What Wh questions are all about

In English, there are two types of questions all students must learn about. These are the WH questions and Yes or No questions. WH questions, also known as ‘open questions’, are question words that begin with “Wh-” words, plus the “H” for How.

Students like to respond to typical WH questions they are familiar with.

The five core WH questions in English are what, when, who, where, why and how. Some add ‘which’ and even ‘whose’ to make it seven or eight WH questions.

WH questions are known as open questions because when answering WH questions there are many possible responses the student can give. Yes-No questions, on the other hand, can only be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and this is why these types of questions are known as ‘closed questions.’

The hierachy of WH questions

Wh- questions are considered to be developmental milestones in speech development because they build the foundation for children to participate in conversations. Wh- questions enable children to collect information about themselves and their surroundings, and demonstrate the level of their acquired knowledge.

Usually, children start to learn Wh- questions start to ask and master the ”what” question earliest. Then ”who” and ”where” follow. Generally, the last question to be mastered is ”why”.

Usually, children start to learn wh- questions starting with more concrete questions, about their environment. So, the earliest question in the hierarchy of their development they ask and master is the ”what” question. Then ”who” and ”where” follow. Generally, due to its less concrete nature, the last question to be mastered is ”why”.

Toddlers between the ages of 1 and 2 years start answering ‘where’, ‘what’ and ‘what’s that’ questions.

Between 2 and 3 years they can answer age-appropriate ‘what’s X doing’ and ‘who’s that’ ‘where’s X’ questions. From the age of 3 to 4 they can answer ‘if X, what’. From the age they also start answering ‘when’ and ‘how many’ questions and start to ask wh-word questions: what, where, when and how.

How to form WH Questions?

A.  With an auxiliary

Wh word + auxiliary + subject + main verb …?

•             Auxiliary verbs are helping verbs (not main verbs).

•             Common auxiliary verbs include be, do, have. Others are will, shall, would, can, could, must, should, may, might, etc.

•             What do you do for a living?

•             Why should we read books?

•             When is she coming?

B. Without any auxiliary

This is when Wh words replace subjects already.

Wh-word + main verb …?

•             What happened to Peter?

•             A bad accident happened to him.

•             Who won the game?

•             Tio won the game.

•             Who gave you this present?

•             My cousin gave me this present.

Examples of WH questions

Question Words/MeaningExamples
WhoPersonWho is that? That’s Danny. Who are you? I’m Eric
WhatThing, idea or actionWhat do you do? I’m a teacher. What did you eat? I ate pasta. What is that? It’s a pencil.
What kindDescriptionWhat kind of food do you like? I like western food.
What timeTimeWhat time do you want to meet?
WherePlaceWhere are you from? I’m from South Africa Where did you go? I went to the shop.
WhenTimeWhen did you arrive? Just now. When does the bus depart? It leaves at 1pm.
WhyReasonWhy do you sleep early? Because I have to wake up early. (Usually start with because)
WhichChoiceWhich cake do you like better? I prefer the tiramisu. Which soft drink do you like best? I like Coca-cola. (Fun to ask a reason for their answer)
WhosePossessionWhose book is this? It is mine. It is Sarah’s.
WhomObject of the verbWhom did you meet? I met my boss.
HowMethod or conditionHow did you solve the problem? With my calculator. How was the movie? It was okay, but I expected more.  
How manyQuantity (countable)How many people are on the livestream? There are 200 people on the livestream
How muchAmount, priceHow much time do we have? We have 10 minutes. How much is it? It’s $20. (Remember the s)
How long (adjective)Duration, lengthHow long was the movie? It was 2 hours long.
How oftenFrequencyHow often do you go to the gym? I go 3 times a week.
How farDistanceHow far is it to your home? Around 2 km from here.
How oldAgeHow old are you? It’s a secret.
How comeReason (why)How come you are late? I overslept.

WH Questions List

What questions

  • What is it?
  • It’s a table.
  • What color is your dress?
  • It’s purple.
  • What is your mom doing?
  • She’s cooking in the kitchen.
  • What do you think about the party?
  • Well. It’s fun. I like the music best.
  • What will happen if our team loses this time?
  • We’ll be out of the game.

When questions

  • When will the train arrive?
  • The train will arrive in 30 minutes.
  • When does she get up?
  • She gets up at 6 am.
  • When did the party end?
  • It ended before 8 pm.
  • When are you going to visit James?
  • I’m going to see him tomorrow.

Where questions

  • Where do you live?
  • I live in Washington D.C.
  • Where are you going?
  • I’m going to the zoo.
  • Where’s the coffee bar?
  • It’s between the supermarket and the cinema.
  • Where did you leave my jacket?
  • I left it in my bedroom.
  • Where have you been?
  • I’ve been in the library reading books.

Who questions

  • Who’s this?
  • She’s my new roommate.
  • Who wants to be a scientist in the future?
  • My sister does. I don’t.
  • Who would you like to travel with?
  • I would like to travel with my best friend, Kim.
  • Who told you that secret?
  • Jenny did. She told me everything.
  • Who do you like the most in this class?
  • I like Henry. He’s so friendly.

Whom questions

  • Whom should we talk to?
  • We should talk to the principal. She’s responsible for student issues.
  • Whom did you see yesterday?
  • I saw Kevin and his girlfriend.
  • Whom would you like to interview?
  • I would like to interview Mr.Patrick, the director.
  • Whom do we have to contact?
  • We have to contact the representative of that company.
  • Whom did you meet in front of the building last week?
  • That was Annie, my secretary.
  • Whom do you know in this class?
  • I only know Danny.
  • Whom are you going to invite?
  • I’m going to invite all of my classmates
  • With whom do you agree?
  • I agree with Henry’s team.

Which questions

  • Which shirt do you like?
  • I like the one with the big yellow star on it.
  • Which color do you choose?
  • I choose red.
  • Which part do you like the most in this story?
  • I love the 2nd part when the prince came and proposed to the princess.
  • Which is the longest river in the world?
  • That’s the Nile.
  • Which one is yours?
  • Mine is the biggest one.

Whose questions

  • Whose jacket is this?
  • It’s my mom’s.
  • Whose birthday is today?
  • It’s Jenny’s.
  • Whose pencil is on the floor?
  • That’s mine.
  • Whose team is better?
  • Will’s team is much better.

Why questions

  • Why don’t we visit him now?
  • It’s a good idea.
  • Why did you leave so early?
  • Because I didn’t enjoy the party.
  • Why do you think that he loves you?
  • Because he’s given me lots of chocolate on Valentine’s day.
  • Why do people celebrate Thanksgiving?
  • Because it’s a special day.
  • Why can’t I go to the cinema now?
  • Because you haven’t done your homework.
  • Why are you so late?
  • Sorry, teacher. I missed the bus.

How questions

  • How’s the weather?
  • It’s sunny and hot.
  • How do you feel?
  • I feel much better now.
  • How did you know him?
  • We were old friends.
  • How’s your new job?
  • It’s interesting. I enjoy it.
  • How often do you go to the movie theater?
  • I sometimes go there. I’m quite busy.
  • How far is it from your house to school?
  • Not too far. I walk to school every day.
  • How much did it cost?
  • It cost $4.
  • How many people are there in your class?
  • There are 30 of them.
  • How come you lost the game?
  • I couldn’t answer the first question well enough.
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