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Indirect Questions: Wh Questions


Mark asks for some advice at his hotel reception.

Mark: Good morning. I need a little help if you don’t mind.

Receptionist: Good morning sir. How may I help you?

Mark: Well, could you tell me where the nearest bank is? I need to change some money.

Receptionist: Ah, bank, yes. There is one just across the road, right opposite in fact. Anything else?

Mark: Do you know what time it opens?

Receptionist: It opens at nine, so it's already open.

Mark: Thanks. Great. I better get across now then. Oh, one last thing. Can you tell me when the restaurant stops serving breakfast? I haven’t eaten yet.

Receptionist: Uh, breakfast stops at ten, but you can still order other food in the restaurant anytime.

Mark: OK. Great. Thank you for that. I better get going.

Receptionist: You’re welcome. Have a good day, sir.

Grammar Notes

Point 1: We use indirect questions when we want to be polite. They are more polite than direct questions.
Point 2: With indirect questions using the verb 'be', the verb 'be' comes after the noun. This is different to direct questions.
  1. Could you tell me where the elevator is?
  2. Do you know when the bus is coming?
Point 3: Indirect questions do not usually use the auxiliary verb 'do'. The direct version of the question uses the auxiliary verb 'do'.
  1. Can you tell me when the supermarket opens? (The direct versions would be: When does the supermarket open?)
  2. Do you know when the ferry arrives? (The direct version would be: When does the ferry arrive?)
Point 4: Level of politeness.
  1. Could you tell me                                Polite
  2. Can you tell me
  3. Do you know                                       Quite polite
Point 5: In many situations we start with the more polite form and then move into the less polite ones when speaking.
Answer these questions about the interview.

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Vocabulary Challenge

Complete the sentences with the words below.
who • when • where • what
why • how • which
  1. I do not know to wear today!
  2. Do you know one is cheaper?
  3. Can you tell me to use this?
  4. I am not sure he said that.
  5. I don't know he will be back.
  6. We do not know will speak at the meeting.
  7. We still do not know he went.