Structures: question words


Why can't we go?

We use the words what, which, why, where, who and how to introduce questions. The word order changes when we use them. When the main verb is to be, it comes after the question word (e.g. what is that?). For other verbs, we use an auxiliary (e.g. do, have)

  • What are you doing now?
  • Where is my wallet?
  • Who was that woman in red?*
  • Which do you prefer?
  • How do I open this?
  • Why haven't you started yet?*


We usually use how to ask about the way something is done, but we can use it with other words to express different ideas, usually to quantify things:

  • How old are you? (quantifies age)
  • How much sugar do we have left? (quantifies sugar)
  • How often do you travel back home? (quantifies frequency)
Further learning
Description Author Language
When to use 'what' and 'which' in questions. BBC Learning