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What Are the Wh Questions in English?

In English, one type of question is the “Wh question.”

Wh questions begin with who, what, where, when, why, which or whose. How is often included in this list as well, even though it doesn’t begin with “wh.” 

You can use Wh questions to find out information about people, places, ideas or things.

Read on to learn how to ask Wh questions in English, with many examples to support your understanding.

Contents


Overview of Wh Questions in English 

Wh questions are called “open questions” because there are many possible answers (as opposed to just “yes” or “no”).

For example, your answer to the question “Where are you from?” may be different from your friend’s answer to this question. You can’t say “yes” or “no” because the answer must be a place, like “China” or “Mexico City.”

Here’s an example for each of the Wh question words, along with the type of information they ask about: 

Question WordType of InformationExample
Who Person Who is your favorite singer?
What Thing What time is it?
Where Place Where is the bathroom?
When Time When is your birthday?
Why Reason Why do you want to learn English?
Which Choice Which backpack is yours?
Whose Possession Whose cell phone is this?
How Manner How are you?

For a more in-depth overview of Wh questions, check out this video lesson from Ellii

What…?

“What” is a very common question word. Use “what” to ask about a thing or idea. Usually, the answer to a “what” question is a noun (a person, place, thing or idea).

For example:

QuestionsAnswers
What is your favorite book? My favorite book is "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
What time is it? It's 8 o'clock.
What did you study at college? I studied biology.

You can also use “What?” to ask someone to repeat something, or use a longer phrase link What did you say?”

When…?

We use “when” to ask about a time or date.

For example:

QuestionsAnswers
When did you finish your homework? I finished it this morning.
When are we going shopping? We're going shopping on Sunday.
When do you usually take a shower? I usually shower in the morning.

To ask about a specific time, you can replace “when” with “what time.”

What time does the movie start?

Where…?

We use “where” to ask about a place.

For example:

QuestionsAnswers
Where did you go to school? I went to school in India.
Where were you born? I was born in Cuba.
Where is the bathroom? It's at the end of the hall.

Why…?

We use “why” to ask for a reason or explanation. The answer will usually include the word “because.”

For example:

QuestionsAnswers
Why is the stove on? It's on because I'm boiling water to make pasta.
Why didn't you come to my party? Because I was too tired.
Why are you angry? Because my sister took my bike.

Who…?

We use “who” to ask a question about a person or people.

For example:

QuestionsAnswers
Who is your brother? He's the boy wearing the green shirt.
Who did you eat lunch with? I ate lunch with my friends.
Who is your favorite actor? My favorite actor is Brad Pitt.

Whom” is another question word like “who.” However, “whom” is not very common. Technically, “whom” asks about the direct object of the sentence. For example:

A: To whom should we send the letter?
B: We should send it to my mom.

In English, saying “whom” is formal. You can just use “who” in your conversations.

Whose…?

To find out who owns something, start the question with “whose.”

For example:

QuestionsAnswers
Whose book is this? It's mine.
Whose dog is this? This is Phil's dog.
Whose party did you go to? Emily's.

Which…?

Use the word “which” to ask about a specific choice.

For example:

QuestionsAnswers
Which kind of ice cream would you like, strawberry or chocolate? I'd like chocolate, please.
Which movie did you prefer? I preferred the horror movie.
Which route do you take to work? I take the highway because it's the fastest route.

How…?

“How” doesn’t start with “Wh,” but it works the same as the Wh question words. We use “how” to ask about the way something happened or the way to do something.

For example:

QuestionsAnswers
How did my car get scratched? I don't know.
How do you cook broccoli? You can boil or steam it.

You can also use “how” to ask about the condition, quality or state of something. That means you want to know if something is good or bad.

QuestionsAnswers
How was your day at work? It was good.
How was the movie you watched last night? It was amazing!
How is your cat doing? She's doing alright.

To ask for specific information, you can add an adjective or adverb after the word “how.”

Here are some common examples:

How far” asks about distance.

How far is the shopping mall?

How long” asks about time.

How long did you cook the turkey?

How many” asks about a countable noun.

How many rooms are in your house?

