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Wh-Question Description

The teaching and learning process is structured around asking and answering questions. In the delivery of instruction, teachers ask questions which students are expected to answer, and students ask teachers questions in seeking clarification and elaboration and in satisfying curiosity. Textbooks and other course materials include numerous questions, either as part of the presentation of content or as a guide for study and review. Furthermore, the assessment of student progress includes tests and quizzes consisting of questions of various types. Therefore, the ability to understand, to ask, and to answer questions in English is vital to educational success and later to success on the job.

An English "wh-question" begins with a simple wh-word (for example, who, what, when, where, why, or how) or a complex wh-phrase consisting of a wh-word plus other words (for example, whose accountant, what business plan, from which sales strategy, etc.). The following wh-question begins with the wh-word what.

What is your company’s sales strategy?

The purpose of such a wh-question is to seek content information that the asker does not yet know or has perhaps forgotten. A response to this question might be something like the following, where the highlighted portion was the content previously unknown to the asker:

My company’s sales strategy is to place sales representatives in four regions of the country.

Such wh-questions are different from "yes/no questions," whose purpose is not to seek content information but to verify facts or to get a response to a request through a simple "yes" or "no" (or something in between, as with a "maybe" response). The following sentence is a yes/no question.

Does your company have a sales strategy?