How to ask questions correctly

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One of the typical grammatical mistakes during the spoken STANAG 6001 exam is the wrong word order in questions.
During level 2 speaking, you’ll ask questions in a role-play.
During level 3 speaking, you’ll ask questions in all three parts of the exam: in Part 1, after your exam partner’s briefing, in Part 2A in a dialogue and Part 2B in a discussion being the answer to the examiners’ questions.

DIRECT QUESTIONS

You ask these in a conversation, dialogue, interview. There are two main types of direct questions, which you ask directly do someone.

YES/NO QUESTIONS

Yes/No questions are the questions which can be answered with a YES or NO.
The Yes/No question word order is the following:

 AUXILIARY VERB    +   SUBJECT (PERSON OR THING)   +   MAIN VERB (ACTIVITY) 

WHAT IS AN AUXILIARY VERB?
It is a helping verb that gives additional meaning to the main verb. In the case of questions, if an AUXILIARY VERB is put before the MAIN VERB, we know it is a QUESTION.
There are 23 auxiliary verbs in English:
Primary auxiliary verbs:
  • BE, am, is, are, was and were, being, been;
  • HAVE, has, had;
  • DO, does, did;
And modal auxiliary verbs:
  •  will,
  • would,
  • shall and should,
  •  may and might,
  • must,
  • can and could.

Depending on a tense you may chose a different auxiliary to start your question. 

AUXILIARY    + SUBJECT (PERSON OR THING)  +  MAIN VERB    +  the rest of the sentence
Do                     you                                           like                              reading?

PRESENT SIMPLE
  • DO you like chocolate?
  • DOES he swim every day?
PRESENT CONTINUOUS
  • IS it raining?
  • ARE we leaving?
PAST SIMPLE
  • DID he do it?
  • DID they help you?
PRESENT PERFECT
  • HAVE you ever been to Paris?
  • HAS she already left?
PAST PERFECT
  • HAD they paid before they left?
MODALS
  • CAN you help me?
  • WOULD you like to come in?
You can also use auxiliaries to ask NEGATED QUESTIONS, such as:
  • DON’T they like this idea?
  • AREN’T you coming?
  • CAN’T he understand?

WH-QUESTIONS

WH-questions differ from yes/no questions in that they begin with a WH-question word (a word that contains letters W and H). The word order is basically the same, you just add a WH-question word at the beginning of the question.
The Wh-question word order is the following:

WH-QUESTION WORD + AUXILIARY VERB + SUBJECT (person/thing) + MAIN VERB (activity)
Where do you live?

There are quite a few QUESTION WORDS in English, and they have different functions:
  • WHAT – asking for information – What do you do?
  • WHAT…FOR – asking about a reason – What will you use it for?
  • WHEN – asking about time – When is she leaving?
  • WHERE – asking about a place – Where can we park?
  • WHICH – asking about choice – Which size do you need?
  • WHO – asking about people – Who knows the truth?*
  • WHY – asking about a cause– Why did they move?
  • WHY DON’T – making a suggestion – Why don’t we go to the cinema?
  • HOW – asking about manner or condition – How are you feeling?

HOW+ADJECTIVE or ADVERB

  • HOW FAR – asking about distance – How far have you travelled?
  • HOW LONG – asking about length – How long is the procedure going to take?
  • HOW MANY – asking about quantity (countable) – How many people did you talk to?
  • HOW MUCH – asking about quantity (uncountable) – How much money does she need?
  • HOW OLD – asking about age – How old is he?

*SUBJECT QUESTIONS

* Who can do it?* is a subject question. If you’re asking about the subject, the question does not need an auxiliary verb.
  • WHO knows the truth? > He does. 
  • WHO did it? > I did.

INDIRECT QUESTIONS

Word order in indirect questions is the same as in a statement, that is, SUBJECT goes before a VERB.
WORD ORDER IN INDIRECT QUESTIONS
YES/NO QUESTIONS
DIRECT QUESTIONSINDIRECT QUESTION
Can you help me?I wonder if/whether you can help me.
WH-QUESTIONS
What do you do?I need to know what you do.

Why do we use indirect questions?

To be less direct obviously, which usually means being more polite.
When you use indirect questions, you demonstrate a higher level of language command than when you can use only direct questions.
INDIRECT QUESTIONS can follow a statement:
  • I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW where the museum is.
  • I WONDER if you could talk to me.
  • PLEASE TELL ME how to get to the bus station.
  • I AM TRYING TO FIND OUT whether she knows the truth.
Or a question:
  • COULD YOU TELL ME where the museum is?
  • DO YOU NEED TO KNOW whether he is telling the truth?
  • CAN I ASK YOU how far the city centre is?
If you want to demonstrate a higher level of language command, be polite and more formal in English, get your indirect questions right!

ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

STANAG 6001 LEVEL 3 BRIEFING QUESTIONS

In Part B of Task 1 you have to ask questions or comment on the briefing of the second candidate.
You have 1-2 minutes for this part. The aim is to demonstrate the ability to:
·       ask for information
·       ask for explanation
·       give information/explanation
·       object to arguments
·       agree/disagree with opinion
While your colleague is giving his or her briefing, it is not the time for you to revise yours.
You should listen carefully and make notes, as after the briefing you are supposed to ask questions about it or offer a comment.

TYPICAL QUESTIONS

There are questions you might ask in different situations. Think of such factors as: cost/price/time/responsible person/consequences/examples/alternative solutions, etc.

The DIRECT QUESTIONS you might want to ask are:

  • What is the price/cost of… ?
  • How long is it going take to …?
  • How many people do you need to …?
  • Who is responsible for …?
  • What might be the consequences of … ?
  • What kind of … do you need to …?
If you want to sound more officially, you can ask INDIRECT QUESTIONS.
  • Could you tell me what the price of … is?
  • I would like to know how long it is going to take.
  • Do you know how many people you will need to … ?
  • Do you happen to know what the consequences of … might be?
  • I need to know who will be responsible for … .
GRAMMATICAL CORRECTNESS is one of the elements of your assessment during the exam, so make sure to get your questions right!

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