Question Words What? - Question wOrds!

Hello, Flows! Time for a very interesting lesson. A lesson about...

Question Words!

In total, we have 12 Question Words, and we will study all of them during this lesson. But... (You know the drill!)...

What is a Question Word?
These are the 12 Question Words!

A Question Word is a special word used to introduce Questions and to ask about specific information.

In general, we have 3 types of questions:

  • Yes or No Questions (Not using Question Words)
  • Information Questions (Using Question Words)
  • Indirect Questions (Using Question Words in a special way)

And, it is important to learn to identify the different types of questions. Let's practice a little?

  • Will you study English today? (Yes or No Question)
  • When is your birthday? (Information Question)
  • Can you tell me what time is the meeting? (Indirect Question)
  • Do you live with your family? (Yes or No Question)
  • Where do you want to go on your vacation? (Information Question)
  • Do you know how to install this software? (Indirect Question)
  • ...

Do you understand the difference among the 3 types?

For the first type (Yes or No Questions), we usually have only two options of answer - Yes, or No! Simple, right?

For the second type (Information Questions), we use the Question Words to direct our questions and receive a specific type of information. Here, we have a lot of possible answers!

For the third type (Indirect Questions), we need to use a combination of the two other structures. The appearance of the question is that of a "Yes or No Question", but we use a Question Word to ask about specific information. We normally use this type to make our questions more polite!

In order to understand this and fix the ideas, let's practice a little!

Are you ready!?

Part 1 - The first group...

Here, we will study the Question Words "What", "How", "Where", and "When". First, let's check them individually, and after, we mix them together in the exercises! Let's start:

What is "What"?

First thing, let's check some examples, and after we discuss more about this Question Word:

  • What is your name? - My name is Flow.
  • What do you like to do on weekends? - I like to relax and meet my friends.
  • What is your favorite type of food? - My favorite type of food is Italian, but I like Japanese food, too.
  • What did you say? - I said that we need to study every day.
  • What month is your birthday? - It is in January.
  • What languages do you speak? - I speak Portuguese and English.
  • ...

It was natural to understand "What", right!? Just to confirm your ideas, "What" is very similar to "O que" or "Qual" from Portuguese, and we use it on similar situations, too!

Now, get ready to learn about the next Question Word on our list...

How to use "How"?

This is a very interesting Question Word in English because it is versatile. Now, we will study the first function of "How". Let's try to discover its meaning together?

  • How are you today? - I am fantastic!! And you?
  • How do you usually go to work? - I usually take the train to work.
  • How can you say "bandeja" in English? - The word for "bandeja" is tray.
  • How is the weather today? - It looks sunny, and the temperature is warm.
  • How did you solve this exercise? - I used a calculator to help me!
  • ...

After these examples....

What is "How"?

Well... Easy, right!? "How" is similar to "Como" from Portuguese, and we use it to discover the way something is, or is done. After, we will study the other functions of this Question Word. But before...

When - Time

When do we use "When"?


"When" is the Question Word responsible for the time! We use it to discover the time of something - the hour, the day, the month, the year...

  • When is your birthday? - My birthday is on January 1st.
  • When are you traveling to the US? - We are traveling to the US in two months.
  • When do you study English? - I study on Mondays and Fridays.
  • When is the next exam? - It is next week.
  • When was your sister born? - She was born in November 2005.
  • When did you move alone? - I moved in 2011.
  • ...

Remember: When you use "When", there are many options of time to answer, because it is general and open to time possibilities.

If you want a specific type of time information, you can use "What month", "What time", "What day"... Got it!?

Now, time to finish the first group with...

Where - Place

After learning about "What", "How", and "When"... What type of information is connected to "Where"?

Maybe, we should check the examples to discover this:

  • Where do you live? - I live in Rio de Janeiro. And you?
  • Where are you from? - I am from Marília, in São Paulo.
  • Where is the remote control? - Hmm... I think it is inside that drawer.
  • Where did they go on their last vacation? - They went to Ilha Grande in Rio de Janeiro state.
  • Where is she going? - She will go to the supermarket to buy more food!
  • ...

"Where" is connected to the idea of Places, and is used in a similar way to "When". But, don't confuse them!

