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Video:ESL: Questions in English

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Learn some basic patterns and keys for asking and answering questions in English!See Transcript

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Transcript:ESL: Questions in English

Hello I'm Milo for About.com and today we're talking about how to ask questions in English. 

Intonation

Of course like many languages the first thing to know about asking questions in English is intonation.  The phrase rises at the end. 

  • Is that your book? 

Question Words

The easiest way to ask a question is to use one of the question words: who, what, where, when, why, which, or how.   Generally these words are followed by a "to be" verb that corresponds to the subject that you  are asking about.

  • Who is the president of the United States? 
  • Who are your congressmen? 
  • Where are you from? 
  • Where is my car? 

Notice how the to be verb changes for person and number.   With the question words "which" and "what" you might find a noun before the "to be" verb.  Sometimes in North America, native English speakers will use "what" when "which" would be a better choice. 

  • What time is it? 
  • Which house is yours? 

More Examples

Another common way of forming questions in English is to use "do" or some conjugation of it.  Normally "do" is an auxiliary verb however it can also be a transitive verb requiring a subject and object.  But let's keep it simple. 

  • Do you have a pen? 
  • Does Sarah like flying? 
  • Do they eat onions? 
  • What do you do for a living? 
  • What do you do in your free time? 

Normally simple "do" questions have yes or no answers.  However our last two examples require to be or action verbs to answer:

  • What do you do for a living? I am an accountant. 
  • What do you do in your free time? I like to go hiking or just spend time outdoors. 

Sometimes in English it is good to repeat part of the question when answering just to be clear, however other times you can answer with just a noun or noun/verb phrase. Who drives the sports car? Mary drives it.  or Mary does. 

For more excellent, helpful, and interesting information on English check us out at About.com.

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