Indirect Questions

Indirect Questions includes both Reported Questions as well as questions asked out of timidity, politeness, hesitance, etc. The core structure of both is the same, though Reported Questions have additional considerations.

What to Expect

There are two types of indirect questions, for which the response we’re looking for isn’t a literal one. The first type is worded for the sake of politeness (or sometimes hesitance) when we would like information or a favor. The second type is reported questions, which repeat a question (but not word-for-word) that someone else might have asked.

The structure is the same for both types, so the featured method covers the 3 parts of indirect question structure. Reported Questions also build off aspects of declarative Reported Speech, so it’s important to cover that prior to teaching this lesson.


Learners should already be familiar with the following:

Question Words and what types of answers to expect from each: who, what, where, when, how, and why. Also ones that are followed by a category and ask for something more specific: whose, which, how many, and how much.

Yes/No Questions vs ‘WH’ Questions: although the structure of indirect questions is different from these two other types, students should know the difference between the two in terms of usage: namely that the former expects ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as an answer while the latter does not, and that the latter uses Questions words at the beginning while the former does not.

Declarative Structure is used for statements and is the most common sentence structure. For standard declaratives, the subject comes before the entire verb phrase, which comes before any objects or complements.

Students should know the 3 steps to making Reported Speech since they are used to make Reported Questions.

Proficiency Level

Students at the B2 level should be familiar with Indirect Questions. They’ll likely start learning them at an Upper Intermediate level (or 5th out of 6).*

*actual starting level varies from one course-book series to the next

Polite Questions
a polite expression
a 'wh' word; 'if'/'whether'
a request or inquiry
Reported Questions
speaker identification
a 'wh' word; 'if'/'whether'
a repeated question

Reported Questions also need to follow the rules of standard Reported Speech.

Bonus Notes

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Reported Speech

Indirect Questions includes Reported Questions. To better understand these, learn more about Reported Speech.
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Reported Questions require Backshifting, which is the process of changing a verb string to reflect an earlier time period.
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