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Unit 66: Indirect Questions

Indirect Questions

Indirect questions are polite, longer forms of normal questions. For example:
- Where's the department store? - Direct question
- Could you tell me where the department store is, please? - Indirect question
- What's his name? - Direct question
- Do you know what his name is? - Indirect question


Indirect questions are formed of two parts: a polite expression, and a question which has no subject/verb inversion like a normal question . For example:
- What's his name? >>
- Do you know what his name is? - Indirect question
Here the polite expression is "Do you know...", and the question part is "...what his name is?". Note that the subject and verb have not changed place in the question part. So if you said "Do you know what is his name?", this would be incorrect.

Another example:
- What's the time? >>
- Do you have any idea what the time is? - Indirect question
The polite expression is "Do you have any idea...?", and the question is "...what the time is?".
The question is not "...what is the time?" - you don't invert the subject and verb kike a normal question.

Auxiliary Verb "To do"

The auxiliary verb "to do"is used in questions when there is no other auxiliary verb. For example:
- You like Chinese food. >>
- Do you like Chinese food?

Indirect questions do not use the auxiliary verb "to do" in the main question. For example:
- When does the next train arrive? - Direct question
- Do you know when the next train arrives? - Indirect question
- Do you know when does the next train arrive? - Incorrect

Another example:
- When does the restaurant close? - Direct question
- Could you tell me when the restaurant closes? - Indirect question
- Could you tell me when does the restaurant close? - Incorrect

There are infinite ways to make indirect questions. Not all indirect questions are questions at all, rather they are polite statements which encourage some kind of response. Some common polite expressions include:
- I wonder if/whether...?
- I can't remember if/whether...?
- Could you tell me if/whether...?
- Would you mind telling me if/whether...?
- Would it be possible for you to...?
- Is there any chance you could...?
- I don't suppose you could...
- I'd like to know if/whether...
- I can't remember...


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