In English language there are four types of sentences based on their function. Interrogative sentence is one among them. About this type of sentence we have already explained in the article named type of sentences. In this article we shall learn about interrogative Sentence in much more detail.
What is an interrogative sentence?
An interrogative sentence is a sentence which asks direct question. It starts in a capital letter and ends in a question mark. In this type of sentence there is inversion of subject and predicate. That is, that the verb of the predicate comes before the subject.
- Where did it come from?
- You are not tired, are you?
- Aren’t you going there?
- Do you want juice or coffee to drink?
Uses of Interrogative sentences
Interrogative sentences are mostly used to get information and also for requesting for something, giving some suggestions or offering something etc. Using interrogative sentences, we can get people to do things. For this we take the help of helping verbs such as can, shall etc.
- Can I take one cup, please?(Requesting)
- Shall we go by bus? (suggestion)
- Can I carry the bag for you? (offering)
- May I take one of these samples? (Asking for permission.)
Inversion of auxiliary verb and subject.
In a sentence (clause) generally subject comes first and then predicate. This is the normal word order. If there is an object, the English sentence conforms to subject +verb +object (SVO) word order.
He is playing. (This is a statement.”He”, the subject, comes first and then the predicate,” is playing”)
- Tom eats a mango. (In this statement Tom, the subject, comes first and the predicate comes afterwards.)
When verb comes before the subject, we say that there is “inversion of subject and verb”
In order to form interrogative sentences, we have to take the help of auxiliary verbs.
- Is he playing? (In this question, the auxiliary verb, “is” comes first and then the subject, “he”).
- Does Tom eat a mango? (In this question, too the auxiliary verb “does” come first and then the subject, “Tom”).
From the above examples, it can be seen that there is inversion of subject and the auxiliary verb (that is, the verb comes before subject) in interrogative sentences.
Note: In wh- interrogative sentences, a question word can be the subject of an interrogative sentence. In such cases, there is no inversion and the word order is the same as a statement.
- Who told you that he was there? (“Who” is subject and there is no inversion.)
- Who did you ask to help you? (“Who” is object here and there is inversion.)
- Whose is this shirt? (“Whose” is complement here and there is inversion.)
Types of Interrogative sentences
There are four types of interrogative sentences.
2. Yes/No interrogatives
3. Alternative interrogatives
4. Tag questions.
Wh-interrogatives are questions that begin with question words. A question word or interrogative word is a function word whose function is to ask a question. There are nine question words in English language. They are also called wh- words because excluding “how”, all the other question words start with wh-. The question words and the formation of the interrogative sentences using each of these question words are given below.
Who, where, when, why, what, which, whose, whom and how are called question words as these are mostly used to ask questions. A question word can be subject, object, complement or adverbial. When the question word is subject, there is no inversion subject and verb. That is, the word order will be the same as in a statement.
Questions that begin with “who”
“Who” is always used to refer person or people. It is a pronoun and cannot come before a noun.” Who” can be subject, an object of a verb and it can be the object of a preposition too. When who is object we can use whom instead. But who is more common in every day speech.
- Who was the chief guest? (Subject)
- Who did you invite to inaugurate your shop? (object)
- Who were you referring to? (object of preposition)
Questions that begin with “where”
When we want to know about the place or position, we use “where“. It is used as an adverbial. It can be the object of preposition.
- Where should I place this flower vase?(position)
- Where do you want to go?(place)
- Where does this puppy come from?(Object of the preposition, from)
Questions that begin with “when”
“When” is used when we want to know the time, occasion etc.
- When will she go?
- When did the bridegroom arrive?
“When” can be part of a sub clause?
- When will she know what is happening here? (“When will she know” is a subordinate clause)
Questions that begin with “why” and “why don’t”
We use the question word, “why” when we want to know the reason or want to get an explanation. We use “why don’t” to give suggestion.
- Why are you late?
- Why didn’t you come yesterday?
- Why don’t you go to his office and meet him in person? (Suggestion.)
