'WH' Questions

Subject Questions and Object Questions are both considered here. (Note that Object Questions is in fact a specific type of Predicate Questions.) 'WH' Questions are open-ended, allow for the most freedom for answers among any of the question forms.

What to Expect

‘WH’ Questions are the most versatile of question forms. They can be structure to ask for any type of information, and the possible answers are open-ended. The result typically offers more information than any other question type.

There are two different ‘WH’ Question structures, each named after the type of answer sought. The first is Subject Questions, which are based on the declarative structure. The other is Predicate Questions, which are based on the Yes/No Question structure. At lower levels, you may want to limit the latter to Object Questions in particular, then explore more as students become comfortable with ‘WH’ Questions.


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, whichhow many, and how much.

Parts of a Sentence including subject, verb (auxiliary and main), and object; and Parts of Speech including adjectives, determiners, and prepositional phrases.

More advanced students should also know predicates and complements, even if they don’t know the terms themselves.

Yes/No Questions have a different word order than declarative sentences; the first auxiliary verb comes before the subject.

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.

Auxiliary Verbs, aka Helping Verbs: words that only exist in relation to the main verb; they can alter the voice, aspect (progressive and/or perfect), or modality of the verb string. Auxiliary Verbs include be, do, have, and modal verbs.

Proficiency Level

Students at the A2 level are expected to know ‘WH’ Questions. Although learners encounter these forms earlier, they’ll likely be studying them at the Pre-Intermediate level (or 3rd out of 6).*

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

Subject Questions

Subjective Questions are formed out of declarative statements – just replace the subject with a question word.

Object Questions

Object Questions and other Predicate Questions are formed out of Yes/No Questions – just add a question word to the beginning.

Try teaching ‘WH’ Question forms through guided discovery; give students all the individual words, have them put the words in order, then have them find a pattern in the order (perhaps by grouping them in columns).

Bonus Notes

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Yes/No Questions

Object Questions are built upon the foundation of Yes/No Questions, which are the basis for other question forms as well.
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Question Tags

While 'Wh' Questions are open-ended, Tag Questions are asked with the expectation of a certain answer.
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