"When" is Time, and "Where" is Place!

Ahh, and don't forget: if you need a specific type of Place information, you can use "What". For example, "What city", "What street", "What address", and many more!

And, to help you identify the correct situations to use each of the 4 Question Words we studied, let's mix them together now!

The first group!
  • What time is it now?
  • When is the next presentation?
  • What sports do you like?
  • Where will we have dinner tonight?
  • How do you like your coffee?
  • ...

Let's put all our learning to practice now? Get ready, because:

It's time for exercises!

Part 2 - Why and Which (and Because):

This second group is very simple. "Why" and "Because" are always connected. "Which" is very similar to "What", but with a special function. And, that's it!

Let's check them individually now, and discover the possibilities we have with them.

"Why" is used in Interrogatives!

We use "Why" to discover reasons. For example, "Why do you study English?" wants to discover the reason for studying English. And, probably you perceived that "Why" is similar to our separated "Por que" from Portuguese, right!? And, to help you fix this idea, let's read:

  • Why do you study English?
  • Why don't we cook tonight?
  • Why will you spend your vacation in Japan?
  • Why did you travel by bus?
  • Why are there many people in the office today?
  • ...

Did you understand? We used "Why" to discover the reason for a specific situation. But...

How do we answer these questions?

Well... Time to talk about:

"Because" is used in Affirmatives/Negatives

Yes! Time to talk about "Because". This is the word responsible for the answers, for explaining the reasons. When you think about Portuguese, "Because" is the connected "Porque", used to answer questions, right?

Let's answer the questions from "Why", and learn more about it:

  • I study English because it is a very beautiful and interesting language!
  • Because I am calm today, and I prefer to go to a restaurant.
  • I will go to Japan because I want to learn more about their culture, and know Tokyo city.
  • I took the bus because the plane tickets were sold out.
  • All these people are here because there is an important meeting today.
  • ...

And this is how we use "Because". What do you think? Easy, or difficult?

We will practice a lot of this with the exercises, and you will learn and fix this very well. But, before the exercises, we need to discuss one more Question Word. So, let's go...

"Which" - Preference Or Option

As mentioned before, "Which" is very similar to "What", but used in a special way - "Which" is usually connected to preferences. Sometimes, it is simply connected to options or alternatives! Let's check the examples and understand this better:

  • Which kind of music do you like? - I like many types of music: Pop, Rock, Reggae, Blues, and many more!
  • Which restaurant are we going tonight? - I would like to eat pasta tonight. Let's go to an Italian restaurant.
  • Which dress did you buy, the red or the yellow? - I decided to buy the yellow one.
  • Which is your favorite season? - Living in Rio, my favorite season is Fall.
  • Which of these movies are we going to watch tonight? - Hmm... I don't know, but I want to watch a comedy tonight!
  • ...

Is it ok now? Remember that "Which" is very similar to "What", but it can't substitute the other every time. On the other hand, "What" can always substitute "Which"! For example:

What is your name? (Everything ok!)


Which is your name? (Not very good!)

On the other hand...

Which sports do you like? (Ok! It's a Preference.)


What sports do you like? (Completely ok, too!)

No problem, right? And now, it is time to work with all th group togehter:

Reasons and Preferences
  • Why did you arrive late today?
  • Because I didn't listen to my alarm clock! I'm sorry!
  • Which books would you like to read, and why?
  • I'd like to read books about the History of Brazil because I am very interested on it.
  • ...

Well... The mix is here, and it is time to put it to practice! Are you ready for the exercises?

So, let's go!

Part 3 - The "Whos" - Who, Whom, and Whose:

This third group is used to discover a new type of information - The people (usually) performing and receiving actions.

Let's start with "Who", the most common Question Word in this group:

"Who" is for Subject, and also for Object!

"Who" is used in the same way as "Quem" from Portuguese. No secret here, we just use it to discover the Subject or the Object of an action. And, again similar to Portuguese, the structure of Questions to discover the Subject and Questions to discover the Object are a little different. Ler's check this out?