How much” asks about an uncountable noun.

How much water do you drink every day?

How much” also asks about money.

How much did you pay for your car?

How old” asks about age.

How old is your son?

How come” is an informal way to ask “why.”

How come you didn’t come to school yesterday?

How to Form Wh Questions in English

Here’s how to form a Wh question in English:

1. Start with the Wh- question word: Choose the appropriate question word (who, what, where, etc.) based on the information you want to ask about.

2. Follow with the auxiliary verb or modal verb (if needed): Depending on the tense and verb structure, you might need to include an auxiliary verb (do, be or have) or a modal verb (e.g., can, could, will, would, should, etc.).  

3. Add the subject (if needed): Include the subject of the sentence (the person or thing that does the action of the verb), if it’s not represented by the question word.

4. Finish with the main verb (if needed): Include the main verb of the question (the action word) when needed. It can be in its base form (ex: “eat”) or conjugated depending on the tense and structure (ex: “eating”).

5. Add any other necessary elements (if needed): If the question is more complex, you might need to add extra information (objects, adverbs, adjectives, etc.).

Here are a few examples to illustrate:

Why are you upset?

This question uses the auxiliary verb “to be,” conjugated as “are.” “Are” is also the main verb of the question. “You” is the subject and “upset” is an adjective

What are you reading?

This question also uses “are” as the auxiliary verb. “You” is the subject and “reading” is the main verb, conjugated in the present continuous tense

Where did they go on vacation?

This question uses “to do” as the auxiliary verb, conjugated as “did” because it’s asking about the past tense. “They” is the subject and “go” is the main verb. 

When will the concert start?

This question asks about the future tense, so it uses the modal verb “will.” Next, we add the subject (“the concert”) and then the main verb (“start”). 

Who ate the cake?

In this question, “who” represents the subject of the question. That means we don’t need to use an auxiliary or modal verb or add the subject. We just put our main verb in the past tense (“ate”) and then add the object (“the cake”).

Quiz on Wh Questions

Practice makes perfect! Choose the best word or phrase to complete each question in the quiz below. Just refresh the page if you want to start over or retake it.

0%
____ is your dog's name?
Correct! Wrong!

____ ____ oranges did you buy?
Correct! Wrong!

____ did you grow up?
Correct! Wrong!

____ is your favorite actor?
Correct! Wrong!

____ ____ is the movie?
Correct! Wrong!

____ did you study biology?
Correct! Wrong!

____ purse is this?
Correct! Wrong!

____ car did you buy?
Correct! Wrong!

____ did you make that?
Correct! Wrong!

____ ____ away is the office?
Correct! Wrong!

____ should we send this box to?
Correct! Wrong!

____ ____ is your father?
Correct! Wrong!

____ did you talk to?
Correct! Wrong!

____ ____ did your jacket cost?
Correct! Wrong!

____ did you buy this house?
Correct! Wrong!

____ ____ you went to university?
Correct! Wrong!

Wh Questions
Keep practicing!
Review this post a few more times and then refresh the page to retake the quiz and try for a higher score.
You're getting there!
You've learned some of the Wh question words in English! Review this post once or twice more and then refresh the page to retake the quiz and try for a higher score.
Nice job!
You're well on your way to mastering the Wh questions in English. Refresh the page to retake the quiz and try for a perfect score!
Congratulations!
You've mastered the Wh questions in English! Now it's time to start using them in your English conversations.

How to Practice Wh Questions

You will need to practice to really get the hang of (become good at) Wh questions in English. There are many places you can practice Wh questions online.

 

Wh questions will help you have many different conversations in English. You will feel more confident during small talk, job interviews and more!

But don’t stop there: how far will your English take you?

And One More Thing...

If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:

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If you want to watch it, the FluentU app has probably got it.

The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.

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FluentU lets you learn engaging content with world famous celebrities.

For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:

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FluentU lets you tap to look up any word.

Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.

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FluentU helps you learn fast with useful questions and multiple examples. Learn more.

The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.

Start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or Google Play store. Click here to take advantage of our current sale! (Expires at the end of this month.)

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