Forming 'wh-' questions



Wh- questions start with who, what, when, where, why, which, whom, and whose. How is also included as a ‘wh-’ word even though it doesn’t begin with the letters ‘wh’. There are three basic ways to form wh- questions: with auxiliary verbs, with modal verbs, and without auxiliary or modal verbs.

With auxiliary verbs

wh- + auxiliary verb + subject + main verb

What is your assistant doing?

When do you leave for Paris?

Where is the restroom located?

Who did you travel with last week?

Why have you been crying?

With modal verbs

wh- + modal verb + subject + main verb

What can you do for me?

When should we go to the movies?

Where will we find someone to replace Janice?

Who could we get to deliver the training class.

How will you get to the conference?

Wh- words as subjects

Sometimes who, what, which, and whose are used as the subject or part of the subject of a sentence. In this case, auxiliary verbs and modal verbs are not used. Here's how those questions are formed.

wh- + verb + object

Who wrote this report?

What made that loud noise?

Which colleges visited your high school today?

Whose cell phone rang during the meeting?

Forming negative versions of wh-questions

When forming negative versions of the wh- questions with auxiliary verbs or modal verbs, change the verb to its negative form.

Who isn't attending the meeting?

Why haven't you called me?

Why shouldn't we attend the meeting?

Which company couldn't the sales team contact?

When forming negative versions of sentences where the wh- word is the subject or part of the subject, or no auxiliary verb or modal verb is used, then the negative version of the auxiliary verb do is used.

wh- + don't/doesn't/didn't + main verb

Who wants a raise? Who doesn't want a raise?

Whose car runs well? Whose car doesn't run well?

Who called the client? Who didn't call the client?

Which employee left work early? Which employee didn't leave work early?

Who finished their report? Who didn't finish their report?


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