In English there are 6 different kinds of questions. An utterance is a question if it has one or more of these four markers: rising intonation; inverted word order; a question word: who, what, where, when, how, how, why: or the word or. The different types of questions are differentiated based on the presence of the marker(s).
1. Statement with a rising intonation
The first kind of question has the word order of a statement but is spoken with a rising tune instead of a falling one.
You are serious? It was right? They were surprised? You can fly? You have done the work? This is a joke? You are leaving now? The Rangers won? You are from Bali? You live in Australia? You joined EzineArticles.com? You passed the test? She’s your boss?
The marker is intonation. These are “yes-no’ questions- the speaker is asking for confirmation or denial of what he understands. Such questions are most likely when the questioner has heard something and wants repetition.
2. With 24 Auxiliaries
The more common sort of question is made with inversion-placing an operator in first place. An operator (a form of be: is am, are, was/were, do/does,did, have/has/had, used to/ or one of the modal verbs can/could, will/would, shall/should, may/might, must, ought to, dare or need), which follows the subject in a statement, precedes the statement in a question. If the statement has no such operator, the empty form do occurs in the corresponding question. There are 24 operators or auxiliaries altogether in English.
Is this a good site to follow? Am I late? Are you leaving now? Were you in the office last night? Do you live in Indonesia? Does EzineArticles.com help you a lot in writing? Did it rain here yesterday? Have you got work today? Has your article been approved? Had you learnt before you left for USA? Used he to work in England before? Can you drive? Could you tell me why your account bees suspended? Shall I call you tonight? Should I go and see the manager now? May I help you? Might he come over? Must I heave up anchor? Ought she to do right? Need I contact the company? Dare he come to meet the boss?
These are also yes-no questions. The marker is the inverted word order; consequently, intonation is less important and either a rising or a falling tune may be used.
3. Tag Question
A similar but different way of asking the same thing is to make a statement and attach a tag question. The tag question has an operator which matches the verb of the statement and a pronoun which matches the subject.
You’re leaving now, aren’t you? You aren’t coming tonight, are you? This is a joke, isn’t it? This isn’t a joke, is it? You aren’t serious, are you? He’s gone back to USA, hasn’t he?
There are two different intonation possible: rising tune is used when the speaker is really seeking information, and a falling tune suggests that the speaker merely wants confirmation of what he or she believes. With the rising tune one might use just right? or something as a tag. As the examples above show, the tag is a typically negative after an affirmative statement and affirmative after a negative statement, However, there is a less common type of sentence in which an affirmative tag follows an affirmative statement:
You are serious, are you? This is a joke, is it? The Bulls won, did they? You can do that, can you?
These are typically spoken with a falling tune on the tag, and they convey a special meaning of disbelief or detachment.
Inverted Word Order
The next type of question has inverted word order but it cannot be answered simply “Yes” or “No.” The marker is the word or.
Would you like coffee or tea? Is your article about Finance or Business? Are you coming with us or staying in the office?
The usual intonation is a rise on the first part (here, coffee, Finance, coming with us) and a fall on the second part (here, tea, Business, staying in the office). The questioner gives the addressee two or more alternatives and asks for a choice.
WH’s Questions marked with rising intonation
The next questions have a question word (or “WH-word”) but are also marked by rising intonation.
He’s leaving when? When is he leaving? She left it, where? Where did she leave it? You want what? What do you want? You were absent why? Why were you absent?
The question word may appear at the beginning of the question or in the same position in the sentence as the answer would appear. The question word is the place where the voice rises. These ask for a repetition or confirmation of something said previously when the questioner can pinpoint what needs repetition or confirmation. “He’s leaving when? Indicates that the speaker has been told the time of departure but didn’t get it or doesn’t believe it.
Questions with no rising intonation
Questions that have a question word and do not have a rising intonation (at least not on the question word) ask for new information, not for repetition or confirmation.
Who told you that? Who found the money? How many people came to the party? Why are you leaving?
In English there are 6 different kinds of questions. An utterance is a question if it has one or more of the following four markers: rising intonation; inverted word order; a question word: who, what, where, when, how, how, why: or the word or. The different types of questions are differentiated on the basis of the marker(s) present.