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Unveiling the Power of Indirect Questions

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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Definition of Indirect Questions

An indirect question is that rather than the exact wording of the original query, a question that is expressed to others in speech or writing.

Indirect Question Example:

  •  She asked me what was wrong.

A direct question is seen as being extremely direct and casual. They are common inquiries that we can make of our friends, family, supporters, and acquaintances. An indirect query is regarded as being more official and courteous. People that we do not recognize or have an association with are typically asked an indirect question.

  • What place is it? (direct question)
  • Could you tell me what place it is? (indirect question)

Formation of Indirect Questions

When we wish to be gentler, we frequently ask indirect queries. We use actions to set up the query.

  • Can you show me
  • Could you show me
  • Do you understand?
  • Would you mind taking me?

The subject comes before the verb in indirect questions (sub + verb). Other expressions also adhere to this format: 

  • You don’t know what they are doing there. 
  • I wonder when he will reach the station.

Indirect Questions Examples:

An indirect question can be included in a request, a declaration, or another question.

  • I wonder whether Anna is sad.

(The fixed direct question is “Is Anna sad?”. The question is asked directly within a declarative phrase.)

  • Do you know if anyone was sleeping?

(The fixed direct question is “Was anyone sleeping?”. The question is asked directly within an interrogative phrase.)

  • Please tell me what time the cab is due.

(The fixed direct question is “What time is the cab due?”. The question is asked directly within an imperative phrase.)

Reporting Yes/No Questions:

The indirect questioning will be answered if the direct questioning is a “yes or no” question and lacks an inquiry word like what, who, when, where, why, or how.

  • Direct – Does Shreya like Chinese starters?
  • Indirect – Do you know if Shreya likes Chinese starters?

  • Direct – Are you guys coming to dinner with us?
  • Indirect – Could you please let me know if you will be joining us for dinner?
  • Direct – Do they speak Hindi?
  • Indirect: I wanted to know if they could speak Hindi.
  • Direct – Banu, did you ever go abroad?
  • Indirect – Do you know whether Banu has ever gone abroad?
  • Direct – Do you have any vacation plans this winter?
  • Indirect – I’m curious whether you have any winter vacation plans.

Reporting Wh-Questions:

A reporting phrase and an included sentence commencing with a wh-word (who, what, when, where, why, how) comprise indirect descriptions of wh-questions. There is no question mark here: Eg: She asked me what I needed.

  • Direct – She said to me, ‘Where do you go?’
  • Indirect – She asked me where I went.
  • Direct – Uncle said to me, ‘Where are you doing there?’
  • Indirect – Uncle asked me where I was going.

Reporting Choice Questions

When we inform somebody what someone else has asked, that is a reported questioning. We can either speak directly or indirectly to do this. 

  • Direct speech: ‘Do you like working in MNC?’ he asked. 
  • Indirect speech: He asked me if I liked working in MNC.
  • Direct: Do you prefer coffee? Mom asked.
  • Indirect: Mom asked me if I preferred coffee.
  • Direct: Do you like watching movies? My friend asked.
  • Indirect: My friend asked me if I liked watching movies.

Changes in Verb Tense

In indirect reports, it is sometimes not essential to modify the verb. You don’t have to shift the verb to the past tense if you report information and the circumstance remains unchanged:

  • Direct: “My new project is very interesting,” Panama declared.
  • Indirect: Panama claimed that his new project is very interesting.

(The scenario is unchanged. He still has a fascinating job.)

In indirect conversation, the verb mood typically shifts from present to past while expressing a question:

  • What’s your work?
  • She wanted to know what my work was and asked me how much I earned.
  • How much do you earn?
  • She wanted to know what my work is and asked me how much I earn.

Present simple with ‘be’

  • Is he Punjabi?
  • Can you tell me if he is Punjabi?

Present continuous

  • Is the hotel closing now?
  • Can you tell me if the hotel is closing now?

Past simple with ‘be’

  • Was she late for class?
  • Can you tell me if she was late for class?

Past continuous

  • Were you watching the match at 3 pm?
  • Can you tell me if you were watching the match at 3 pm?

