Interrogative Sentence (question)

Is it safe?Dr Szell, Marathon Man

Interrogative sentences are one of the four sentence types (declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamative).

Interrogative sentences ask questions.

form function example
auxiliary verb + subject + verb... ask a question Does Mary like John?
interrogative sentence = question

What is the form of an interrogative sentence?

The typical form (structure) of an interrogative sentence is:

auxiliary verb + subject + main verb  
Do   you   speak English?
main verb BE + subject  
Were   you cold?

If we use a WH- word it usually goes first:

WH-word auxiliary verb + subject + main verb
When does   the movie   start?

The final punctuation is always a question mark (?).

Interrogative sentences can be in positive or negative form, and in any tense.

What is the function of an interrogative sentence?

The basic function (job) of an interrogative sentence is to ask a direct question. It asks us something or requests information (as opposed to a statement which tells us something or gives information). Interrogative sentences require an answer. Look at these examples:

  • Is snow white? (answer → Yes.)
  • Why did John arrive late? (answer → Because the traffic was bad.)
  • Have any people actually met an alien? (answer → I don't know.)

How do we use an interrogative sentence?

We use interrogative sentences frequently in spoken and written language. They are one of the most common sentence types. Here are some extremely common interrogative sentences:

  • Is it cold outside?
  • Are you feeling better?
  • Was the film good?
  • Did you like it?
  • Does it taste good?
  • What is your name?
  • What's the time?
  • Where is the toilet please?
  • Where shall we go?
  • How do you open this?

There are three basic question types and they are all interrogative sentences:

  • Yes/No question: the answer is "yes or no", for example:
    Do you want dinner? (No thank you.)
  • Question-word (WH) question: the answer is "information", for example:
    Where do you live? (In Paris.)
  • Choice question: the answer is "in the question", for example:
    Do you want tea or coffee? (Tea please.)

Look at some more positive and negative examples:

positive negative
Does two plus two make four?
Why does two plus two make four?
Doesn't two plus two make five?
Why doesn't two plus two make five?
Do you like coffee?
How do you like your coffee?
Do you not drink coffee?
When do you not drink coffee?
Did they watch TV or go out last night? Why didn't you do your homework?
When will people go to Mars? Why won't they return from Mars?
How long have they been married for? Haven't they lived together for over thirty years?

Indirect questions are not interrogative sentences

Try to recognize the difference between direct questions (in interrogative form) and indirect questions (in declarative form).

Direct question: Do you like coffee? This is an interrogative sentence, with the usual word order for direct questions: auxiliary verb + subject + main verb...

Indirect question: She asked me if I was hungry. This is a declarative sentence (and it contains an indirect question with no question mark). This sentence has the usual word order for statements: subject + main verb...

Mini Quiz

1. You don't like her? The form is

a) declarative b) interrogative c) exclamative

2. The interrogative form is typically used to

request information
give instructions
express surprise
a) request information b) give instructions c) express surprise

3. Interrogative sentences can be in any

perfect continuous tense
continuous tense
a) perfect continuous tense b) continuous tense c) tense

Your score is:

Correct answers:

Contributor: Josef Essberger