Questioning a Witness - English for Police

This page from our English for Police section covers language police need when talking to witnesses in an English-speaking context.
witness (verb): to see something happen
witness (noun): a person who sees something happen

Witnesses are valuable to the police. A witness is somebody who is actually present when something happens and who sees what happens. The police usually like to question all witnesses as soon as possible after a crime, accident or other event.

Example Sentences

Questions police ask witnesses

  • Did you see what she was wearing?
  • Did he have a weapon?
  • Was the gun loaded?
  • What kind of car was the thief driving?
  • I will need to get a statement from you.
  • How long ago did this happen?
  • If you think of anything else, please notify us.

Description of a suspect

  • He was wearing sunglasses.
  • He had a mustache.
  • He had a beard.
  • She was dressed in black.
  • She had a baseball cap on.
  • She was wearing gloves.
  • Hair: short, long, shoulder length, curly, straight, spiky, brown, blond, black, red, in a ponytail
  • Body: skinny, fat, chubby, medium build, muscular, tall, short, average height

Sample Conversation

An ESL teacher working in Korea witnesses a bank robbery. The police question her as a witness...

Police: I understand you were the key witness for the robbery.

Woman: Yes, I was the only other person in the bank besides the tellers.

Police: Are you okay to answer some questions for me?

Woman: Sure. I don't know how much help I'll be. He made me get on the ground so I didn't get a very good look at him.

Police: Was he carrying a weapon?

Woman: Yes, he had a pistol in his back pocket. He threatened to use it, but I doubt it was loaded.

Police: What makes you say that?

Woman: He was just a kid. Probably fifteen or younger.

Police: Can you describe him for me?

Woman: He was Asian. Probably five foot six. He was wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses. I can't remember what else he was wearing.

Police: Did he talk directly to you? I mean, did he ask you for your money or anything?

Woman: No, he just told me to get on the ground. That's all I know. I'm running late for a class. Is it okay if I go now?

Police: I just want to get your name and phone number. If you think of anything else, please notify us.

Check your understanding

Test your understanding of the conversation above with this quick quiz.

1. Why is the policeman questioning the woman?

she robbed a bank
her money was stolen
she saw a robbery
a) she robbed a bank b) her money was stolen c) she saw a robbery

2. Which of the following does NOT describe the robber?

he was quite old
he was a teenager
he was wearing a hat
a) he was quite old b) he was a teenager c) he was wearing a hat

3. What does the woman say the thief was carrying?

a pistol
a loaded rifle
a bag of money
a) a pistol b) a loaded rifle c) a bag of money

Your score is:

Correct answers:

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