Question Words

By | January 29, 2015

Question words are used to ask certain types of questions. These question words are often referred to as WH question words because they have WH letters in them (WHAT, WHO, WHOM, WHERE, WHEN, etc.).

WHAT: We use WHAT if we want to know specific information. We want to know the THING.

Examples:

1. What is your English teacher’s name? (Your English teacher has a name, and we want to know his/her name)
2. What is your nationality? (You have a nationality, and we want to know it)
3. What is your profession? (You have a profession, and we want to know it)
4. What is your favorite food? (You have a favorite food, and we want to know it)

WHO: We use WHO if we want to know the PERSON. WHO refers to the SUBJECT.

Examples:

1. Who has just opened the door? (Somebody has just opened the door, and we want to know that specific person. We are asking about the SUBJECT that has just opened the door).
2. Who helped him with homework? (Somebody helped him with homework, and we want to know that specific person. We are asking about the SUBJECT that helped him with homework)
3. Who is your favorite actor? (Somebody is your favorite actor, and we want to know that specific person)

WHOM: We use WHOM if we want to know a specific person, too. But, WHOM is used when asking about the OBJECT).

Examples:

1. Whom are you talking about? (You are talking about somebody, and we want to know that specific person).
2. Whom did you have dinner with last night? (You had dinner with somebody last night, and we want to know that specific person)
3. Whom do you live with? (You live with someone, and we want to know that specific person)

In everyday conversation, however, WHO is often used to replace WHOM. WHOM sounds more formal.

WHOSE: We use WHOSE to ask about ownership.

Examples:

1. Whose book is this? (This book belongs to somebody, and we want to know who owns it)
2. Whose car are you driving now? (You are now driving a car that belongs to someone, and we want to know who owns it)
3. Whose watch did you just find? (You just found a watch that belongs to somebody, and we want to know who owns it)

WHERE: We use WHERE if we want to know the place.

Examples:

1. Where do you live? (You live somewhere, and we want to know that specific place)
2. Where is she from? (She is from somewhere, and we want to know that specific place)
3. Where is he going for vacation? (He is going somewhere for vacation, and we want to know that specific place)

WHEN: We use WHEN if we want to know the time.

Examples:

1. When are you leaving for Jakarta? (You are leaving for Jakarta sometime in the future, and we want to know that specific time)
2. When were you born? (You were born at a certain time in the past, and we want to know that specific time)
3. When are you coming back? (You are coming back sometime in the future, and we want to know that specific time)

If we want to know the exact time on the clock, we prefer to use WHAT TIME.

WHY: We use WHY if we want to know the reason.

Examples:

1. Why does he always get up late? (He always gets up late, and we want to know the reason)
2. Why are you laughing? (You are laughing, and we want to know the reason)
3. Why do you love me? (You love me, and I want to know the reason)

HOW: We use HOW if we want to ask about way or manner (the way something is done/works). This word is also used to ask about condition or quality.

Examples:

1. How did you do that? (You did something in a specific way, and we want to know the way you did that).
2. How are you? (We want to know your condition)
3. How do you go to work? (You go to work in a specific way, and we want to know it)

HOW often comes with another word, depending on what the user is referring to.

HOW MANY: to ask about the number of things or persons (countable nouns)
HOW MUCH: to ask about the price or the amount of things (uncountable nouns)
HOW OLD: to ask about age
HOW OFTEN: to ask about frequency
HOW FAR: to ask about distance
HOW LONG: to ask about duration

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