Interrogatives & Questions


 question may be either a linguistic expression used to make a request for information, or else the request itself made by such an expression.

 This information is provided with an answer.

 Questions are normally put forward or asked using interrogative sentences.

 However they can also be put by imperative sentences, which normally express commands:

"Tell me what two plus two is";

conversely, some expressions, such as

"Would you pass the salt?"

, have the grammatical form of questions but actually function as requests for action, not for answers,making them allofunctional.
(A phrase such as this could, theoretically, also be viewed not merely as a request but as an observation of the other person's desire to comply with the request given.)

 Yes/No Questions 

 Yes/no questions are asked using behavedo, or a modal verb.

  Yes/no questions always begin with one of these verbs and can be answered with a simple yes orno, or with the question repeated as a statement.


Use the verb be to ask about identity, description, location, and present or past activities and situations.

 Yes/no questions with the verb be are created by moving the verb be to the beginning of the sentence. In other words the subject and the verb change their positions in statements and questions. 

Identity / Description

You can use be plus a noun or adjective to ask about the identity or description of a personplace, orthing.


"Be" plus a prepositional phrase asks about present or past location.

Current or Past activity / situation

To ask about a current or past or activity or situation, use the present or the past progressive: present or past tense of "be" + present participle (verb+ing).

Past event

To ask about something that happened to someone or something, use the passive voice: past tense of "be" + past participle (verb + ed or en):


Use the verb "have" to ask if some action has taken place or whether somebody has done something.

Notice that the auxiliary verb "have" is in the present tense* and the main verb is always a past participle.

*It is possible to ask a yes/no question with "had", but this is done in very specific situations


Use the verb "do" to obtain facts about people, places, or things. "Do" is always followed by the subject and then a verb in the bare infinitive. 

 Modal auxiliary 

Use modal verbs to obtain more information about possibilities or uncertainties.

Modals are always followed by verbs in the bare infinitive.


 Wh-questions are formed with an interrogative word (who, whom, whose, what, which, when, where, why, how).

 Interrogative word 

 An interrogative word is a function word used for the item interrupted in an information statement.

  Interrogative words are sometimes called wh-words because most of English interrogative words start with wh-.

  In English, they are used in questions (Where is he going?) and interrogative content clauses (I wonder where he is going); their forms are also used as relative pronouns in certain relative clauses(The country where he was born) and certain adverb clauses (I go where he goes). 


The “grammar” used with wh- questions depends on whether the topic being asked about is the “subject” or “predicate” of a sentence.

 For the subject pattern, simply replace the person or thing being asked about with the appropriate wh-word.

To make a question using the predicate pattern, first form a yes/no question by inverting the subject and (first) auxiliary verb.

  Then, add the appropriate wh- word to the beginning of the sentence.

If there is no auxiliary and the verb is “be,” invert the subject and verb, then add the appropriate wh- word to the beginning of the sentence.


If there is no auxiliary and the verb is not “be,” add "do" to the beginning of the sentence. Then add the appropriate wh-question word. Be sure to “transfer” the tense and number from the main verb to the word "do".

 Negative question 

 "Negative questions," are interrogative sentences which contain negation in their phrasing, such as "Shouldn't you be working?".

  These can have different ways of expressing affirmation and denial from the standard form of question, and they can be confusing, since it is sometimes unclear whether the answer should be the opposite of the answer to the non-negated question.

  For example, if one does not have a passport, both "Do you have a passport?" "Don't you have a passport?" are properly answered with "No", despite apparently asking opposite questions.

The Japanese language avoids this ambiguity. Answering "No" to the second of these in Japanese would mean, "I do have a passport".

Negative questions are of two kinds: contracted and uncontracted.

They have different word order.

 Contracted negative question 

 Uncontracted negative questions 

Uncontracted negative questions are more formal than contracted negative questions. 

Contracted negative questions beginning with Won’t you …? Wouldn’t you…? or Why don’t you …? are very common in polite requestsinvitationsofferscomplaints and criticisms.


Wouldn’t you like a cup of coffee?
Why don’t you come and stay with us?

 Answer to negative question 

In a reply to a negative question,

"yes" suggests a positive answer,

and "no" suggests a negative answer.


・‘Haven’t you written to her?’ ‘Yes.’ (= I have written to her.)

・‘Haven’t you told her about us?’ ‘No.’ (= I haven’t told her about you.)