proper paint for the walls of his/her house he/she can ask questions like,

  1. Which one should I choose? Or
  2. Which color is the best?  

Who?

Sometimes the questions revolve around human beings, and creatures, who are exempted from other beings, it is important to use specific WH English questions that are considered proper for addressing our counterparts. One example of a WH English questions word used for starting people-related questions is the word “who”.

This word as mentioned can only be used for humans and asking questions about their identities. For instance, if two friends have an encounter at a party and one of them is not quite acquainted with the guests, he/she may ask the other individual about the people present at that event and what their names might be.  A number of examples of the use of “who” is:

  1. Who is the guy sitting on the red couch?
  2. Who is the lady standing next to the kitchen door?

Whom?

Similar to “who”, “whom” is also used for WH English questions addressing people and their identities. But the difference between these two is that when using “whom” in the structure of a question we should pay great attention to the stance of a pronoun within that structure. To gain a better understanding of the use of “whom” within the structure of a question, we could consider a sentence like, “John is the guy whom I was talking about”, and notice how “whom” is followed by the pronoun “I”.

Now, in order to turn this specific sentence into a question, we are obliged to put “whom” at the beginning of the sentence and continue forming our question based on the grammatical rules mentioned before. After applying the required changes to the concerned sentence, the final result should be similar to the example below:

  1. Whom were you talking about?

As long as a person is careful with the use of WH English questions words and their function, other forms of questions can also be extracted from the example above.

Whose?

When a person wants to ask questions about ownership, “whose” would be the perfect WH English questions word for the question structure. One example for the use of “whose” could be seen in occasions where an individual finds a lost object and wishes to know about the owner of that object. For similar situations, the finder could pose questions like, “Whose keys are these?”

Why?

In order to ask for reasons behind an action, an event, or any other occurrence, it is very common to see that person starts the questions with the word “why”. As mentioned, this WH English questions word hopes to draw information about the cause of something and how that cause may have affected a specific event. Therefore, if a learner is faced with WH English questions starting with “why”, they are expected to give a clear response by offering reasons to the questioners. Here are some examples for the use of “why”,

  1. Why did you paint the front door?
  2. Why don’t you go to the park?     

How?

Among the WH words used for forming WH English questions, “how” could be one of those words with the most frequent use. This word is usually followed by an adjective or an adverb and it mainly deals with questions about frequency, distance, length, quantity, or age of something or someone. Some instances of WH English questions starting with “how” include:

  1. How often do you exercise? (frequency)
  2. How far is the amusement park? (distance)
  3. How long is this tree? (length)
  4. How much money is there? (quantity)
  5. How many books are there? (quantity)
  6. How old is your daughter? (age)

As an important part of the language, WH English questions compose some of the most essential segments of English grammar, and for a learner to know more about similar structures the best suggestion is for them is to know the type and function of the WH English questions words. The most common WH English questions words in the structure of WH English questions are what, when, where, which, who, whom, whose, why, and how.

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