  • Who did you invite to the party? - I invited my friends from college.
  • Who called me earlier? - Your mom called you and left a message.
  • Who will prepare dinner tonight? - I will.
  • Who were they talking to? - They were talking to the new students.
  • Who do you need to talk to? - I need to talk to mr. Sanders, please.
  • Who sold you this computer? - My friend's brother did.
  • ...

Did you understand the examples? If you have questions about it, there will be much practice yet. But, before we talk about the next Question Word, there is something you need to do.

Can you identify which questions (from the examples) are about the Subject, and which are about the Object? Think about it, and check if you are correct now:

  • Object (...my friends from college.)
  • Subject (Your mom...)
  • Subject (I...)
  • Object (...the new students.)
  • Object (...Mr. Sanders)
  • Subject (My friend's brother...)
Got it!?

This is a very important difference, because now, it's time to study "Whom"...

"Whom" is ONLY for Object! Remember that!

And "Whom" is only usable with Questions asking about the Objects!

This can be a little tricky (or complicated), and the best solution is to use "Who" all the time! But... If you want to use "Whom", remember to pay attention to this detail. Let's use the examples from "Who", and create new ones:

  • Whom did you invite to the party? I invited my workmates.
  • Whom were they talking to? - They were talking to the teacher.
  • Whom do you need to talk to? - I need to talk to your sister.
  • Whom would you like to meet? - I'd like to meet President Obama.
  • Whom did you get this book with? - I got it with the librarian.
  • ...

So, now we can easily understand the idea of "Whom", right? Remember that we can only use it to discover Objects! And, if you don't feel comfortable yet, never forget: We can use "Who" in all situations!

And now, let's finish this group with the last Question Word connected to people...

"Whose" is about Possessions.
And, it is "Whose"!

Are you familiar with it? Let's check with some examples what is the function of this new Question Word:

  • Whose phone did you call? - I called your mother's phone.
  • Whose book will you borrow? - I'll borrow Matt's book.
  • Do you know whose car is this? - The black car? It belongs to my brother.
  • Whose house is bigger - Mine or yours? - I don't know! I think they are very similar in size.
  • Whose project are we going to work with? - You need to help Linda on her project.
  • ...

So, after the examples we can understand that we use "Whose" to discover who possesses something, right? If you need to discover the owner of an object, for example, you make a question using "Whose". Not so difficult, right?

And now...

Time to check all of them together, and prepare for the exercises! Let's go?

Discovering people

Quick review:

"Who" and "Whom" are very similar, but we can only use "Whom" when we are asking about the Object of an action, while "Who" can be used in any situation.

"Whose" is used to discover who is the owner (or possessor, or the reference) of something.

And, to finish our quick review, let's check some mixed examples:

  • Whose students are having an exam next week? - Teacher Paulo's students are.
  • Whom did you hire for the job? - We decided to hire the first candidate.
  • Who are they going to visit this weekend? - They are going to visit their grandmother.
  • Whom should we contact to solve this problem? - You should talk to the IT department.
  • Who is this man in the picture? - That's my father when he was 25 years old.
  • ...

And, to fix these ideas very well, don't forget to do your exercises!


Part 4 - The other forms of How:

In the first group, we studied the Question Word "How". More specifically, the first function of this Question Word.


There are 3 more possibilities for us to use "How". Let's check them one by one and discover these new possibilities that are also very common in English!

Here, we will use the idea of Quantifiers (Many, Much, A few, A little), and the idea of Adjectives and Adverbs. If you need to review them, just click on the links to open their lessons:

And now, let's start:

The first one is "How Much". This combination is used to ask about Quantities. More specifically, about Uncountable Quantities. First, let's check some examples, and after we discuss more about it:

  • How much water should we drink every day? - It is good to drink around 2 liters of water per day.
  • How much sugar do you want in your coffee? - Just a little sugar, please.
  • How much (money) is this blouse? - We have a discount for this blouse. The price is U$ 17,99.
  • How much meat will you buy for the barbecue? - Not so much. I plan to buy 2 kilos of meat.
  • ...

As you can observe, "How Much" is very similar to the idea of "Quanto" or "Quanta" used in Portuguese, and we use it to discover the quantities of Uncountable objects.

