Grammar. 03.09.2010
Grammar Teacher

Английская грамматика: Indirect questions. Ask politely

Автор: Grammar Teacher

Be nice to people on your way up because you'll meet them on your way down

Wilson Mizner


Последним экспрессом мчится вдаль усталое лето, оставляя после себя лишь яркие воспоминания и сладкий привкус дыни на устах. Одиночные сетки с арбузами напоминают о том, что сердце так не хочет отпускать. Еще несколько недель его будут согревать воспоминания о теплых объятия солнышка и просмотры фотоснимков, на которых все иначе. А дальше фото покроются пылью, так же, как и мысли, безнадежно попав в плен рутины. Между тем осень распаковывает свои чемоданы. Наступила ее пора. 

Как по мне, лето с его хмелем и быстротечностью – такая же иллюзия, как любовь, счастье и вечная жизнь. Иначе почему так трудно просыпаться 1 сентября с осознанием того, что больше не будет того тепла и легкости? So unfair.

And now leaving all that fairy life behind I’m back here, ready to share something interesting with you. This time it’ll be a two-in-one lesson. Of course, Grammar and a bit of polite manners. All rolled into one.  
 
Consider the following situation: You are talking to a man at a meeting that you have never met. However, you know his name and also that this man knows a colleague named Jack. You turn to him and ask: 

Where is Jack?

The man seems a little bothered and says he doesn't know. He isn't very friendly. You wonder why he seems bothered. It's probably because you didn't introduce yourself, didn't say 'excuse me' AND (most importantly) asked a direct question.

Direct questions are often considered rude when speaking to strangers. To be more polite we often use indirect question forms. Indirect questions serve the same purpose as direct questions, but are considered more formal.
 
To make simple questions in English, I'm sure you know, we use 'What', 'Why', 'Who' etc. and then we invert the subject and the first verb. So that the structure of such question is following:

Question word

(in Wh-questions)

Auxiliary verb

Subject

Main verb

 

Example: What's the time?

 

But this isn’t the only way of asking for the same information. If we want to sound more polite, we use longer, more indirect ways of asking questions. 
 Example: Could you tell me what the time is, please?

This kind of questions has two parts. They start with a phrase such as : 'Could you tell me….?' 
'Do you know…?', 'Have you any idea…?', 'Would you mind telling me…?'

Example 1: Do you know when the film finishes? 
Example 2: Have you any idea where I left my keys?
Example 3: Would you mind telling me how to get to the post office, please?

 

This kind of phrases is called an introductory phrase. There are some more:

I wonder / was wondering ….

Do you happen to know ...?

I'd like to know ...

I still can’t figure out…

I wish I knew…

I can’t remember…

The information which the questioner wants is then expressed in the second half of the phrase in a form which is not like a question. We DON”T CHANGE!  the order of the subject and verb. Thus indirect questions look like statements.

What time is it? Could you tell me what time it is?

Where is he? Could you tell me where he is?

 They are  "questions within questions" because although we are asking, for example, "Do you know? ", we really want some other information.
       

Yes/No questions 
These are questions where the answer can only be 'yes' or 'no'. These questions never start with question words, like: who, what, where, how, when or why.  For these, you need to use an IF or WHETHER between the indirect beginning of the question, and the rest.


Like this:

 

Direct:
 

 
Are you married?
Indirect: Would you mind telling me If/whether you are married?

 

Another example:  

 

Direct:
 

 
Does she have children?
Indirect: I still can’t figure out If/whether she has

children.

 

What happens to the helping verb 'to do'?

From the last example you could see that in the indirect form, you don't need it anymore, so take it out!

 

 

Direct:
 

 What
do you like doing at weekends?
Indirect: I'd like to know what you

like doing at weekends.

 

 


In the following song can you recognize any indirect questions?

“Independent Women” (Charlie's Angels) By Destiny's Child:
 

Question: Tell me what you think about me
I buy my own diamonds and I buy my own rings
Only ring your cell-y when I'm feelin’ lonely
When it's all over please get up and leave
Question: Tell me how you feel about this
Try to control me,boy, you get dismissed
Pay my own fun, oh and I pay my own bills
Always 50/50 in relationships.

Let’s try to write the direct questions for them:

1)      Tell me what you think about me– What do you think about me?

2)      Tell me how you feel about this – How do you feel about this?

 

As you can see the helping verb 'to do' disappears in the indirect questions.

 
Task. Now as you’re quite informed about indirect questions I want you to ask me some. Since I’m a VIP (Very Important Prepod) and you don’t even know my real name INDIRECT QUESTIONS are only appropriate to ask. Feel free to question whatever you may be interested in. I’m looking forward to answering your polite questions. 

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