Improve your conversation skills with WH questions


Hello, there. My name is Ronnie. What's your name? Who are you? Where are you? And what

are the five "wh" questions in English? Can you name them? Six, I got six. Let's go to

the board and see. In English, we have five very common "wh"

questions. People will say the five "wh" questions -- there they are. Repeat with me: who, what,

when, where, why, and how. Who, what, when, where, why, how; six. Again: who, what, when,

where, why, how. When I was learning Japanese and Spanish,

the very, very, first thing that I learned was the five "wh" questions in Japanese and

the five "wh" questions in Spanish. So I recommend that you remember these in English. You've

got five -- six very important questions that you can ask anytime, anywhere, at any place

necessary. You may look at this and go, "Okay, I see

w-h-o, 'who', w-h, w-h, w-h, w-h -- what the? What?" This confused me as a child. "Teacher,

why is 'h-o-w' a 'wh' question? What's happening here? What have you done to my young brain?"

And then I looked at it -- go, "Oh, there's an 'h' and a 'w', hee hee hee. So it is a

"hw", "wh" question. You've got your six. So let's go through and think about why we

would use these 'wh' questions for conversation. Have you ever had a really boring conversation

with someone? I have -- all the time, every day. We say it's "like pulling teeth" to get

someone to speak to you or have a conversation, which means -- pulling teeth -- it's painful.

The person is not interested in what you're saying. You would rather talk to the wall

than speak to this person. So here's how not to be boring when you're trying to have a

conversation with someone. Someone may ask you a question, for example, "What did you

do yesterday?" Most of you go, "Nothing." Wow, you're a really cool, exciting person.

I don't want to talk to you anymore. Bye-bye. So you can say something simple like, "I ate

dinner." Good. We've got something. So you can then continue the conversation with the

person and say, "Who? Who? Who? Who cooked the dinner?" And the person says, "My mom."

Cool, okay, so you know that this person ate dinner -- so they can't be that boring -- and

then you know that they have a mother: two points.

Can you think of a "what" question you could ask someone about dinner? "What did you eat?",

or "What did you mother cook?" Okay? "What did she cook?" And the person goes, "Food".

And at this point, I would give up and carry on to a different conversation with another

person like you. So I could say to you, "Hello. When did you

start studying English?" And you say, "Five years ago." Perfect, okay? So "When did you

start?" Now, you don't have to talk about English all the time because that's kind of

boring. Maybe you know that the person does sports, or the person likes drawing or painting,

so you can say, "When did you start playing a sport? When did you start playing football?"

Usually people like to talk about football. People like to talk about their favourite

team -- Manchester United, Barcelona. So if you can start the person talking on something

they like, your conversation is going to go amazingly.

So what about a "where" question? Maybe you are at a meeting, or you're in a very awkward

social situation where you have to speak to people, and maybe the person is not from your

country. You can ask them a very simple question, like "Where are you from?" And maybe the person

says, "I'm from Canada." And then, "Really? Ronnie's from Canada. Do you know Ronnie?"

And the person goes, "No." "Okay, that's good." Can you think of a "why" question you could

ask someone? Let's talk about food. "Why did your mother cook food?" That's a strange question.

"Why do you like football?" "Why did you start studying English?" Okay?

And then this crazy one, "how" -- this is kind of a strange question, but there are

techniques. You could say, "how long -- how long have you studied English for?", or "How

long did you live in your home country?" "How long did you work at your job?" "How long

did you live?" Maybe you're talking to a ghost. That would be cool. And then you say, "Ghost,

how long did you live?" Okay? "How long did you live in your country?"

So, what's very, very, very, very, very, very, very important and that I almost forgot was,

because these are questions, you need to always have a question mark when you're writing.

When you're speaking, you know the person is asking you a question because your voice

goes up. So I wouldn't say, "What did she cook." I would say, "What did she cook?" Every

single time in English, you ask a question -- your voice goes up at the end of the question

so the person knows it's their chance to answer, and not to be boring.

You've got homework. The next time you have a conversation with someone in English or

in your language, think of one of the six "wh" questions you could ask them. Or if you're

really ambitious, think of six "wh" questions you could ask them to continue your conversation.

If you'd like more great continuing conversation bits, go to Toodles.

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