Learning English

Inspiring language learning since 1943

English Change language

Session 2

‘Could you tell me how we ask indirect questions?’ Well, that’s what we’re going to do in this session. We’re going to look at different ways of asking for information and making requests, focusing on indirect questions. We will look at the uses of indirect questions as well as the form and word order.

Sessions in this unit

Session 2 score

0 / 6

  • 0 / 0
    Activity 1
  • 0 / 6
    Activity 2
  • 0 / 0
    Activity 3

Activity 2

Indirect questions with 'if' and 'whether'

I wonder if you noticed this...

Let's look at yes-no indirect questions. Take a look at this:

Do you know if this computer is free?

Read the text and complete the activity

Why do we use if in this indirect question? To find out, let's change it back to a direct question. The direct question is: Is this computer free?

This is a yes-no question with the auxiliary verb before the subject. When we change it to an indirect question, we place the auxiliary verb and main verb after the subject and add if. Look at some more examples:

  • Do you know if Catherine has arrived yet? (Direct question: Has Catherine arrived yet?)
  • I was wondering if I could leave early this afternoon. (Direct question: Could I leave early this afternoon?)
  • Could you tell me if you will be able to join us this evening? (Direct question: Will you be able to join us this evening?)

Whether... or not

So that is when and why we use ifbut what about this question?

  • I was wondering whether you have corrected my computer details yet.

In this case, we use whether to ask the indirect yes-no question. It has the same use and meaning as if. The only small difference is that whether can be more formal.

We can also add or not to indirect yes-no questions with if and whether:

  • Could you tell me if the report is ready or not?
  • Could you tell me whether it will be ready on time or not?

We can use or not directly after whether. However, when we use if, we can only use or not at the end of the sentence.

  • Do you know whether or not we have a meeting tomorrow?
  • Do you know whether we have a meeting tomorrow or not?
  • Do you know if we have a meeting tomorrow or not?

Instead of or not, we can also offer two alternatives with whether... or... in an indirect question.

  • I wonder whether I should finish this task now or take a break and do it later.
  • Can you tell me whether the train is late or cancelled?

To do

I wonder if you are ready for this quiz or not… maybe you should give it a go! When you've finished, could you tell us whether it was too hard or too easy?

Right or wrong?

6 Questions

Are these indirect questions correct or wrong?

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

Right or wrong?

6 Questions

Are these indirect questions correct or wrong?

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

Next

Do you know if you are ready for 6 Minute Grammar? Come on! This time Rob and Catherine will help you understand indirect questions!

Session Grammar

  • Indirect questions with if or whether help us to ask yes/no questions politely or formally.

    Direct question: Is the meeting at two?

    Indirect question: Could you tell me if the meeting is at two?

    Indirect question: Could you tell me whether the meeting is at two?

    We can add or not to indirect questions with if and whether like this:

    Could you tell me if the meeting is at two or not?

    Could you tell me whether the meeting is at two or not?

    Could you tell me whether or not the meeting is at two?

    So we can use or not straight after whether or at the end of the question, but we can only use it at the end of questions with if.