- Closed Questions
- Open Questions
- Indirect Questions
- Questions and Prepositional Adverbs
To get information about something, we ask questions.
There are several types of questions in German, and sentence structure can change in some of them. Let's find out how to form different questions correctly.
Rule 1: In closed questions, or Ja-Nein Fragen, the verb moves to the beginning of the sentence and the subject follows in the second position.
Hast du Hunger?
Are you hungry?
Rule 2: In open questions, or W-Fragen, there is an interrogative pronoun at the beginning of the sentence, then comes the verb and the subject.
Wo ist der Bahnhof?
Where is the train station?
Here's a list of German question words, or interrogative pronouns:
Welch- vs. Was für ein- to ask "Which?"
Rule 3: When using interrogative pronouns to ask questions, we usually don't decline them. However, we need to decline two question words that can translate as "which:" welch- and was für ein-.
Rule 4: Welch- asks for a selection of known persons or things in a group. It is similar to "which?" or "which one?"
Welche Personen arbeiten hier?
Which people work here?
Rule 5: Was für ein-" asks for the quality level or type. It is similar to "what kind of ...?"
Was für einen Hund hat sie?
What kind of dog does she have?
Rule 6: These two can be used before another word or as a substitute for another word. As substitutes, they refer to a noun that has already been mentioned.
Welche arbeiten hier?
Which of them works here?
Sie haben eine Katze? Was für eine?
You have a cat? What kind?
Rule 7: Questions can also be placed in subordinate clauses, and then they abecome indirect questions.
Because indirect questions function as subordinate clauses, the conjugated verb is placed at the end. They end with a full stop and not a question mark.
Rule 8: For yes/no questions, we use the conjunction ob.
Ich weiß nicht, ob er morgen kommt.
I don't know if he's coming tomorrow.
Rule 9: In W-questions, those that start with interrogative pronouns, the sentence structure doesn't almost change, only the conjugated verb is placed at the end.
Er möchte wissen, wann er morgen kommt.
He wants to know when he's coming tomorrow.
Questions and Prepositional Adverbs
Rule 10: Certain adverbs can stand for whole phrases or subordinate clauses. To form them, you need to combine a question or a relative pronoun with a preposition:
- wo + mit = womit (with which)
- da + mit = damit (with this, with it)
- wo + für = wofür / dafür (for what)
- wo + in = worin (in what)
- da + in = darin (in there, in it)
We call these prepositional adverbs.
Ich habe ein Auto gekauft. Damit kann ich fahren.
I bought a car. I can drive with that car.
Rule 11: We can use prepositional adverbs to ask questions about the phrases or subordinate clauses they stand for.
- Ich habe ein Haus gekauft.
- Werden Sie darin wohnen?
- I bought a house.
- Will you live in it?