What Is an Interrogative Sentence? (with Examples)

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Interrogative Sentence

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

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

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?
Interrogative sentences contrast with declarative sentences (which make statements), imperative sentences (which give commands), and exclamatory sentences (which express emotion).

Read more about the other types of sentence.

interrogative sentence

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.)

Types of Question

The three main types of question are as follows:
  • Yes/No Questions.

    Example: Is it raining?
  • (The answer to a yes/no question will be yes or no.)
    (Answer to this question: No.)

  • "Question Word" Questions.

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

  • Choice Questions.

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

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.

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:

What are interrogative pronouns?
What are interrogative adjectives?

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.
See more examples of forming questions.

Why Should I Care about 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.
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

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