1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

wh- question

By

wh- question

A wh- question

Definition:

A term in generative grammar for a question that is formed with an interrogative word (what, who, whom, whose, which, when, where, why, or how) and that expects an answer other than "yes" or "no." Contrast with yes-no question.

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody."
    (Benjamin Franklin)


  • Krusty the Clown: Hey kids! Who do you love?
    Audience: Krusty!
    Krusty: How much do you love me?
    Audience: With all our hearts!
    Krusty: What would you do if I went off the air?
    Audience: We'd kill ourselves!
    ("Krusty Gets Busted," The Simpsons, 1990)


  • "Which of my many incomprehensions
    Did you bequeath me, and where did they take you?
    "
    (W.S. Merwin, "Sire." The Second Four Books of Poems. Copper Canyon Press, 1993)


  • Narrator: What do you do?
    Tyler Durden: What do you mean?
    Narrator: What do you do for a living?
    Tyler Durden: Why? So you can pretend like you're interested?
    (Fight Club, 1999)


  • "Why do people fear death so? Because they realize, unconsciously at least, that their lives are mere parodies of what living should be."
    (Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Houghton Mifflin, 1976)


  • Hurley: How do you know how to do all that?
    Sayid: I was a military communications officer.
    Hurley: Oh yeah?
    (Lost, 2004)


  • "[C]onsider the following pair of sentences:
    (93a) John will marry someone.
    (93b) Who will John marry?
    (93b) is an example of what is called a wh-question. (Wh is short for who, when, which, where, what, and how--words that in traditional grammar are called interrogative pronouns.) An appropriate answer to a wh-question such as (93b) would be, for example, the name of an individual (and not merely 'yes' or 'no' as would be appropriate for a yes/no question). Comparing (93b) with (93a), we find two differences: (1) in (93b) the direct object (who) of the verb marry occurs to the left of the subject (John), and (2) in (93b) the auxiliary verb will occurs to the left of the subject, as it does in yes/no questions (Will John marry?), and not to the right, as in declarative sentences like (93a)."
    (Adrian Akmajian, et al. Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication. MIT Press, 2001)
Also Known As: wh- interrogative, information question, content question
  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Grammar & Composition
  4. Grammar & Rhetoric Glossary
  5. Taboo - Zimbabwean English
  6. wh- question - definition and examples of wh-questions in English

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.