How to report Wh-questions

When we report a Wh-question, we use reporting verbs like asked, wondered, wanted to know or enquired.

When there is a question word (what, where, why, who, when, how) we use that question word in the reported question but there is no auxiliary verb and the word order is like an affirmative sentence.

Direct Special Questions – Reported Special Questions

Study the examples

  • “Who will be our class teacher?” we asked the Principal. – We asked the Principal who would be our class teacher.
  • “Who wants to prove this theorem?” the math teacher asked. – The math teacher asked who wanted to prove the theorem.
  • “Who told you about the new film?” my friend asked me. – My friends wanted to know who had told me about the new film.
  • “What are you reading?” Alice asked Bill. – Alice asked Bill what he was reading.
  • “When do classes begin?” the new student asked. – The new student wanted to know when classes began.
  • “Where have you put my dictionary?” asked Becky. – Becky wondered where I had put her dictionary.
  • “Why didn’t you attend the first lecture?” the professor asked Brian. – The professor asked Brian why he hadn’t attended the first lecture.
  • “How many people have you invited to your birthday party?” mother asked me. – Mother wanted to know how many people I had invited to my birthday party.

Have practice in changing direct special questions into reported special questions.

Exercise 1. Report these questions.

  1. “How long does it usually take to learn to skate?” Andy asked the PT teacher.
  2. “How long have you been waiting?” Lisa asked me.
  3. “What mark have I got?” Mark wanted to know.
  4. “Where will you go for your summer holidays?” Gary asked me.
  5. “What does your husband do for a living?” Paul asked me.
  6. “Who is England’s greatest dramatist?” the literature teacher asked the students.
  7. “How long have you been learning English?” Eric asked me.
  8. “When do you expect to hear the results of the examination?” Kevin asked Ann.
  9. “What time is it?” I asked Sara.
  10. “Why are you looking pale? What’s the matter?” asked mother.
  11. “How many English books have you read since September?” Kevin wanted to know.
  12. “How can we get to the nearest subway station?” we asked a passer-by.

Exercise 2. Make these questions indirect by including them into a statement, request or a question. Begin your sentences with: I wonder… , I’d like to know…, Please, tell me…, Do you know…, Can you tell me….

Example: Who discovered X-rays? – I wonder who discovered X-rays. / Can you tell me who discovered X-rays?

  1. Who wrote A Farewell to Arms?
  2. Which hero do you most admire?
  3. Who wrote Pride and Prejudice?
  4. How many heroes are there in Three Men in a Boat?
  5. What are the best-known books by Herbert Wells?
  6. Why did Mark Twain call himself “the biggest liar on the Mississippi” in one of the stories?
  7. Whose pen-name was Mark Twain?
  8. How many states are there in the USA?
  9. Where is Nelson’s Column?
  10. When was the first man launched into space?
  11. Who invented the radio?
  12. Which was invented first – the telephone or the telegraph?
  13. What is the difference between quality and quantity?
  14. Who discovered America?

Exercise 3. Act as if you don’t know the answer to these questions. Begin your replies with the expressions: I’m not sure…, I don’t know…, I don’t remember…, I can’t tell you…, I can’t understand…, I have no idea…, I can’t imagine…, I’m sorry I can’t tell you…, Nobody knows…, I’m afraid I forgot…, I can’t recollect… .

Example: What is the message of the story? – I’m not sure what the message of the story is. Is this a cactus or what? – Unfortunately I don’t know whether it is a plant at all.

  1. Who wrote the story?
  2. How many chapters are there in it?
  3. What are the main characters of the story?
  4. What is the name of the main character?
  5. When does the action take place?
  6. Why did the teacher tell you to read this story?
  7. When was the story written?
  8. Have you seen the film on the story?
  9. How do the stripes run on a zebra, horizontally or vertically?
  10. What is the name of a female swan?
  11. When is Sherlock Holmes’ birthday?
  12. What is the longest English word in common use?
  13. Who was James Cook?
  14. Which English word has most meanings?
  15. How much is a baker’s dozen?
  16. Which insects are most industrious?
  17. Is Portugal a Mediterranean country?
  18. Which city is nearest to the equator – London, Kyiv or New York?
  19. What is the saltiest of all seas?
  20. What is the largest of all freshwater lakes?
  21. Which is the highest mountain in Britain?
  22. Which is the longest river in the world?
  23. Which is the largest planet in Solar System?
  24. What language do they speak in Holland?
  25. What is a pound?
  26. How many eggs are there in a dozen?
  27. Whose theory is the Theory of Relativity?
  28. What is Hobson’s choice?
  29. What is Package Deal?
  30. What is sci-fi?
  31. What is the Great Barrier Reef?

Do the same exercise as a story in the past beginning with: Helen didn’t answer any of my questions. She didn’t know who had written the story. She wasn’t sure how many chapters were there in it. For the main clause use: She wasn’t sure…, She didn’t know…, She didn’t remember…, She couldn’t tell…, She couldn’t understand…, She had no idea…, She couldn’t imagine…, She forgot… .

Report the question and give the answer if you can.

Example: Who wrote the story? – You wanted to know who had written the story. It was written by Mark Twain.

Exercise 4. Report Mary’s questions and your answers to them.

Example: Yesterday Mary asked me if a zebra was a white animal with black stripes or a black animal with white stripes. She thought she had trapped me. But I wasn’t taken aback. I said that zebra was fifty percent white and fifty percent black.

Mary asked – You answered

  1. How did the Romans express the symbol nought or zero? – The Romans didn’t have a sign for zero.
  2. What is the Tour de France? – The Tour de France is an International Cycle Race about 3,000 miles long.
  3. Do you know the meaning of the word Utopia? – The word Utopia means Nowhere.
  4. When was Great Britain first called this name? – Great Britain was first called this name in 1707 when Scotland was defeated.
  5. What is the modern name for Babylonia? – Iraq is the modern name for Babylonia.
  6. Gustav Eiffel, the famous engineer who built the Eiffel Tower built a framework for another famous landmark. Which one is it? – Gustav Eiffel built the framework for the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York Harbor.
  7. Where and when was James Cook killed? – Captain James Cook was killed at Hawaii (Sandwich Islands) in 1779.
  8. What is the American equivalent of British Summer Time? – Daylight Saving Time
  9. When was the first locomotive railway built in England? – Stockton to Darlington, 1825
  10. Who is Elisabeth II? – The present Queen of Great Britain.
  11. Who was the first President of the USA? When was he born? – George Washington, 1732 – 1799
  12. Who wrote Alice in Wonderland? – Lewis Carroll