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Indirect Questions

Indirect questions

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There are two main ways of asking questions – directly and indirectly. Both have the same meaning but we use indirect questions when we want to be more polite, more formal or less confrontational.
We can ask a direct question – Where is Brighton Pier? Or to be more formal or polite, we can ask an indirect question – I wonder if you could tell me where Brighton Pier is? Practice your use of Indirect questions with Philip your Skypeclass Teacher. The BBC also has an interesting report on Indirect Questions.

Word order

When we create indirect questions, the question (What time is it?) becomes part of a longer sentence or questions (Do you know.?) and the word order changes from the order of a direct question. For example:

Direct: What time is it?
Indirect: Do you know what time it is?
Direct: Why was he late?
Indirect: Can you tell me why he was late?

Direct: What is that?
Indirect: Would you mind telling me what that is?


Using ‘do’

When there is no auxiliary verb (be, do have, can, will etc) in a sentence, we need to put in do, does or did when we create a direct question. When we make this into an indirect question however, we don’t use the verb ‘do’. For example:

Direct: When does the lesson end?
Indirect: Could you tell me when the lesson ends?

Direct: What car does she drive?
Indirect: Can you tell me what car she drives?
Direct: How did you make that cake?
Indirect: Would you mind telling me how you made that cake?


Using ‘if’ or ‘whether’:

If there is no question word (who, what, when, why, how) in a direct question, we need to use ifor whether in the indirect question. For example:

Direct: Did she make it on time?
Indirect: Can you tell me if she made it on time?
Can you tell me whether she made it on time?

Direct: Is this the right bus for Oxford Street?
Indirect: Do you have any idea if this is the right bus for Oxford Street?

Direct: Is she French?