Question word

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A question word is a word used in asking open questions - that is, questions which ask for information. They are also known as wh-words (as most of them, with the exception of how begin with wh-). Many of them are also used as relative pronouns.

They may be contrasted with closed questions (also called polar questions) generated with modal verbs and which invite simple yes/no answers.

When talking to students teachers should attempt to pose questions using question words to encourage longer and more descriptive answers from students.

List of question words[edit]

  • which, what, whose
  • who, whom (human)
  • what, which (nonhuman)
  • where (location)
  • when (time)
  • how (manner)
  • why (reason)
  • whether (choice between alternatives)

See also WH Question Words at English Club.[1]

There are also some old fashioned or archaic question words:

  • whence (from what place; from what source)
  • wherefore (what for; why)
  • whither (to what place; where)

The Five Ws[edit]

In journalism, the Five Ws is a formula for getting the "full" story on something. In order for a report to be considered complete, it must answer a checklist of six questions consisting of the Five Ws (and one H):

  • Who? Who was involved?
  • What? What happened?
  • When? When did it happen?
  • Where? Where did it happen?
  • Why? Why did it happen?
  • How? How did it happen?


  1. EnglishClub, WH Question Words

See also[edit]

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