How to Ask Questions in English

Are you learning English and find it hard to ask questions?

Don’t worry!

Many people feel the same way.

Asking questions is a big part of learning any language.

It helps you get information, make friends, and understand things better.

In this lesson, I’ll show you how to ask questions in English easily and correctly.

Why Is Asking Questions Important?

Before we start, let’s see why asking questions matters:

  1. To get information: When you don’t know something, you ask.
  2. To learn: Questions help you understand new things.
  3. To make friends: Asking questions shows you’re interested in people.
  4. To be polite: Some questions make you sound nicer.
  5. To check: Questions help you make sure you understood right.

Types of Questions in English

There are different types of questions in English. Each type has its own rules.

Let’s look at them:

1. Yes/No Questions

These are easy questions. The answer is either “yes” or “no.” To make these questions:

  1. Start with a helping verb (is, are, was, were, do, does, did, have, has, had, can, could, will, would, should, might).
  2. Then add the subject (I, you, he, she, it, we, they).
  3. Finally, add the main part.

Examples:

  • Is she happy? (Yes, she is. / No, she isn’t.)
  • Do you like pizza? (Yes, I do. / No, I don’t.)
  • Can you swim? (Yes, I can. / No, I can’t.)

2. Wh- Questions

These questions start with words like what, when, where, who, why, and how. They ask for more information. To make these questions:

  1. Start with the Wh- word.
  2. Add a helping verb (like in yes/no questions).
  3. Then add the subject and main part.

Examples:

  • What is your name?
  • Where do you live?
  • Why are you sad?

Here’s what each Wh- word asks about:

  • What: asks about things or actions
  • When: asks about time
  • Where: asks about place
  • Who: asks about people
  • Why: asks about reasons
  • How: asks about manner or method

3. Choice Questions

These questions give you options to choose from. To make these:

  1. Start like a yes/no question.
  2. Add the first choice.
  3. Add “or” and then the second choice.

Examples:

  • Do you want tea or coffee?
  • Is your car red or blue?
  • Are you going by bus or train?

Explore more topics:

4. Tag Questions

Tag questions are short questions at the end of a statement. They ask for agreement.

To make these:

  1. Make a statement.
  2. Add a comma.
  3. Add a short question (tag) that matches the statement.

If the statement is positive, the tag is negative:

  • You like music, don’t you?
  • She can dance, can’t she?

If the statement is negative, the tag is positive:

  • You aren’t hungry, are you?
  • He doesn’t smoke, does he?

5. Indirect Questions

These questions are polite. They don’t follow the usual question order.

To make these:

  1. Start with a polite phrase.
  2. Add the question in normal order (like a statement).

Examples:

  • Could you tell me where the bank is? (Not: Where is the bank?)
  • Do you know what time it is? (Not: What time is it?)
  • I was wondering if you could help me. (Not: Can you help me?)

Question Words and Their Uses

Let’s look closer at question words:

What

    • Ask about things: What is this?
    • Ask about actions: What are you doing?
    • Ask about choices: What do you prefer, apples or oranges?

When

    • Ask about time: When is your birthday?
    • Ask about events: When does the movie start?
    • Ask about schedules: When do you usually wake up?

Where

    • Ask about places: Where is the library?
    • Ask about direction: Where are you going?
    • Ask about origin: Where are you from?

Who

    • Ask about people: Who is that man?
    • Ask about roles: Who is the team captain?
    • Ask about choices: Who do you want to speak to, Tom or Jerry?

Why

    • Ask about reasons: Why are you late?
    • Ask about purposes: Why do you study English?
    • Ask about behavior: Why did she leave early?

How

    • Ask about manner: How do you make pasta?
    • Ask about condition: How are you feeling?
    • Ask about extent: How much does this cost?
    • Ask about frequency: How often do you exercise?

Which

    • Ask to choose from a group: Which shirt do you like?
    • Ask for specific items: Which house is yours?

Whose

    • Ask about ownership: Whose book is this?
    • Ask about relationships: Whose daughter is she?

Subject vs. Object Questions

There are two special types of questions:

Subject Questions:

    • The answer is the subject (doer) of the action.
    • They don’t need helping verbs.

Examples:

      • Who called you? (Tom called me.)
      • What happened? (A car crash happened.)

Object Questions:

    • The answer is the object (receiver) of the action.
    • They need helping verbs.

Examples:

      • Who did you call? (I called Tom.)
      • What did you see? (I saw a car crash.)

Question Order

In English, question order is very important.

Getting it wrong can confuse people.

Here’s the usual order:

  1. Question Word (for Wh- questions)
  2. Helping Verb
  3. Subject
  4. Main Verb
  5. Rest of the sentence

Examples:

  • Where / do / you / live / ?
  • What / is / she / doing / in the garden?
  • Who / can / help / me / with this?

