Direct and Indirect Questions in English

Many people e-mailed me about how to improve their communication skill. So I thought of introducing new section for them.

Check out the grammar and tenses section in the home page or click here.

If you have any other example please leave it in the blog, others could find that useful. 

Now lets get back to Direct and Indirect Questions in English.

Direct questions – yes / no questions in English.

1. He likes swimming.
2. He can swim long distances.
3. He is a good swimmer.

To make sentence 1 into a question, you need to add does. The does goes before he.

Does is only used if the subject is he, she or it – in all other cases, use do.

The verb like goes after the subject, but it doesn't have an 's' on the end.

Remember: after auxiliary verbs (like do, does, have, can, etc.) the verb is in the infinitive, without 'to'.

"Does he like swimming?" Not "Does he likes swimming?" or "Do he like swimming?"

If the sentence is in the past tense (he liked swimming), we use the past form of 'do' or 'does', which is did. The verb 'like' is still in the infinitive without 'to'.

For example, "Did he like swimming?" Not "Did he liked swimming?"

To make sentence 2 into a question, you don't need to use 'does' because you already have an auxiliary verb – can. So you put the can before he.

"Can he swim long distances?" Not "Can swim he long distances?" or "Does he can swim long distances?"

To make sentence 3 into a question, use is as the auxiliary.

"Is he a good swimmer?" Not "Does he is a good swimmer?" or "Does he be a good swimmer?"

Direct questions – "wh" questions

What is your name?
Why do you want this job?
How much do you earn?
How soon can you start?
When did you see the advertisement?
Where do you live?
Which newspaper did you see the advertisement in?
Who gave you my name?

After the "wh word" (what, why, how, when, etc) comes the auxiliary (do, does, did or can), then the subject (you) , then the rest of the question.

Note: if 'who', 'which' or 'what' are the subject of the question, you don’t need an auxiliary.

For example, "What happened?" Not "What did happen?" The thing that happened is what – the subject of the question.

"Who saw you?" Someone saw you – who was it?

Compare with "Who did you see?" You saw someone – who was it?)

"Which company made a profit?" A company made a profit – which company was it?

Compare with "Which company did you work for?" You worked for a company – which one was it?

Indirect questions in English

If you want to ask a question that is quite sensitive, try using one of the indirect phrases below:

Can you tell me…
Could you tell me…
I'd be interested to hear…
I'd like to know…
Would you mind telling me…

These questions are followed by either about, a "wh word" or if. Then you add the subject, then the sentence.

You don't need an 'auxiliary', such as 'do', 'does', 'did', or 'can'.

"Can you tell me what you like most about your present job?" Not "Can you tell me what do you like?"

"I'd be interested to hear about your experiences."

"Would you mind telling me if you have applied for a similar position before?"

Thats it for today. If you have any other example leave below. 

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24 Responses to “Direct and Indirect Questions in English”

  • By maria v denet on Jun 3, 2008

    can u sent me some more grammatical questions

  • By kasthuri on Jun 3, 2008

    where we have to use have and had?

  • By kasthuri on Jun 3, 2008

    at which places could and would be used in sentences?

  • By KISHAN on Jun 5, 2008


  • By Syed Shihabuddin on Jun 5, 2008

    Please send me the artices on grammer so that I can improve my spoken english from basics please…

  • By Jhansi on Jun 8, 2008

    Nice to see this type of grammatical topics………..
    please send more on this

  • By Syed Nayab on Jun 9, 2008

    Can I get grammer from starting points.

  • By HASAN RAZA on Jun 10, 2008

    It’s really a good source to improve good communication English.

  • By HASAN RAZA on Jun 10, 2008

    Good suource of learning Communication English.

  • By HASAN RAZA on Jun 10, 2008

    Can you send me the sentence should use, while counseling to the highly educated persons. Like MBA, MCA,CA, MANAGER, ETC……….

  • By halya on Jun 10, 2008

    “Can you tell me what do you like?”
    is it wrong sentence.pls send rply

  • By sridhara on Jun 10, 2008

    hi, i am very much interested in learning English grammer, will u kindly guide me in this matter.
    with regard,

  • By Susanta Samal,rcm on Jun 11, 2008

    I want to know the details of antonyms & synonyms of all english words

  • By surender martha on Jun 21, 2008

    hello sir myself surender martha.iam doing mca send basic interview questions with answers…
    thank u…..,

  • i am CA student ,i am very eager in learning English.therefore, as much as possible ,send me all english grammer from basic to advanced level

  • By karthikeyan on Jul 2, 2008

    where can i use let me , let us, how come

  • By krishna on Jul 6, 2008


    just want know about basic question for interview
    with answer

  • By ANIL on Jul 19, 2008

    can you please help me to face my interviewer with confidence?

  • can u tell me what should i reply when i m asked the question by the interviewer “what salary do u expect”.it mean not actual data but a more convincing answer.

  • its nice to b the member of tech prep team………
    thanks for your sopport.

  • By Sajid Mahmood on Sep 23, 2008



  • By Rajesh Kushwaha on Oct 1, 2008

    Dear, i am very much interested in learning English grammer, will u kindly guide me in this matter.
    with regard,
    Rajesh Kushwaha

  • By sarfaraz baig on Oct 8, 2011


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