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A word that functions to ask a question that can't be simply answered with yes or no. Interrogatives are sometimes called question words because of their function, or wh- words because of their most common initial letters (who, whom, whose, which, where, why, when, and how).

See also:


From the Latin, "to ask"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Interrogatives begin direct questions. In addition to signaling that a question will follow, each plays some grammatical role in the sentence that it begins. . . . Interrogatives also function to introduce indirect questions."
    (Thomas Klammer and Muriel Schulz, Analyzing English Grammar, Allyn and Bacon, 1992)

  • "If you never change your mind, why have one?"
    (Edward de Bono)

  • "How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?"
    (Charles De Gaulle)

  • "I've been cheated, been mistreated
    When will I be loved?"
    (Phil Everly, "When Will I Be Loved?")

  • "He pointed at me and said, 'that one won't stand up.' The two policemen came near me and only one spoke to me. He asked me if the driver had asked me to stand up? I said, 'yes.' He asked me why I didn't stand up. I told him I didn't think I should have to stand up. So I asked him: 'Why do you push us around?' And he told me, 'I don't know, but the law is the law and you are under arrest.'"
    (Rosa Parks)

  • "[S]ome, but not all, subordinating conjunctions can also occur as interrogative words, e.g. when and where. Thus when is a subordinating conjunction in I was here when you came; but it is an interrogative word in When did you come?"
    (James R. Hurford, Grammar: A Student's Guide. Cambridge Univ. Press, 1994)
Pronunciation: in-te-ROG-a-tiv
Also Known As: interrogative word, question words, wh-words
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