How to ask questions in English

by | Apr 7, 2019 | Grammar content, Interrogative Forms

If you are learning the language, one of the important topics you will need to know is how to ask questions in English. This post reviews the structure and gives examples of each type of question in songs. Unlike in other languages, when we ask questions in English we have to change the structure of the sentence, and this can be confusing. In this series of blog posts we are going to break down the topic into four types of question you should know how to ask in English.

Yes/No questions

Probably the simplest type of question in English, the answer to this type of question is a yes or a no.

How to form YES/NO questions in English

We always use an auxiliary verb  such as “do”, “be”, “have” or another modal verb, and we need to arrange the component parts of the question in the following manner:

[Auxiliary Verb] + [Subject] + [Main Verb] + [Object or Other Information] + ?

For more information and examples in the various tenses see our post “How to ask yes/no questions in English

Songs with YES/NO questions in English

  • Are you ready? (Bob Dylan)
  • Are you gonna be my girl? (Jet)
  • Are you happy now? (Michelle Branch?)
  • Am I wrong? (Nico & Vinz)
  • Is it still over? (Randy Travis)
  • Can you feel the love tonight? ( Lion King)
  • Have you forgotten? (Daryl Worley)
  • Have you ever seen the rain?(CCR)
  • Green fields of France (Eric Bogle)
  • Will you still love me tomorrow (The Shirelles)
  • When I’m sixty four (The Beatles)
  • Will you be there? (Michael Jackson)
  • Do you believe in life after love? (Cher)
  • Do you believe in magic? (The Lovin’ Spoonful)
  • Do you want to build a snowman? (Frozen)
  • Do they know it’s Christmas? (Band-aid)

Wh- questions

Wh- questions ask for more information than just a yes or no answer. They are more open, needing a longer response in general.

How to form WH- questions in English

It’s very simple to learn how to form “wh-” questions in English if you understand the structure of YES/NO questions

The structure of a “wh- question” is usually like this:

[“Wh-” word or phrase] + [Auxiliary Verb] + [Subject] + [Main Verb]+ [Object or Other Information] + ?

We usually just need to add a question word or phrase to the beginning of the yes/no question structure. For more information and examples in different tenses take a look at our article “How to ask open questions in English”

Question words used to ask questions in English

With the exception of “how” most question words are written with “wh-”. Here’s a quick recap of the question words and phrases including when to use them.

True “Wh-” question wordsHow to ask questions in English

What: asks for information about a thing or an object.

Which: is similar to “what” but we use it when there is a range or some options to choose from.

When: is used to ask for times or dates.

Where: asks for information about a location or a place.

Who: we use “who” if we require information about a person or people.

Why: indicates we want a reason or an explanation.

“How” question words:

How: leads to answers containing information the way or technique to do something.

How much: is used to ask about quantities of uncountable nouns such as sugar, water, money, etc.

How many: asks for quantities of things are countable such as people, bottles of water, euros, etc.

How often: indicates that we want a response about the frequency of an event.

How + adjective: additionally we can use “how” with a descriptive word (an adjective)  to ask about the degree or amount of that adjective. For example: “how tall,” “how flexible,” “how efficient,” “how old” and many others.

Question phrases

Sometimes, for more precision, we can use phrases with multiple words as a question word. For example, I can as “Where” but if I want more precise information I can ask “Where in Europe…” for example. There are an almost infinite amount of combinations of question phrases, such as “How many times this year,” “When in summer,” etc.

So although the question word may have more than one word, it will still go at the start of the sentence.

Songs with Wh- questions in English

  • Alan Walker – Faded (Where are you now)
  • Justin Bieber – What Do You Mean?
  • Ylvis – The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)
  • LeAnn Rimes – How Do I Live?
  • Led Zeppelin – How Many More Times
  • Haddaway – What Is Love?
  • Unklejam – What Am I Fighting For?
  • The Black Eyed Peas – Where Is The Love?
  • Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On?
  • Baha Men – Who Let The Dogs Out?
  • Rockapella – Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Questions with tags

Question tags are used to check that information we believe to be correct is actually correct. For example: You don’t speak French, do you?

The tag, in this case “do you?”, comes after the main clause and turns it into a question.

How to form a question with tags.

As with other types of questions we depend on an auxiliary verb to form the question tag.

[main clause] + [auxiliary] + [subject pronoun]

If the main clause is affirmative we need a negative (normally contracted) tag. If the main clause if negative, the question tag is affirmative:

Affirmative main clause: You support Man U, don’t you?

Negative main clause: You don’t think he’s cute, do you?

Songs with questions tags in English

By far the best song with examples of question tags is  A little time by the Beautiful South

The Beautiful South - A Little Time question tag structure

The Beautiful South – A Little Time

Here are some of the lyrics:

“Funny how quick the milk turns sour

Isn’t it, isn’t it

Your face has been looking like that for hours

Hasn’t it, hasn’t it”

And the song continues:

“You need a little room for your big head

Don’t you, don’t you

You need a little space for a thousand beds

Won’t you, won’t you”

Take a look at all the post in this blog series on how to ask questions in English. Don’t forget that if you would like some professional help from our outstanding English teachers and our fantastic unique method, you can sign up for a free trial on our website.