Thursday, December 8

Are You Direct or Indirect? ;-)

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Indirect Questions are very useful in English because they are polite expressions.

To learn Indirect Questions, first we have to start with Direct Questions.

For example,

1.       Who is he?

2.       What is he doing?

3.       When will she come back?

4.       Where is Starbucks?

5.       Why did they leave?

   How do you feel about these questions?

Because they are Direct Questions, they tend to be casual. These are questions we usually ask our friends.

But if we are talking to a stranger on the street, for example, there’s the danger for us to sound too direct and sometimes impolite.

This is why we need Indirect Questions.

But how? 

How can we make Indirect Questions?

First, you need to add Question Starters at the beginning of your questions. 

Like this:

Do you know +            Original Direct Question   ?

Can you tell me +        Original Direct Question   ?

This is how we make Indirect Questions.

Aside from the two above, we have many other kinds of Question Starters such as:

As you can see from the list, the question becomes more polite as it gets longer. That’s because the longer the question, the more indirect it becomes. And the more indirect it becomes, the more polite.

On the other hand, as you go down the list, the opposite is true:

The shorter the question, the more direct and casual it is.

Also, please keep in mind that when we make Indirect Questions, we have to make sure to switch the Subject and the Verb:


1.       Can you tell me who he is?

2.       Can you tell me what he is doing?

3.       Can you tell me when she will come back?

4. Do you know where Starbucks is

5. Can you tell me why they left*

   * Be careful about the Tense as well. You have to keep the Tense of the original Direct Question or situation when you change it into Indirect. 

    Why? Why do we have to switch the Subject and the Verb when we are making Indirect Questions


    Because when you're making an Indirect Question, as a matter of fact, the first part is your real question while the last part is not a question.   

     That's why these questions are wrong: 

1. Do you know who is he? X

2. Can you tell me where are they? X

     I know that making questions like these is the habit of students. It's very convenient not to switch the Subject and the Verb

  But this is wrong. 


Next, please try to change the following Direct Questions into Indirect Questions, just like we practiced:

1. Is he Japanese? 

2. Does he speak Japanese?

3. Can he speak English?

4. Will they join?

5. Did she already leave?

    If you remember what I taught you, your answers will be like these: 

1. Do you know he is Japanese? 

2. Do you know he speaks Japanese? 

3. Do you know he can speak English?

4. Can you tell me they will join?

5. Can you tell me she already left?

    Do you notice anything different about the questions above? Do you feel something lacking or missing in them? 

   Actually, these questions are still wrong. The Subject and Verb are already Ok because you switched them. But they're not the same as the first examples that we made. 

   The other set of Direct Questions is actually Yes/ No Questions or questions answerable by Yes or No That's why you need a different way when you change them into Indirect

     You need to add "If." 

     Like this: 

1. Do you know if he is Japanese?

2. Do you know if he speaks Japanese? 

3. Do you know if he can speak English?

4. Can you tell me if they will join?

5. Can you tell me if she already left?

     In summary, Indirect Questions are very useful because you can change your expression from direct and casual to polite and formal. Also, you might not know it yet but Indirect Questions will be very important when you start studying Noun Clauses, one of the really difficult topics in English. 

   Till next time! 

Keep on learning !

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