Posted in General, Grammar

Wh- Questions

‘Wh’ pronouns relate to the type of information you are looking for, and there really aren’t very many. The most common ones are:

What – a thing, object, or generality
Where – a place or direction
Why – a reason
How – a method (eg, for doing something)
Which – a choice
Whose – a possession (= who does this belong to)
When – a time or time period

[please forgive us for ‘how’ – it does have w & h in it]

Variations of HOW:

How much – a quantity (uncountable)
How many – a quantity (countable)

HOW plus an adjective or adverb also give you requests for something specific, usually a measurement or figure:

How long – a distance, length or time period
How tall – a height
How quick – a speed (or time related to speed)
How happy – a measurement of your state of happiness


“When were you born?” “In 1958.”
“When will you be going on holiday?” “Next week.”
“What is Mr Watson’s first name?” “John.”
“Which station do I need for Edinburgh?” “London King’s Cross”


Two final points:
1. WHAT is very general, so if you can’t find a ‘wh’ pronoun for the information you need, you can always use a phrase built around ‘what’, such as:
“What do you call that thing you use for ……”
“What year was it that Queen Victoria died?” (= same as ‘when’)

2. With all questions, students often get confused with ‘do/did’ in present and past simple. Because we don’t have to use the auxiliary when making simple statement sentences, it is easy to forget about, but you HAVE to use the auxiliary when making questions and negatives.

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