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14. Wh-questions


1 Introduction

Reporter Kitty Beamish is interviewing some guerrilla fighters.

Kitty - Guerrillas
Why are you fighting? - For our freedom.
What can you do for the people? - We can help them.
When will the war be over? - Very soon.

A wh-question begins with a question word. Question words are who, what, which, whose, where, when, why and how.
We use a wh-question to ask for information.

2 Form

Most wh-questions begin with a question word + an auxiliary verb + the subject. An auxiliary verb is a form of be or have or a modal verb, e.g. can.

The main verb be also comes before the subject in questions.
Where is Kitty?
are you?
was that noise?
If there is more than one auxiliary verb, only the first one comes before the subject.
The guerrillas have been hiding. --> Where have the guerrillas been hiding?
I should have said something. --> What should I have said?

In the Present Simple and Past Simple we use a form of do.

An ordinary verb such as meet, work or say cannot come before the subject.
NOT Where meet people? and NOT How works the radio?
The verb after the subject does not end in -s or -ed.
NOT How does the radio works? and NOT What did the guerrillas said?

3 Question phrases

Look at these question phrases with what and how.

What time is lour friend arriving? - Half past eight.
What colour is your toothbrush? - Yellow.
What kind of/What sort of club is it? - A nightclub.
How old is your sister? - She's twenty.
How often do you go out? - About once a week, usually.
How far is the beach? - Only five minutes' walk.
How long will the meeting last? - An hour or so, I expect.
How many televisions have you got? - Three.
How much money did you spend? - About a hundred pounds.

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