Question words

(Using question words in English grammar)

Table of contents – question words

On this page you will find the following:

  1. Use of question words
  2. Use of the question word ‘how’
  3. Further explanations and exercises

What are the question words in English?

Most question words in English begin with a ‘wh’ and are, therefore, also called wh-question words for simplification. They ask for a missing part in the sentence or statement. Although it does not begin with ‘wh’, ‘how’ belongs to this group too and is usually included when one speaks about wh-questions. Compare the following information:

  • Usage and meaning of the question words with ‘wh’ in example sentences:
    1. What …?” asks for the thing:
      • What are you doing?”
    2. Where …?” asks for the place:
      • Where do you come from?”
    3. When …?” asks for the time:
      • When did you come home?”
    4. Why …?” asks for the reason:
      • Why do you say that?”
    5. Who …?” asks for a person:
      • Who is that?”
    6. Which …?” asks for a thing if a choice of several is given:
      • Which colour do you prefer? Green or blue?”
    7. Whose …?” asks for possession:
      • Whose car is that?”
  • Information: The wh-question words may serve as relative pronouns or relative adverbs too. In this function, they appear at the beginning of relative clauses.

How is the question word ‘how’ used?

Use and purpose of the question word ‘how’. Note that it frequently combines with an additional word:

  1. How …?” asks for the manner:
    • How are you?”
  2. How + adjective …?” asks ‘how’ something is in terms of size or state, etc.:
    • How old is your sister?”
  3. How + adverb …?” asks ‘how’ an action or the like is done or performed:
    • How well does your brother speak Swedish?”
  4. How much …?” asks for the amount of something uncountable:
    • How much time do we have left?”
  5. How many …?” asks for the number of countable things:
    • How many days did you stay in London?”

Further explanations related to the topic ‘Question words’

The following explanations relate to ‘Using question words (‘wh’ and ‘how’) in English grammar’ and might also help you: