Understanding Grammar: Question Forms
In this week's Premier Skills English Podcast, Jack is speaking about meeting the Liverpool forward, Mohamed Salah. Rich, as a Liverpool fan, is not happy. The language focus is on question forms and your task is to tell us a famous person you'd like to meet and three questions you'd like to ask her/him. Don't forget to listen to the end of the podcast because we have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Understanding Grammar: Question Forms
Jack: Hello my name’s Jack
Rich: and I’m Rich and welcome to this week’s Premier Skills English podcast
Jack: Where we talk about football and help you with your English.
Rich: We recommend that you listen to this podcast on the Premier Skills English website because that is where we have the transcript, language examples, activities, quizzes and a discussion page to help you understand everything we talk about.
Jack: However, if you’re listening on Apple Podcasts, you can leave answers to our questions in the review section. We do read all the reviews and would love to hear from you.
Jack: Some of the words and phrases we look at include: relentless, unprecedented, a consolation goal and a deflection.
Rich: It’s on the Premier Skills English homepage, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and lots of other places right now!
Jack: In last week’s podcast, we spoke about computers and internet safety. Thanks for all your comments and top tips to stay safe online.
Rich: If you want to complete this lesson and learn more vocabulary connected to technology, you need to go to our homepage, click skills, click listen and click podcasts. It’s called Learning Vocabulary: You’ve been hacked!
Jack: In this week’s podcast, we’re going to talk about Mohamed Salah and we’re going to help you with question forms.
Rich: In this week’s roleplay, Jack tells me that he is going to meet Mohamed Salah and I’m much more excited about this than Jack is.
Jack: Well, you are a Liverpool fan, Rich. In the roleplay, you will hear lots of questions and different types of questions that we will look at in the language focus. We also have a little game for you to play at home - it’s called the question game.
Rich: Your task this week is to tell us about someone you would like to meet and three questions you would like to ask this person. Before all that though, we need to look at last week’s football phrase.
Last week’s Football Phrase
Rich: If you didn’t hear our football phrase last week we’re going to give you one more chance to guess now. We’ll give you the correct answer at the end of the show when we give you a new football phrase.
Jack: Well done if you got it right last week and congratulations to those of you who wrote the correct answer on the Premier Skills English website or Apple Podcasts.
Rich: Alex from Ukraine was the first with the correct answer last week. Well done, Alex. And well done to Marco Zapien from Mexico, Idzingirai from Zimbabwe, Elghoul from Algeria, Ronisanttos and Rafael Robson from Brazil, Merseyake from Poland, Milos from Serbia, Wsanta from Argentina, Takuya from Japan, Ahmed Adam from Sudan, Lakerwang from China and Yazeed from Saudi Arabia who also got the right answer.
Jack: And a quick flag test for you, Rich. The Indonesian flag - red on the top or red on the bottom.
Rich: Red on the top.
Jack: The Polish flag - red on the top or red on the bottom?
Rich: Red on the bottom. Yes, sorry Merseyake - last week I said you were from Indonesia but you’re from Poland. I mixed up my flags.
Jack: Right, remember you can write your answers on the comments section on the Premier Skills English website or the review section on Apple Podcasts if that’s where you listen to us. Let’s hear last week’s phrase again.
Rich: The football phrase is *** which stands for ***** ********* *******. This technology is being used in the Premier League this season for the first time and it allows a referee watching a replay to change decisions made on the pitch. A couple of phrases that are now very common include ‘it’s gone to ***’ and ‘*** overturned the decision’.
Jack: We’ll give you the answer at the end of the show and we’ll have a new football phrase for you to guess.
Introduction to Roleplay
Jack: In this week’s roleplay, I’m talking to Rich about meeting Mohamed Salah - the Liverpool striker.
Rich: While you are listening, we want you to answer two questions:
Jack: How does Rich feel about me meeting Mohamed Salah?
Rich: And what do I want Jack to bring back from his meeting with Mohammed Salah?
Jack: Hey Rich. I’ve got some big news.
Rich: You’ve learned to ride a bike? Arsenal have won a match? Your essential oils business is finally taking off? Come on, spit it out.
Jack: You’re going to be green with envy but next week I might get the chance to meet Mohamed Salah.
Rich: You what?! I’m sorry? What on earth? What the ...?
Jack: Mohamed Salah. Liverpool striker, European Champion, World Champion …
Rich: Yes, I know who he is but how, why, where, when, … How come you get to meet him? Why on earth have they chosen you? What about me? Can I come? I’d be really good. I’ve never met anyone famous.
Jack: Slow down …. I knew you’d react like this. I’m going up to Liverpool next week and I’ve been invited to a press conference. I’m thinking about the questions I could ask him.
Rich: A press conference? What’s it about? Where are you going to meet him?
Jack: He’s going into a local school and talking about fitness and healthy eating and things like that.
Rich: This might sound a bit weird but did you know that I have some lucky pants I wear when Liverpool are playing. Would it be ridiculous to ask him to sign my lucky Liverpool pants?
Jack: Why on earth would I ask him that? Yes, that would be utterly ridiculous. I know you’re a fan but what the …
Rich: All right, hold on a minute. Why don’t you ask him where he lives? What time does he get up in the morning? When does he go training?
Jack: He’ll think I’m a stalker or that I’m going to burgle his house. I think my questions will be about food, fitness and football. Have you got any ideas?
Rich: What’s his favourite food? Does he like training every day? What’s the best goal he’s scored?
Jack: Maybe, but I might only get to ask him one question so I want to make it interesting. Anything else?
Rich: Could you ask him if he prefers playing with Sadio Mane or Roberto Firmino?
Jack: He’ll say he loves playing with them both, won’t he?
Rich: Ask him if he’s going to stay at Liverpool forever.
Jack: I’m sure he will. Keep thinking about those questions - I’m not going till next week.
Rich: Oh one more thing. Would you mind asking him for his autograph?
Jack: Sure. As long it’s a match programme or magazine I’m not asking him to sign - your pants!
Rich: Did you get the answers to the two questions we gave you?
Jack: The first question was how did Rich feel about me meeting Mohamed Salah.
Rich: I think the word is jealous or envious. Yes, dead jealous or green with envy. I’m glad it was only a roleplay.
Jack: And the second question was what does Rich want me to bring back from the meeting.
Rich: The answer was an autograph.
Jack: But just on paper not on any clothes!
Rich: Yes, all right. OK, in the roleplay we used lots and lots of questions and we’re going to talk about these questions now.
Jack: One of the simplest types of question is the yes/no question. We use them to get basic information about something.
Rich: In the roleplay, I asked Jack these yes/no questions: ‘Can I come?’, ‘Would it be ridiculous to ask him to sign my pants?’ and ‘Does he like training every day?’.
Jack: When we ask yes/no questions we use something called inversion. This involves inverting or changing the places of the subject and the verb. So you move the verb to the beginning of the question. A sentence like ‘I can come’ becomes ‘Can I come?’.
Rich: But remember if you’re not using the verbs ‘be’ or ‘have’ or modal verbs like ‘can’ or ‘should’ then you need to add ‘do’ or ‘does’ or ‘did’. So a sentence like ‘He likes training every day’ becomes ‘Does he like training every day?’
Jack: We can be lazy sometimes and we don’t use inversion. We don’t invert a sentence to make a question when we think something is surprising.
Rich: In the roleplay, I said ‘You’ve learned to ride a bike?’ and ‘Arsenal have won a match?’ I’m using rising intonation to show that I’m surprised or confused and there is no inversion even though it is a question.
Jack: When you’re first learning English, you are normally taught wh questions. We used lots of ‘wh’ questions in the roleplay. ‘What’s the best goal he has scored? When are you going?’ that kind of question.
Rich: We use ‘who’ for people, ‘when’ for time, ‘where’ for places, ‘what or which’ for things, ‘why’ for reasons and ‘how’ for more details.
Jack: You probably know this already but it’s useful revision. The answers to ‘wh’ questions will never be yes or no. We usually follow a wh question with an auxiliary verb like be, do or have followed by the subject, followed by the main verb.
Rich: When are you going to the match? What did you do yesterday?
Jack: We can replace the auxiliary verb with a modal verb to get questions like ‘What match should I watch?’ or ‘Where could we go on holiday?’
Rich: Sometimes wh questions have a different structure. They are similar, but there’s no main verb. These are called subject questions.
Jack: Rich said that I should ask Mohammed Salah ‘What’s your favourite food?’ This is a subject question because the question word replaces the subject of a normal sentence.
Rich: So pizza is my favourite food. The subject of that sentence is pizza. To make a question, I can change the subject to a question word. What’s your favourite food?
Jack: Aubameyang is my favourite player. Who’s your favourite football player? Who’s the top scorer in the Premier League right now? Jamie Vardy is the top scorer in the Premier League right now.
Rich: Another example from the roleplay is ‘Why on earth have they chosen you?’
Jack: This phrase ‘on earth’ is used to show that you are shocked. Rich was shocked that they would choose me to meet Mohamed Salah and possibly a little angry.
Rich: I also said ‘What on earth!’ to show this shock. I also said ‘what the …’ to show my surprise. If I was really angry I might have used the ‘f’ word but never in our podcast.
Jack: You often see ‘wtf’ written down online when somebody is really shocked by something. I’m sure you all know what the ‘f’ stands for.
Rich: We also used some much more polite questions in the roleplay. For example, I said to Jack ‘Could you ask him if he prefers playing with Firmino or Mane?’ ‘Would you mind asking him for his autograph?’
Jack: Using words and phrases such as ‘could’ and ‘would you mind’ followed by the gerund is much more polite than using ‘can’ or ‘will’.
Rich: OK, I think that is enough about the language of question types for now. You can find more explanations and activities on the Premier Skills English website.
Jack: In the next section, you are going to hear me and Rich playing a game - we’re calling it the question game. We want you to listen out for different question types …
Rich: and later this week we want you to find an English speaking friend or classmate and play the same game. If you’re not sure how to play, the idea is that the first person to say a statement rather than a question is the loser.
Rich: Do you want to play the question game?
Jack: Don’t I always want to play the question game?
Rich: How do you play it again?
Jack: Don’t you remember? Shall I start then?
Rich: Do you want to start?
Jack: Did you see the match yesterday?
Rich: Did I see the match? Did I see the match? Could you tell me what happened at the match?
Jack: Are you telling me you didn’t see that goal from Mohamed Salah?
Rich: Was it really good?
Jack: Well, what do you think?
Rich: I imagine it was really good …. wasn’t it?
Jack: Tag questions don’t count, do they?
Rich: Yes, they do.
Jack: You lose.
Jack: I feel good after winning that.
Rich: I won. You cheated. Tag questions aren’t really questions, are they? They’re not very useful, are they? We don’t use them anymore, do we? It’s a waste of time teaching them, isn’t it?
Jack: Well, you’ve just used four question tags in a row, haven’t you?
Rich: We’ll play again later. Right, your task this week is for you to tell us about a person you’d like to meet.
Jack: We want you to tell us why you’d like to meet this person and we want you to tell us three questions you would ask that person if you met him or her.
Rich: If you can, try to write three different question types and don’t forget to reply to other listeners and tell them if you’d like to meet this person, too.
Jack: It’s my turn with the football phrase this week.
Rich: Lots of people got it right last week, let’s see if we can get even more getting it right this week.
Jack: OK, this week’s football phrase is ****** *****. For the first time in the Premier League, clubs are getting a rest in the coldest months of the year. Each Premier League club will have two weeks off in February. But a ****** **** doesn’t mean there will be no Premier League football. Some clubs will have their ****** ***** at the beginning of February and some clubs will have their ****** **** at the end of February.
Rich: Ok, let’s see who can get it right. Before we leave you we also need to tell you last week’s football phrase. The answer, of course, was VAR or Video Assistant Referee.