A very important and special case is when we discuss about prices. Remember that Money is Uncountable, and therefore we need to use "How Much" to ask about prices.

Next, let's discuss the combination used to talk about quantities of Countable objects...

For COUNTABLE things.

And this combination is "How Many"!

There are a few differences between "How Much" and "How Many", and the most important difference is the idea of Uncountable objects (using "How Much") and Countable objects (using "How Many"). Here comes the examples:

  • How many lessons did he study this month? - He studied a lot this month! 10 lessons in total.
  • How many books do you read per year? - I usually read 6 books per year.
  • How many siblings does your wife have? - She has 3 siblings - 2 brothers and 1 sister.
  • How many meals do you have in a day? - It is common for me to have 5 meals in a day - Breakfast, Lunch, Afternoon snack, Dinner, and another snack before sleeping.
  • ...

Not so different from "How Much", is it!? The idea is very similar, but we need to pay attention to the differences in Countable and Uncountable objects. Don't forget that!

If you try to interpret "How Many" for the Brazilian Portuguese language, our similar expression is "Quantos" or "Quantas". Got it?

Well, get ready to practice with the exercises! But before, the final combination of "How"! Let's go!

To measure the INTENSITY of something.
Here, we talk about intensities.

We try to discover, for example, if something is very frequent, or not so frequent.

In Portuguese, the original word used for this idea is "Quão". Brazilian people don't use it a lot nowadays, but it is very easy to understand. For example, again, "Quão frequentemente...", or "Quão forte..." Or "Quão longe...", and many other situations that we want to determine the intensity of an Adjective, or of an Adverb. Check the examples:

  • How often do you go to the cinema? - I rarely go to the cinema.
  • How old are you? - I am 24 years old.
  • How far is Marília from Rio de Janeiro? - It is very far! Approximately, 11 hundred kilometers far.
  • How long does it take to go from Ipanema to Botafogo? - Not so long. It takes around 15 minutes.
  • How hot is this soup? - It is very hot. Wait a little before you eat it.
  • How tall are you? - I am 1.85 meters tall.
  • ...

Could you understand better with the examples?

This is a very common part of dialogs in English. People will use this in many different situations, and it is important to learn and explore different Adjectives and Adverbs in order to expand your possibilities here!

And now...

The mix:

The combination of "How" with the Quantifiers - Many and Much - creates a new idea to this Question Word. With these 2 combinations - "How Many" and "How Much" - we can discover the quantities of objects, people, times, money, and etc...

The combination of "How" with Adjectives and Adverbs is also very common and important because it gives us the possibility to discover how intense a specific Adjective or Adverb is in the situation. We can discover the intensity of interest, of age, of height, of frequency, and thousands more!

Quantity and Intensity.

Let's finish with some examples of the three cases together:

  • How many people live in this apartment? - There are 3 people living here at the moment.
  • How strong is the wi-fi reception? - The reception is fair. Not so good, but not bad.
  • How much bread should we buy? - You can buy half a kilo. Around 10 bread rolls.
  • How heavy is your bag? - It is very light. I have just a few things inside.
  • How much did you pay for the plane ticket? - The ticket to go to SP costed R$ 80,00, and the ticket to return home costed R$ 100,00.
  • How many copies of this document do you need? - Only 2 copies, please.
  • ...

And now, no more questions about this last group, right? Time to close this part with our exercises, fix very well this idea, and finish this very complete and interesting lesson!

It's time for...

Conclusion - The Question Words:

Final Part... Here, we reconnect all the Question Words in a single - and big - group. A group of 12 Question Words.

We don't need to learn more information about the Question Words. We studied all of them, one by one, and practiced a lot with examples and exercises.

Now, we will have the opportunity to check if everything is ok, and it's time to choose a new lesson to start...


If we need to practice more about Question Words. With help from a Flow Teacher, maybe!

Before the exercises, check our animated quick review on this lesson:

And now, put your skills to practice with...

...The Final Exercise!

We hope you had a great time studying the Question Words. They will be present almost every time when you use English, and this will be a great help to fix all of them. Also, you can share your ideas and doubts with the community, and keep on practicing with your teacher!

Let's Flow!
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