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What Is an Indirect Question? (with Examples)An indirect question is a question embedded inside a statement (i.e., a declarative sentence) or another question (i.e., an interrogative sentence).
Of note, a declarative sentence with an embedded indirect question ends with a period () / full stop () not a question mark.
Let's start with a direct question:
- Do you like cheese?
- She asked whether I liked cheese.
- Did she ask whether I liked cheese?
Read more about if and whether.
Examples of Indirect QuestionsHere are some more examples of indirect questions (shaded):
- I wonder whether Anne is going to the party. (Embedded direct question: Is Anne going to the party?)
- Could you tell me what day it is? (Embedded direct question: What day is it?)
- She hasn't decided whether she should join. (Embedded direct question: Should she join?)
- I wonder if other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult. (Rita Rudner) (Embedded direct question: Do other dogs think poodles are members of a weird religious cult?)
- They do not know what route they should take. (Embedded direct question: What route should they take?)
Forming Indirect QuestionsWhen the direct question is a yes-no question, the indirect question will start with if or whether. For example:
- Are you cold? (This is a direct yes-no question.)
- I'm asking if you are cold.
- I'm asking whether you are cold.
- What time is it? (This is a direct question)
- I'm asking what the time is.
- Where are you going? (This is a direct question)
- I'm asking where you are going.
Word Order in an Indirect QuestionNotice that the word order in an indirect question is the same as for a declarative sentence and not an interrogative sentence. For example:
- Are you cold? (interrogative sentence) (Word order: verb – subject)
- You are cold. (declarative sentence) (Word order: subject – verb)
- I'm asking if you are cold. (Word order of the indirect question: subject – verb)
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