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What Are Interrogative Adverbs? (with Examples)

What Are Interrogative Adverbs? (with Examples)

The interrogative adverbs are why, where, when, and how. They are used to ask questions. For example (interrogative adverbs shaded):
  • Why are there empty beer bottles in the garden?
  • Where is your sister?
  • When are you going to grow up?
  • How can you eat a freezer full of pizzas in one evening?
Note: When an interrogative adverb starts a question, the second word is the verb.

Different Types of Interrogative Adverb

Interrogative adverbs are used to ask different types of questions. For example, when is used to ask about time-related matters, where is used to ask about place-related matters, and why is used to ask about reasons. The quirky one is how, which can be used to ask about matters related to manner, time, quantity, amount and degree.

Interrogative Adverbs of Time

When an interrogative adverb is used to ask about a time-related matter, it is known as an interrogative adverb of time. Typically, the interrogative adverb will be when, but how is also used to ask time-related questions. For example:
  • When will this film end?
  • How long is left until the end of the film?
  • How often do you come to the cinema?

Interrogative adverbs of Place

The interrogative adverb where is used to ask about a place. For example:
  • Where is the cinema?

Interrogative Adverbs of Reason

The interrogative adverb why is used to ask about a reason. For example:
  • Why are you watching this film again?

Interrogative Adverbs of Manner

The interrogative adverb how is used to ask about manner (i.e., the manner in which the verb occurs). For example:
  • How quickly can you get home?

Interrogative Adverbs of Amount, Quantity, and Degree

The interrogative adverb how is used to ask for amounts, quantities, and degrees. For example:
  • How much coke have you got left?
  • How many sweets have you eaten?
  • How much more coke are you going to drink?
Note

Interrogative Adverbs Can Also Be Used in Indirect Questions

Interrogative adverbs are also used in indirect questions.

Note: An indirect question is a question embedded inside a statement (i.e., a declarative sentence ending typically in a full stop / period) or another question (i.e., an interrogative sentence ending in a question mark).

Examples (interrogative adverb shaded):
  • She asked where you were going.
  • (This is an example of an interrogative adverb being used in an indirection question in a declarative sentence.)
  • Did she ask where you were going?
  • (This is an example of an interrogative adverb being used in an indirection question in a interrogative sentence, i.e., another question.)

Word Order in an Indirect Question

The word order in an indirect question is the same as for a declarative sentence and not an interrogative sentence. For example:
  • Are you happy?
  • (This is an interrogative sentence. The word order is verb (Are) then subject (you).)
  • You are happy.
  • (This is a declarative sentence. The word order is subject (You) then verb (are).)
  • She is asking if you are happy.
  • (This is an indirect question. The word order is the same as for a declarative sentence, i.e., a statement.)
Read more about indirect questions.

Interrogative Adverbs Can Also Be Used at the Head of Noun Clauses

A noun clause is a clause that plays the role of a noun.

Often, a noun clause will start with one of the so-called "wh"-words (e.g., what, who, which, when, where, why), a group which includes the interrogative adverbs. For example:
  • I know where it happened.
  • I know when it happened.
  • I know why it happened.
Read more about noun clauses.