For yes/no questions, just skip the question word:

  • Do / you / like / ice cream?
  • Is / he / coming / to the party?

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Many learners make these mistakes:

Forgetting the helping verb:

    • Wrong: Where you live?
    • Right: Where do you live?

Using the wrong helping verb:

    • Wrong: Do she like pizza?
    • Right: Does she like pizza?

Not changing the main verb:

    • Wrong: Does he likes pizza?
    • Right: Does he like pizza?

Adding extra words:

    • Wrong: Where do you do work?
    • Right: Where do you work?

Using statements as questions:

    • Wrong: You are tired?
    • Right: Are you tired?

Mixing up who/whom:

    • In casual speech, most people use “who” for everything.
    • “Whom” is formal and used as an object.
      • Who saw you? (subject)
      • Whom did you see? (object, formal)

Asking Polite Questions

Being polite is important in English. Here’s how to do it:

Use “Could” or “Would”:

    • Could you help me?
    • Would you open the door?

Add “please”:

    • Can you pass the salt, please?
    • Please, where is the bathroom?

Use indirect questions:

    • Do you know where the bank is?
    • I was wondering if you could explain this.

Use past tense:

    • Did you want something?
    • I was hoping you could assist me.

Asking Follow-up Questions

After someone answers you, it’s good to ask more. This shows you’re interested.

Some follow-ups:

Ask for more details:

    • A: I went to Paris last year.
    • B: Oh, really? What did you do there?

Show surprise:

    • A: I can speak five languages.
    • B: Wow! How did you learn them all?

Ask about feelings:

    • A: I lost my job yesterday.
    • B: I’m sorry to hear that. How are you coping?

Ask about the future:

    • A: I’m moving to Canada.
    • B: That’s big news! When do you plan to move?

Asking About Unknown Words

When you don’t know a word, ask:

For meaning:

    • What does “eloquent” mean?
    • Can you explain “biodiversity”?

For spelling:

    • How do you spell “accommodate”?
    • Could you spell that for me?

For pronunciation:

    • How do you say “Leicester”?
    • Can you repeat that slowly?

Questions in Different Situations

Different places need different questions:

At a Restaurant:

    • Can I see the menu, please?
    • What’s today’s special?
    • Does this dish contain nuts?

At a Store:

    • Do you have this in blue?
    • How much does this cost?
    • Can I try this on?

Asking for Directions:

    • Where is the nearest subway station?
    • How do I get to the museum?
    • Is it far from here?

At Work or School:

    • When is the project due?
    • Could you explain that again?
    • Who should I contact for help?

Making Small Talk:

    • How’s your day going?
    • Have you seen any good movies lately?
    • What do you do for fun?

Cultural Tips for Asking Questions

Different cultures have different rules. In English-speaking countries:

It’s okay to ask questions:

    • People expect questions.
    • Not asking can seem disinterested.

But some topics are private:

    • Don’t ask about money: How much do you earn?
    • Don’t ask about weight: How much do you weigh?
    • Be careful with political or religious questions.

Listen actively:

    • Nod or say “uh-huh” to show you’re listening.
    • This encourages people to share more.

Don’t interrupt:

    • Wait for a pause before asking.
    • Say “Sorry to interrupt, but…” if it’s urgent.

React to answers:

    • Show empathy: “That must have been hard.”
    • Show joy: “That’s fantastic news!”

Practice Makes Perfect

Learning to ask questions takes time.

Here’s how to improve:

Listen to native speakers:

    • Watch English movies and shows.
    • Listen to podcasts or radio.
    • Notice how they ask questions.

Read a lot:

    • Books, newspapers, blogs.
    • See how questions are written.

Talk to people:

Use apps and websites:

    • Many have question practice.
    • Some give instant feedback.

Record yourself:

    • Ask questions into your phone.
    • Listen back to improve.

Play question games:

    • “20 Questions” is great.
    • One person thinks of something, others ask yes/no questions.

Conclusion

Asking questions in English doesn’t have to be scary.

Remember:

  • There are different types (yes/no, Wh-, choice, tag, indirect).
  • Question words (what, when, where…) help you get specific info.
  • Order matters: question word, helping verb, subject, main verb.
  • Avoid common mistakes like forgetting helping verbs.
  • Be polite using “could,” “would,” and indirect questions.
  • Ask follow-ups to show interest.
  • It’s okay to ask about unknown words.
  • Different situations need different questions.
  • Understand cultural rules.
  • Practice a lot and don’t fear mistakes.

The more you ask, the better you’ll get.

Questions open doors to knowledge, friendships, and better understanding.

So, go ahead—start asking!

_______________________

Check out these awesome English learning books I recommend:

Oxford Practical English Usage

Conversation Skills for All Occasions

ADVANCED COMMUNICATION ENGLISH

How to Talk to Anyone

EASY LEARNING ENGLISH CONVERSATION

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