Indirect Wh- questions

Could you tell me when the train will arrive?

What are indirect Wh- questions?

You already now a bit about direct Wh- questions. Click here if you need a summary. Now we are going to go one step forward learning indirect Wh-questions.

You can ask Wh-questions the way we learned (placing WH at the beginning of the question). These are direct questions. But you can turn them into indirect questions.

Why use indirect questions? They are more polite. You can use them to ask for directions in the street or to talk to someone you don’t know.

Let’s see some examples of direct Wh-questions:

Who is your best friend?
What time is the meeting?
Where did you go on vacation?
When is your birthday?
Why did she quit her job?
How do you make a pizza?

Now let’s transform these into indirect questions. There is no single answer. It’s very common to start indirect questions like: do you knowcan/could you tell me

Look at the difference in the word order in a direct question and an indirect question:

Can you tell me who your best friend is?
Do you know what time the meeting is?
I wonder where you went on vacation.
Could you let me know when your birthday is?
Would you mind telling me why she quit her job?
Could you show me how to make a pizza?

Direct into indirect question transformations

Here’s a summary of direct questions transformed into indirect questions in different tenses. Notice how the tenses are adjusted accordingly:

Present Simple:

Direct: What time does the train leave?
Indirect: Could you tell me what time the train leaves?

We keep both in present simple!

Past Simple:

Direct: Where did you go yesterday?
Indirect: I was wondering where you went yesterday.

Same here, we keep the past simple in both sentence. And same thing for the rest of the list!

Present Continuous:

Direct: What are you doing?
Indirect: Can you tell me what you are doing?

Present Perfect:

Direct: How long have they lived here?
Indirect: Do you know how long they have lived here?

Past Continuous:

Direct: What were you doing at 8 PM last night?
Indirect: I was wondering what you were doing at 8 PM last night.

Future Simple:

Direct: When will she arrive?
Indirect: Could you let me know when she will arrive?

Indirect questions are very common and you’ll sound more fluent if you use them! 😉