Session 2

The Inspector continues to work out who stole the ring and asks lots of questions. Find out how you can form your own subject-object questions along the way.

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Subject questions

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?

Sagalicha dhaggeeffadhu

Barreeffama agarsiisi Barreeffama dhoksi

Rob
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute Grammar with me, Rob.

Catherine
And me, Catherine. Hello.

Rob
Hello. In this programme we're talking about subject questions. We'll show you what they are, and how to make them...

Catherine
And we'll have a quiz to test what you've learnt...

Rob
And we'll finish with a top pronunciation tip.

Catherine   
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.

Neil
Hello Catherine.

Catherine
With an example:

Neil   
Who did David meet?

Rob
Thanks Neil. Now the answer could be:

Neil
David met Victoria.

Catherine
Subject: David; verb: met; object: Victoria. So Victoria is the object of the verb met.

Rob
So in the question Who did David meet? The word who is asking about the object.

Catherine
But we can also use question words to ask about the subject, like this:

Neil
Who lives in the White House?

Catherine
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?

Rob
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?

Catherine
Tough one Rob. I think it's the US president.

Rob
Yes, correct.

Catherine
Let's have another one please.

Neil
What makes you happy?

Catherine
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?

Rob
It's got to be riding my bike, I think. So that's who to ask about people, and what for things.

Catherine
Exactly. Now, can we have nother one please Neil?

Neil
Which key opens this door?

Catherine
So, the question word which usually comes with a noun. For example: which key. Rob, which key opens this door?

Rob
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.

Catherine
And what if the choice of possible answers isn't limited?

Rob
Well, then we use what without a noun.

Neil
What happened last night? What caused the accident?

IDENT
You're listening to BBC Learning English.

Rob
And we're looking at subject questions. Neil, can we have one more subject question word please?

Neil
Whose story won first prize?

Rob
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?

Catherine
And now: a pronunciation warning. In spoken English, the words who is and the words who has are often shortened to:

Both
Who's!!!

Catherine
That's right: it sounds exactly the same as the question word whose. Who's - whose.

Rob
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:

Neil
Who's using my mobile phone? Whose mobile phone has a signal?

Rob
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?

Catherine
Top tip Rob. So now we have four words we can use for subject questions: who, which, what, and whose.

Rob
Do you know what, I think that means: it's quiz time.

Catherine
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.

Rob
So, the subject is Keiko - that's a person. It's who for people, so the question is Who speaks Japanese?

Catherine
Exactly. Here's another answer: Kate's dog won the competition.

Rob
So it's whose because the dog belongs to Kate. With whose we need the noun dog, so: Whose dog won the competition?

Catherine
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.

Rob
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?

Catherine
So that's subject questions. They don't need the auxiliary do, does or did...

Rob
...but they all start with a question word. Just remember to choose the right one!

Catherine
There's more about this on our website at www.bbclearningenglish.com. Join us again for more 6 Minute Grammar.

Both
Bye.

Download

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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.

Caasluga kutaa kanaa

  • 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.