Present perfect

  • Where has Levee been?
  • Can you tell me where Levee has been?

Present perfect continuous

  • How long has he been staying here?
  • Can you tell me how long he has been staying here?

Past perfect

  • Why had he quit his project before he moved here?
  • Can you tell me why he quit his project before he moved here?

Past perfect continuous

  • How long had he been staying here when he met you?
  • Can you tell me how long he had been staying here when he met you?

Indirect Questions in Reported Speech

When speaking indirectly, we switch from a question form (such as “Do you like”) to a statement form (such as “I like”). Similar to stated phrases, we often alter the tenses and phrases as well.

  • “Where does Karthik live?”
  • She asked him where Karthik lived.
  • “Where are you planning?”
  • She asked where I was planning.
  • “Why is she laughing?”
  • He asked why she was laughing.

  • “Can you text?”
  • She asked if I could text.
  • “Did you come by auto?”
  • She enquired whether I had come by auto.
  • “Have you been to London before?”
  • He asked if I had been to London before.

Indirect Questions for Politeness

Do you observe the way those added words (Excuse me, could, can, may) make the sentence more polite? Before you pose your query, they softly request the listener’s attentiveness. By softening the question in this manner, you gain the respect of your audience.

  • “Can you call me if you see the postman drive by?
  • Could you tell me how much that ring costs?”
  • “Is there any chance you could read me the circular again?” 
  • “I’d like to ask you, which game are you looking for?” 
  • Could you demonstrate to me how to handle this machine?
  • “Excuse me, I was wondering if I could request you to write my assignment.”

Differences Between Direct and Indirect Questions

  • The main distinction between direct and indirect queries is that the former are unstructured, while the latter is formal.
  • There always appears a question sign after a direct question, but not necessarily with an indirect one. 
  • A direct question is not a declaration, but an indirect inquiry must be encased in an immediate statement or question.

Word Sequence

The sequence of words in the next sentence is the same as an affirmative response, not a question when we begin applying an indirect questioning form.

  • Direct: What time is it?
  • Indirect: Could you please let me know the time?

Auxiliary Verbs (Do, Did, Does) 

The indirect question omits the auxiliary verb “do” if the direct question does.

  • Direct: Where does he reside?
  • Indirect: Do you know where she resides?

Yes or No questions

The indirect question requires “if” or “whether,” depending on whether the direct question could be responded to with “Yes” or “No.”

  • Direct: Does the client attend the weekly meetings?
  • Indirect: Do you know whether the client attends the weekly meetings?
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Key Takeaways

  1. A question sign is not necessary for an indirect question. Just a direct inquiry works.

  2. Remember that “if” and “whether” are not necessarily synonymous. “If” precedes a scenario. “Whether” doesn’t.

  3. A declaration (subject-verb) and not a question (verb-subject) has the equivalent sentence structure of an indirect question.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I form indirect questions correctly?

Indirect inquiries are queries that use additional words and sentences to soften and lessen the expectation of your question. The remainder of your statement will resume the standard wording of a typical positive phrase once you apply these extra sentences.

Eg: Can you tell me where she plays badminton?

What are some common structures for reporting indirect questions?
  • Reporting questions include when, what, where, who, how, and why.
  • We don’t add question signs at the end of the wh reporting indirect speech.
  • The word alignment will be a subject followed by a verb.
Are there any specific rules or guidelines for using indirect questions?
  • To make an indirect question, begin with a statement like “Can you tell me…?” 
  • Add any of the following six question terms to your information inquiries: where, what, when, who, why, or how. 
  • They are referred to as “wh-question” phrases. 
  • Eg: Can you tell me where the KFC is?
How do I change the verb tense when reporting indirect questions?

The tense in reported language typically differs from the tense in the direct speech by a single moment recurrence of time:

  • Eg: She said, “I am happy.” = She said that she was happy.

If the verb used for reporting is in the present form or if the initial assertion still applies, you are not required to alter the tense.

  • Eg: He claims he lost the match but that he will win the next match.
How do indirect questions contribute to effective communication?

When we wish to seem a little less direct yet still official, respectful, and formal, we ask indirect questions. They serve by asking things politely from people.

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