Wh- 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

Wh-word Expresses notes
how manner
what things (unlimited choice)
which things (limited choice)
who people
whom people (accusative case) whose possessions
where place
when place
why reason
whether two or more alternatives

There are also some archaic question words:

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

The Five Ws

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?