Basic English Questions

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One of the most important tasks in speaking any language is asking questions. This article will help you learn how to ask and answer questions so you can begin having conversations in English. To help you, questions are divided into categories with a short explanation.

Yes and No Questions vs. Information Questions

There are two main types of questions in English: questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no, and questions that require a more detailed response.

Yes and No Questions

Are you happy today?Yes, I am.
Did you have fun at the party.No, I didn't.
Will you come to class tomorrow?Yes, I will. 

Information Questions

Information questions are asked with the question words what, where, when, how, why, and which. These questions require longer answers to provide the specific information requested.Notice that each of these questions are answered with the positive or negative form of the helping verb. 

Where are you from?I'm from Seattle.
What did you do on Saturday evening?We went to see a film.
Why was the class difficult?The class was difficult because the teacher didn't explain things well. 

Questions With Greetings: Saying Hello

Start the conversation with a greeting. Examples include:

  • How are you? (formal)
  • How's it going? (informal)
  • What's up? (informal)
  • How's life? (informal)

Practice Dialogue:

  • Mary: What's up?
  • Jane: Nothing much. How are you?
  • Mary: I'm fine. 

    Using Questions to Exchange Personal Information

    Here are some of the most common questions used when asking for personal information:

    • What's your name?
    • Where are you from?
    • What's your surname / family name?
    • What's your first name?
    • Where do you live?
    • What's your address? 
    • What's your telephone number?
    • What's your email address?
    • How old are you?
    • When / Where were you born?
    • Are you married?
    • What is your marital status?
    • What do you do? / What's your Job?

    Practice Dialogue:

    Here's a short dialogue giving an example of personal questions. You can use these questions to practice with a friend or a classmate, using your own information.

    Alex: Can I ask you a few personal questions?
    Peter: Certainly. 

    Alex: What's your name?
    Peter: Peter Asilov.

    Alex: What's your address?
    Peter: I live at 45 NW 75th Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona.

    Alex: What's your cell phone number?
    Peter: My number is 409-498-2091

    Alex: And your email address?
    Peter: Let me spell it for you. It's P-E-T-A-S-I at A-O-L.com

    Alex: When is your birthday?
    Peter: I was born on July 5, 1987.

    Alex: Are you married?
    Peter: Yes, I am/No, I'm single.

    Alex: What's your profession?/What do you do for work?
    Peter: I'm an electrician.

    General Questions

    General questions are questions we ask to help us start a conversation or keep the conversation going. Here are some common general questions:

    • Where did you go?
    • What did you do [next]?
    • Where were you?
    • Do you have a car / house / children / etc. ?
    • Can you play tennis / golf / football / etc.?
    • Can you speak another language?

    Practice Dialogue:

    Kevin: Where did you go last night?


    Jack: We went to a bar and then out on the town.

    Kevin: What did you do?
    Jack: We visited a few clubs and danced.

    Kevin: Can you dance well?
    Jack: Ha ha. Yes, I can dance!

    Kevin: Did you meet anyone?
    Jack: Yes, I met an interesting Japanese woman.

    Kevin: Can you speak Japanese?
    Jack: No, but she can speak English!

    Shopping

    Here are some common questions that will help you when you go shopping

    • Can I try it on?
    • How much does it cost? / How much is it?
    • Can I pay by credit card?
    • Do you have something bigger / smaller / lighter / etc.? 

    Practice Dialogue:

    Shop Assistant: How can I help you? / May I help you?
    Customer: Yes. I'm looking for a sweater like this one, but in a smaller size.

    Shop Assistant: Here you go.

    Customer: May I try it on?
    Shop Assistant: Sure, the changing rooms are over there.

    Customer: How much does it cost?


    Shop Assistant: It's $45.

    Shop Assistant: How would you like to pay?
    Customer: Can I pay by credit card?

    Shop Assistant: Certainly. We accept all major cards.

    Using "Like" to Ask Questions

    Questions with "like" are very common, but they can be a little confusing. Here is an explanation of each type of question with "like."

    What do you like?Use this question to ask about hobbies, likes and dislikes in general. 
    What does he look like?Ask this question to learn about the physical characteristics of a person.
    What would you like?Ask this question to find out what someone wants at the moment of speaking. 
    What is she like?Ask this question to learn about a person's character.

    Practice Dialogue:

    John: What do you like doing in your spare time?
    Susan: I like hanging out downtown with my friends.

    John: What does your friend Tom look like?
    Susan: He's tall with a beard and blue eyes.

    John: What is he like?
    Susan: He's very friendly and really intelligent. 

    John: What would you like to do now?
    Susan: Let's go hang out with Tom!

    Once you understand these questions, try testing your knowledge by taking this Understanding Basic Questions in English quiz.