Grammar Monster
Grammar Monster

What Is an Indirect Question? (with Examples)

What Is an Indirect Question? (with Examples)

An indirect question is a question embedded inside a statement (i.e., a declarative sentence) or another question (i.e., an interrogative sentence).

Of note, a declarative sentence with an embedded indirect question ends with a period () / full stop () not a question mark.

Let's start with a direct question:
  • Do you like cheese?
Here it is as an indirect question in a statement:
  • She asked whether I liked cheese.
Here it is as an indirect question in a question:
  • Did she ask whether I liked cheese?
The word whether can be replaced with if in these examples.

Read more about if and whether.

Examples of Indirect Questions

Here are some more examples of indirect questions (shaded):
  • I wonder whether Anne is going to the party.
  • (Embedded direct question: Is Anne going to the party?)
  • Could you tell me what day it is?
  • (Embedded direct question: What day is it?)
  • She hasn't decided whether she should join.
  • (Embedded direct question: Should she join?)
  • I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult. (Rita Rudner)
  • (Embedded direct question: Do other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult?)
  • They do not know what route they should take.
  • (Embedded direct question: What route should they take?)

Forming Indirect Questions

When the direct question is a yes-no question, the indirect question will start with if or whether. For example:
  • Are you cold?
  • (This is a direct yes-no question.)
  • I'm asking if you are cold.
  • I'm asking whether you are cold.
When the direct questions start with an interrogative pronoun or interrogative adjective (i.e., how, what, when, where, which, who, whom, whose, or why), the indirect question will start with it as well. For example:
  • What time is it?
  • (This is a direct question)
  • I'm asking what the time is.
  • Where are you going?
  • (This is a direct question)
  • I'm asking where you are going.

Word Order in an Indirect Question

Notice that the word order in an indirect question is the same as for a declarative sentence and not an interrogative sentence. For example:
  • Are you cold? (interrogative sentence)
  • (Word order: verb subject)
  • You are cold. (declarative sentence)
  • (Word order: subject verb)
  • I'm asking if you are cold.
  • (Word order of the indirect question: subject verb)
Interactive Test