Questions are an important part of language. But how do you know someone is asking a question? One of the best indicators (signs, signals, ways to know) is to listen for question words. There are seven question words in English: who, what, where, when, why, which, and how. Question words are a basic part of English and important to know. Plus (also), it is easy to see what a question word is because it is always at the beginning of a sentence.

Question words in English help you know when or where something happened. If you want to know something, or are asked for something, you can use these question words in English! Keep reading to learn about these basics of the English language.


Who is used when you want to know about a person. This can be about asking whether (if) a person has done something, or if you cannot remember who someone is.

Is the person an actor that you can’t think of (remember)? Did someone do something nice without taking credit for (saying they did) it? If yes, then you can use the word who to ask about them. It’s a very useful (good, practical) word! You will hear it all the time once (when) you start listening for it.

For example:

  • Who is that actor in the comedy we saw last weekend? I can’t remember their name.
  • Who emptied (took the dishes out of) the dishwasher? Thank you for doing so!
  • Who is at the door?
  • Who wrote that book?


What is another one of the useful question words in English. What is used for things. If you’re trying to think of a specific (certain) object or thing, then what is the word you want to use. What can be used when you ask about the time. It can also be used when you are asking about what something is. Using the word what is a great opportunity (chance) to learn new information!

For example:

  • What time is it?
  • What time is the show tonight?
  • What is the title of your favorite book?
  • What do you want to wear today?


Do you ever want to know about a place (location)? Then the word where is the one you will want to use. When you use the word where, you can ask about larger places, like cities or countries. You can also ask about smaller places, like your kitchen (where you make food) or your house (where you live). This word is good to use if you’ve lost something (put something somewhere but can’t remember where) and are looking for it, if you’re planning a vacation, or just want to know something about a place.

For example:

  • Where are my keys? Have you seen them?
  • Where is your house?
  • Where would you like to go on vacation this year?
  • Where are we going tonight?


Do you want to know the reason for (intention behind) something? Then why is the word to use. Why is only used when you want to know a reason. This can be why someone did something, why something works the way it does, or why something happened. Why is one of the most common (used often) question words. If you ask a question using why, you’re sure to (you will definitely, 100%) find out (learn) a lot of information!

For example:

  • Why did you say that?
  • Why did you vote for that person?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • Why can’t I go to the party tomorrow?


Do you want to know what time something happened? Or what time something will happen? Then when is your word of choice (the one you should use). You can use when to ask about things in the past (before now) or the future (after now). You can use this word to ask about things in history, or about a person’s past (what happened to them before). You can even use when to make plans. It’s a very useful question word that we all need every day.

For example:

  • When will you be back from your vacation?
  • When did the meeting happen (take place)?
  • When did you move to Germany?
  • When do you want to go to the movies?


Which is a very specific (special, exact) question word. This is because it asks you to pick (choose, decide) between two different things. Think of which like either…or. Would you like this or that? Which is not as common as other question words in English, but you do hear it frequently (often, a lot).

For example:

  • Which sandwich would you like: cheese or ham?
  • Which dress should I wear? The black or the red one?
  • Which day is better for you? Thursday or Friday?


How is a very special question word. It’s the only question word that doesn’t start with W. How asks the manner (way of doing) of something. You can use how when you want to know the way something was done.  You can also use the word how when you want to know the number of something (such as how many tomatoes you have). If you want to know how a task was completed (done), the number of something, or how you got somewhere, then how is the word you should use.

For example:

  • How did the lamp break?
  • How was your day?
  • How many rolls do we have?
  • How did you get to their house?

Can you think of any other examples of when we would use question words in English? What question words do you use most often? Share with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Dating Vocabulary in EnglishWhy You Could Use a Bespeaking ProofreaderItalian Loan Words in English, or these 5 Great Antonyms in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and will answer any question you have about English!

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