Jack: Right, that’s all we have time for this week! Don’t forget to write your answers to our questions and make a guess at our football phrase in the comments below. If you get it right, we’ll announce your name on next week’s show.
Rich: If you have any questions or comments or suggestions for the podcast or anything football or English related, you can leave them on the website in the comments section, on social media, on apple podcasts or you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jack: Bye for now and enjoy your football!
How much did you understand?
In the podcast, Rich and Jack used some words and phrases that might be new for you. Do you know the words in bold?
You’re going to be green with envy but next week I might get the chance to meet Mohamed Salah.
Why on earth have they chosen you?
I’m going up to Liverpool next week and I’ve been invited to a press conference.
Yes, that would be utterly ridiculous.
He’ll think I’m a stalker or that I’m going to burgle his house.
Would you mind asking him for his autograph?
All of these phrases were in the roleplay. Listen to the roleplay again and read the transcript. Listen for the phrases in bold. If you're not sure what they mean, have a go at the activity below or ask us a question in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
Very simply, yes/no questions are questions which we answer with 'yes' or 'no'. In the roleplay, Jack and Rich used quite a few of them:
Can I come?
Would it be ridiculous to ask him to sign my pants?’
Does he like training every day?
When we use the verbs 'be' and 'have' and modal verbs (can, would, should etc.) in yes/no questions we make the question by putting the verb in front of the subject. This is called inversion. For example, the sentence 'He is a footballer' becomes 'Is he a footballer?'. For all other verbs, we use 'do', does' and 'did' at the beginning of a yes/no question. For example, the sentence 'He plays in the Premier League' becomes 'Does he play in the Premier League?'.
In the roleplay, Rich and Jack spoke about wh- questions. We use wh- questions to speak about different things. Here's a list of the most common ones. Which is the odd one out?
We use when for time.
We use who for people.
We use what and which for things.
We use why for reasons.
We use whose for possessions.
We use where for places.
We use how for more details.
We group 'how' with the other 'wh-' questions as it performs a similar function. Rich and Jack spoke about two types of questions that use wh-questions: QASV (question word, auxiliary verb, subject, main verb) questions and subject questions. Take a look at the four questions we used in the podcast below. Do you know which follow the QASV pattern and which are subject questions?
- What's your favourite food?
- When are you going?
- Who’s the top scorer in the Premier League right now?
- Why on earth have they chosen you?
The first and third questions are subject questions because the question word replaces the subject in a normal sentence. The second and fourth questions follow the QASV pattern.
In the question game that Jack and Rich played they used a lot of question tags. Question tags are usually used when we want to make sure that what we are saying is correct and/or we want the other person to agree with us. Here are two examples from the question game:
I imagine it was really good, …. wasn’t it?
Tag questions don’t count, do they?
In the first example, Rich knew that it was a good game and he just wants to check. In the second example, Jack is sure but want to double-check the statement with Rich.
If you want to learn more about question forms, we have another podcast all about questions!
A question tag is negative if the main part of the sentence is positive:
You’re English, aren’t you?
A question tag is positive if the main part of the sentence is negative:
You’re not from London, are you?
The question tag repeats the modal verb or verb to be that is in the main part of the sentence. If there is no modal verb (can, should, might etc.) or the verb is not 'be' or 'have' then ‘do’ is used in the question tag:
Harry Kane scored again, didn’t he?
Sometimes a question tag can be said with less certainty and is more of a real question. We know this by how the question sounds, the intonation - the way our voice moves up and down. In the roleplay, you heard examples of question tags with falling intonation and rising intonation. It’s more common to hear question tags with falling intonation, which means the speaker is sure about what they are saying. When the speaker’s using rising intonation, they are less sure and want an answer or some clarification. Listen to roleplay three again to hear the different intonation patterns.
Interview with a famous person
Your task this week is for you to tell us about a person you’d like to meet:
- Tell us why you’d like to meet this person.
- Tell us three questions you would ask that person if you met him or her.
Try to write three different question types and don’t forget to reply to other listeners and tell them if you’d like to meet this person, too.
Write all your answers in the comments section below and don't forget to make a guess at this week's football phrase!