Interrogative Sentence

by Craig Shrives

What Is an Interrogative Sentence? (with Examples)

An interrogative sentence is a sentence that asks a direct question and always ends in a question mark.

The Word "Interrogative"

The term "interrogative sentence" is another name for a question.

The word "interrogative" comes from the Latin interrogare, which means to ask or question. (It is also where the verb "to interrogate" comes from.)

Easy Examples of Interrogative Sentences

Here are some examples of interrogative sentences:
  • Has anyone seen my torch?
  • What's the capital of Peru?
  • Shall we ask Simon or Jonesy?

Types of Question

There are three types of question:
  • Yes/No Questions
  • "Question Word" Questions
  • Choice Questions
Here is an example of each type:

Yes/No Question

Q: Is it raining?
A: No.
(The answer to a yes/no question will be yes or no.)

"Question Word" Question

Q: Why are you bored?
A: I've seen this film before.
(The answer to a "question word" question will be information.)

Choice Question

Q: Do you want salsa dip or cheese dip?
A: Answer: Salsa dip
(The answer to a choice question will be in the question.)

Real-Life Examples of Interrogative Sentences

  • Is it possible to succeed without any act of betrayal? (Film director Jean Renoir)
  • (This is a yes/no question, i.e., the answer is yes or no.)
  • Why do I crave everything when I'm dieting? (Reality star Kim Kardashian)
  • (This is a question-word question, the answer to which is information.)
  • Do you want to feel good or to do good? (Singer Ted Nugent)
  • (This is a choice question, the answer to which is in the question.)

Forming the Three Question Types

Forming Yes/No Questions

Yes/no questions are formed:
Auxiliary Verb
+
Subject
+
Main Verb
+
Remainder
Here are some examples of yes/no questions:
Auxiliary VerbSubjectMain VerbRemainder Possible Answer
Cantigersswim? Yes, they can.
Hasthe crocodilereturnedto the water?No, it hasn't.
With the verb "to be" in the present tense or the past tense, the format is as follows:
Verb To BeSubjectRemainder Possible Answer
Areyouangry?Yes, I am.
Wasshein attendance?No, she wasn't.
Read more about auxiliary verbs. Read more about the subject of a sentence.

Forming "Question Word" Questions

"Question word" questions are formed:
Question Word
+
Auxiliary Verb
+
Subject
+
Main Verb
+
Remainder
Here are some examples of "question word" questions:
Question WordAuxiliary VerbSubjectMain VerbRemainder Possible Answer
Wheredidthe trainstop? Boston.
Whywasthe policemanwavingthe flag?To stop the traffic.
When the question word is "who," the format is:
Question Word
(and Subject)
Main VerbRemainderPossible Answer
Whoknowswhen the train arrives?He does.
Whohas been polishingthese helmets?Lee.
When using the verb "to be" in the present or past tense, the format is as follows:
Question WordVerb To BeSubjectRemainderPossible Answer
WhenisEaster Sunday? Before Easter Monday.
Whyareyouleaving?No reason.
Read more about the question words (interrogative pronouns). Read more about the question words (interrogative determiners).

Forming Choice Questions

Choice questions are formed:
Auxiliary Verb
+
Subject
+
Main Verb
+
Choice 1
+
"or"
+
Choice 2
Here are some examples of choice questions:
Auxiliary VerbSubjectMain VerbChoice 1orChoice 2Possible Answer
Doesshewantthe pink oneorthe black one?The black one.
DidLeecatcha whelkora bass?A whelk.
When using the verb "to be" in the present or past tense, the format is as follows:
Verb To BeSubjectChoice 1orChoice 2Possible Answer
Isitrightorwrong?It's right.
Wereyoudisappointedorangry?Disappointed.
Read more about forming questions.

Other Sentence Types

Interrogative sentences contrast with the following sentences:
  • Declarative sentences, which make statements
  • Imperative sentences, which give commands
  • Exclamatory sentences, which express emotions
interrogative sentence
Read more about the other types of sentence. Here is a video summarizing this lesson on interrogative sentences.
Interrogative sentences are important. They're the tool for getting the information we want. Interrogative sentences are not as common as declarative sentences (ones that make statements), but they are the next most common sentence type. So, if you're learning or teaching English, it's essential to understand how they are formed.

If you're a native English speaker, then interrogative sentences are unlikely to be responsible for any serious writing errors. Nevertheless, here are two good reasons to think a little more carefully about interrogative sentences.

(Reason 1) Don't use a question mark after a non-question. (Beware indirect questions!)

Interrogative sentences (i.e., questions) are not responsible for serious errors among native English speakers, who understand how to form the three question types. By far the biggest issue related to interrogative sentences is writers thinking a non-question is a question and using a question mark.
  • I want to know if it's finished?
  • I wonder if I'll ever find my torch?
  • (These are not questions but statements. They should end in periods (full stops).)
This error typically occurs when the statement contains an indirect question. An indirect question is a direct question embedded inside a statement or another question. Here, the embedded direct questions are "Is it finished?" and "Will I ever find my torch?".

Read more about indirect questions.

(Reason 2) Use a rhetorical question to raise a subject.

Rhetorical questions (i.e., ones that are not expected to elicit an answer) can be used to make a point or to introduce a subject.
  • When are you ever settled enough to have kids? (Actor Benedict Cumberbatch)
  • (This is a rhetorical question designed to make a point not to elicit an answer. It's an interesting way of saying "You are never settled enough to have kids.")
  • Is the Loch Ness monster dead?
  • (This is a rhetorical question designed to introduce a subject. Often used as titles, rhetorical questions are designed to pique the audience's interest.)
Read more about rhetorical questions.

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See Also

What is a sentence? What is an indirect question? What is a declarative sentence? What is an exclamatory sentence? What is an imperative sentence? What is an interrogative adverb? Glossary of grammatical terms

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