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Wh Questions

Guide to Common Questions with What, Where, When, Why, Who and How

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The most common questions in English are often referred to as 'wh' questions. 'Wh' questions begin with 'wh' and include:

Where
When
Why
What
Who

How is often included with these why questions, even though it does not begin with 'wh'. 'Wh' questions ask for specific responses as to the time, place, reason, thing or person.

Where - asks a question about place
When - asks questions about time
Why - asks questions about reasons
What - asks questions about things or objects
Who - asks questions about people

The answer to 'wh' questions often repeats the same verb as in the question form.

Examples:

Where does he live?
He lives in New York.

When did they have dinner?
They had dinner at six o'clock.

Why is going to study French?
He is going to study French because he wants to go to Paris.

What does she use to clean her clothes?
She uses a washing machine.

Who do they like?
They like Mr. Smith.

How does he play tennis?
He plays tennis well.

Advanced Learning Notes on 'Wh' Questions

Note that the verb is repeated when it expresses a specific action. When more general verbs such as 'do' and 'go' are used, it's common to use a more specific verb in the reply.

Examples:

Where did he go?
He caught a flight to Mexico.

What does she do?
She works as an engineer.

Why did he do it?
He wanted to get a raise.

Wh Questions - Special Case Why

Questions with 'why' are often replied to using 'because'.

Examples:

Why are you working so hard?
Because I need to finish this project soon.

Why did he move to New York?
Because he wanted to be closer to his parents.

Questions with 'why' are often replied to using the imperative (to do). In this case, the clause with 'because' is understood to be included in the answer.

Examples:

Why does he get up so early?
To get in shape. = Because he wants to get in shape.

Why are they coming next week?
To make a presentation. = Because they are going to make a presentation.

Wh Questions - Short Forms

'What', 'who' and 'where' are often combined with a preposition to ask short, follow-up questions.

Examples:

Are you busy next weekend?
Yes, I'm working next weekend?
What for?
Because I need to finish the project.

Jennifer is writing a new article?
Who for?
She's writing it for Jane Magazine.

I have to go away on business next week.
Where to?
I'm flying to Seattle on Friday.

With Who(who)

Questions with 'who' and 'with' can begin with the preposition. The more formal form is 'with whom'.

Examples:

I'm having dinner in the city tonight.
With who(m)?

Wh Questions - With Prepositions

A number of 'wh' questions can combine with prepositions. When combining with a preposition, we generally place the preposition at the end of the question. Here is a list of a few of the more common combinations:

who ... for
who ... with
where ... to
where ... from
what ... for (= why)
what ... in
etc.

Examples:

Who are you working for?
Who is speaking with?
Where are they going to?
Where does she come from?
What did he buy that for?
What does she believe in?

wWh Questions - Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs often end in prepositions. For 'wh' questions used with phrasal verbs the prepositions are placed at the end of the sentence.

Examples:

What are you looking at?
Who did she look after?
How did they get by?

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