Questions that begin with “what”
“What“ is the question word mostly used to refer non-human being. But it can refer to people when it comes before a noun. “What” is a pronoun and it can be subject or object. Sometimes it acts as a determiner too. As already pointed out, when the question word is the subject, there is no inversion of subject and verb
- What smells sweet? (subject, no inversion)
- What does he eat? (object, there is inversion of auxiliary verb and subject)
- What bus can you catch? (determiner)
- What do you mean?(Pronoun, object, inversion)
“What” can combine with other words to form phrase.
- What time is the next bus? (Phrase with noun)
- What about a film after lunch? (Phrase with preposition)
Questions that begin with “which”
We use” which” to ask question when there are choices.” Which” can be used to refer to human as well as not human. “Which” can be used as pronoun and determiner. Which can come before one/ones as well as before an of-phrase?
“What” and “which” have slight difference in meaning. What is used when there are many/ indefinite number of answers whereas which is used when there is a definite number of answers. In some context either of them can be used.
- Which dress do you like?(determiner)
- Which do you prefer? (pronoun, object)
- Which of these games do you want to play?
- Which one is the best?
- What part/which part of our country do you like to settle down?(Either what or which can be used
Questions that begin with “whose”
“Whose” is the possessive form of the pronoun, “who“. It generally appears before a noun.
- Whose house is that?
- Whose car is costlier?
Questions that begin with “whom”
“Whom” is another wh- question word. It is the object form of “who”. We use “whom” to refer human beings. This is used mostly in formal writing only. This question word is used usually with prepositions.
- For whom you are preparing this house plan?
- From whom you expect to get help?
Questions that begin with “how”
This question word is used to ask direct and indirect questions, to get information regarding distance or amounts, for expressing manner, degree etc. When expressing degree, “how” comes before an adjective or adverb. “How” can combine with other words to form phrases
- How did he know?
- How long have you been here?
- How many students are there in this school?
- How much money does she require a month?
- How often do you go to the boarding school to meet your son?
- How was your week end?
2. Yes/No interrogatives
Yes/No interrogatives are questions that can be answered with either a yes or no. These are formed with the help of auxiliary verbs. These auxiliary verbs are inverted with the subject.
Do you go to the library daily?
Did you meet your girl friend yesterday?
Have you collected all the required details?
May I come with you?
3. Alternative interrogatives
3. Alternative interrogatives are questions that give the listener a choice of two or more answers in the question. These are also called choice questions. The alternative questions are generally formed using an auxiliary verb (be, do or have) or a modal verb. The beginning of the question can be an auxiliary/model verb. If any conjugated form of “be” is acting as the main verb, then separate auxiliary verb is not required.
- Do you want to go to Ooty, or Goa?
- Will you have fruit juice, or coco cola?
- Should I come with you, or will you go alone?
- Will you come with me now or go with Thomas afterwards?
4. Tag questions
Tag questions are questions formed by attaching question tags onto the end of the declarative sentences, i.e., statements. When the statement is positive the tag will be negative and vice versa. The tag questions are used for getting confirmation.
- Ann is laughing, isn’t?
- Jack went up the hill, didn’t he?
- He should work hard, shouldn’t he?
- You are not joking, are you?
- He cannot come, can he?
- He tries hard, doesn’t he?
- In the positive sentences (the highlighted questions may be noted); “Do” is not required. But the question tags require “Do”, in appropriate conjugated form.
- This, that, these or those are not used in a question tag. But if the subject in the statement is “there”, it can be used in the question tag.
- There are a lot of mangoes on the tree, aren’t there?
- There were a lot of trees here before, weren’t there?
Rhetorical questions are questions that are asked for effect. The speaker actually does not expect an answer .perhaps he knows the answer and he is asking the question just to create an impact. Some rhetorical questions may not have any answer at all.
- What is happening to our youth today?
- Who cares?
- Do you think I am a fool?
Indirect questions/embedded questions
Some declarative sentences have questions embedded in them. They are not to be treated as questions and question mark should not be put at the end. These follow the normal SVO pattern. They are used to politely ask for something. Especially when we are talking to someone we don’t know.
If the indirect question is inside a question, then there should be question mark at the end.
- Jill asked where the well was. (“Where the well was”, is embedded in a statement. There is no question mark at the end)
- Could you tell me where the well is? (“Where the well is”, is embedded in the question. There is question mark at the end)