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English grammar series
English grammar

In linguistics, an interrogative word is a function word used for the item interrupted in an information statement. Interrogative words are sometimes called wh-words because most of English interrogative words start with wh-. In English, they are used in questions (Where is he going?) and interrogative content clauses (I wonder where he is going); their forms are also used as relative pronouns in certain relative clauses (The country where he was born) and certain adverb clauses (I go where he goes). These uses are all found in various other languages as well.

Interrogative words in English include:

  • interrogative determiner
    • which, what
    • whose (interrogative possessive determiner)
  • interrogative pro-form
    • interrogative pronoun
      • who, whom (human)
      • what, which (nonhuman)
    • interrogative pro-adverb
      • where (location)
      • whence (source)
      • whither (goal)
      • when (time)
      • how (manner)
      • why, wherefore (reason)
      • whether (choice between alternatives)

A frequent class of interrogative words in several other languages is the interrogative pro-verb:

Korean: Nalssi-ga eotteoh-seumni-kka? (In Korean Gulja: 날씨가 어떻습니까?) Weather-nominative be_how-politeness fifth level-interrogative suffix "How's the weather?"

Mongolian: Chi yaa-vch jaahan huuhed bish gej bi bod-jii-ne You do_what-concessive small child not that I think-progressive-nonpast "Whatever you do, I think you’re not a small child." (Example taken from an Internet forum)

See also



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