Asking Questions in English

QUESTIONS – AN OUTLINE

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If you are speaking with a native English speaker and you are not so confident about your own English, asking questions is a useful way to keep a conversation going.

A question is a type of sentence. Some questions are open and some are closed. For closed questions you usually answer Yes, or No. For open questions, you should reply with more information.

Questions usually begin with words like who, what, how, when, why?

Questions sometimes begin with have you, do you, did you and can you.

OR may I, could I, can I, shall I, and should I.

? – this is called a question mark.  It is always put at the end of a question.

TYPES OF QUESTIONS
There are three main types of questions. Here’s a quick overview of the three types of questions in English:

1. Direct Question

Where do you work?
Are they coming to the party?
How long has she worked for this company?

2. Indirect Question

Can you tell me where he works?
I wonder if they’re coming to the party.
Do you know how long she has worked for this company?

3. Question Tags

You live in Tokyo, don’t you?
She hasn’t studied Italian, has she?
We’re good friends, aren’t we? 

Direct and indirect questions are used to ask about information you (the asker) do not know. Question tags are generally used to check information you (the asker) think you know.

DIFFERENT FUNCTIONS OF QUESTIONS

Questions have many different purposes and functions. First you will see examples of the questions OTHER PEOPLE may ask of you. After that, we will look at questions YOU may ask other people.

1. Questions people may ask of you

Where?
Where were you born? (in which city/state/prefecture/country)

Which?
Which part of Japan are you from? (e.g. answer – the Kanto region)
Which sports do you usually play?

What
What is your favourite type of food?

How?
How long have you lived there?
How many people are there in your family?

Have you?
Have you met my friend Emi?
Have you ever been to Australia?

Do you?
Do you like your steak well done?
Do you like watching TV?

Are you?
Are you from Osaka?
Are you interested in movies?

Can you?
Can you speak Chinese?
Can you play tennis?

 

2. Questions you may ask of other people

Are we/ you?
Are you hungry/ tired/ happy?
Are we going to the movies?

Can you/ I? 
Can you drive a car?
Can I help you?

Do You? 
Do you like spicy foods?
Do you feel OK?

Did you?
Did you sleep well last night?

May I? 
May I have a drink?                                                 (e.g., yes you may)
May I watch television?

When? (time)
When will the train arrive?                         (e.g., at 7am)
When are we going to Tokyo Tower?

What?
What is your name?

How?
How are you today?
How do I get to the shopping centre?
How far away is Nagoya from Tokyo?

Who?
Who is that tall man?
Who is your best friend?

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