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Asking English Questions

A Simple Guide to Asking Direct and Indirect Questions in English

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Direct / Indirect Questions

First I would like to say that this is my explanation of what direct and indirect questions are, and not everyone would agree with me.

When you ask a direct question, like "What time is the meeting?" you're being quite informal, some might even say abrupt, or even rude. You can make it more polite by adding please, "What time is the meeting, please?", but to be even more polite we rephrase it into an indirect question; "Do you know what time the meeting is?", or "Could you tell me what time the meeting is?" and if you want to be really OTT "Could you tell me what time the meeting is, please?"

They're all the same question as "What time is the meeting?", but we think it's more polite to rephrase it, it can be confusing, and some people even think it's long-winded and unnecessary.

Other ways of starting indirect questions are:-

Do you know ...
Would you mind telling me...
Would it be possible...
Can you tell me...
Have you any idea ...

!Note - when you're asking an indirect question there's no change in word order as there is in a direct question.

The time is ...
IQ - Could you tell me what the time is?

DQ - What time is it?

Just to confuse you, some people include what I call "reported questions" under the term "indirect questions", the confusion arises from direct and indirect speech. To me a reported question is when you are reporting what someone else asked. For example: "She asked me what the time was." (No question mark.)

Other people include things like, "Tell me the time!" but to me that's not a question, it's a command. (Again no question mark).

I hope this helps.

You can practise asking and answering questions on the forum.
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