Unit 18: A detective story
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- 1 Nice to meet you!
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Session 2 score
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In everyday English, the words who, what, which and whose are very common in questions. But how do we form questions when we want to ask about a subject or an object? Do not fear, Rob and Catherine are here to help. They've got 6 minutes to explain everything. Are you ready to begin?
Listen to the audio
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Rob.
And me, Catherine. Hello.
Hello. In this programme we're talking about subject questions. We'll show you what they are, and how to make them...
And we'll have a quiz to test what you've learnt...
And we'll finish with a top pronunciation tip.
So, let's get started. In everyday English, the words who, what, which and whose are very common in questions. Here's Neil, hello Neil.
With an example:
Who did David meet?
Thanks Neil. Now the answer could be:
David met Victoria.
Subject: David; verb: met; object: Victoria. So Victoria is the object of the verb met.
So in the question Who did David meet? The word who is asking about the object.
But we can also use question words to ask about the subject, like this:
Who lives in the White House?
OK, so we have a question word: who, plus a verb: lives. And it's a subject question because it asks who is doing the verb. Who lives in the White House?
Now we don't use do, does or did in subject questions. We don't say Who does live – it's just Who lives. So Catherine Who lives in the White House?
Tough one Rob. I think it's the US president.
Let's have another one please.
What makes you happy?
What makes me happy? Knitting actually makes me happy! So this question word is what. What is the subject, and the verb is makes. Rob, what makes you happy?
It's got to be riding my bike, I think. So that's who to ask about people, and what for things.
Exactly. Now, can we have nother one please Neil?
Which key opens this door?
So, the question word which usually comes with a noun. For example: which key. Rob, which key opens this door?
The smallest key opens this door. We use which when the choice of possible answers is limited, like which key, or which day, or which colour.
And what if the choice of possible answers isn't limited?
Well, then we use what without a noun.
What happened last night? What caused the accident?
You're listening to BBC Learning English.
And we're looking at subject questions. Neil, can we have one more subject question word please?
Whose story won first prize?
The word whose shows that something belongs to someone, and it usually comes with a noun, so: whose story is the subject; the verb is won. Whose story won first prize?
And now: a pronunciation warning. In spoken English, the words who is and the words who has are often shortened to:
That's right: it sounds exactly the same as the question word whose. Who's - whose.
It's confusing, isn't it? So here's a little tip for you. If you remember that the question word whose usually comes with a noun, you should be able to tell the difference. Here's Neil with two questions - but only one of them has a noun after the word whose. See if you can tell which one:
Who's using my mobile phone? Whose mobile phone has a signal?
Did you get that? The second question had whose plus a noun so that means it's a subject question: Whose mobile phone has a signal?
Top tip Rob. So now we have four words we can use for subject questions: who, which, what, and whose.
Do you know what, I think that means: it's quiz time.
And you're right, it is Rob. But actually, today we're doing a backwards quiz: I'll say the answer, and you at home have to work out what the subject question is. Here's the first answer: Keiko speaks Japanese.
So, the subject is Keiko - that's a person. It's who for people, so the question is Who speaks Japanese?
Exactly. Here's another answer: Kate's dog won the competition.
So it's whose because the dog belongs to Kate. With whose we need the noun dog, so: Whose dog won the competition?
Right, very good. And Kate's dog is a clever dog! No doubt about it. Right, last one: The shop on the corner sells gloves.
So it's which with shop because we're asking about a thing - and we can suppose there's a limited choice of shops in the area - so: Which shop sells gloves?
So that's subject questions. They don't need the auxiliary do, does or did...
...but they all start with a question word. Just remember to choose the right one!
There's more about this on our website at www.bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.
End of Session 2
That's all for this session. We hope you enjoyed it. If you want more information, download the Inspector Stone's Case Notes pdf for this episode. In the next session Inspector Stone will uncover more important clues and will have more questions to ask to help him solve the Case of the Missing Ring.
Forming subject questions
Subject questions with no auxiliary are formed with: question word + verb + object, where the verb agrees with the subject.
Who speaks Japanese? Kenji speaks Japanese.
Who rang the doorbell? The milkman rang the doorbell.
What caused the accident? Bad weather caused the accident.
Whose and which ask about possession and choice, and can be used in subject questions like this:
Whose horse finished the race first?
Which painting cost the most?
Using 'what' or 'which'
As well as which, what is also used to ask about choices. If the choice is limited, we use which and this is usually followed by a noun.