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Conversational Language (#3), by Dennis Oliver

 

Conversational Language (#3)


The grammar used in written language and the grammar
used in conversational language are often quite different.
In fact, what's normal, common, and acceptable in spoken
language is often considered unacceptable in written
language. For that reason, we'll take a look, in the next
several Hints, at what some of these differences are.

 

3. Information ("Wh-") Questions

 

Written English

In written language, Information ("Wh-") questions have
several forms:

BE: Questions about the Subject

Wh-* + BE + other words

Who is at the door?
How many people are here?
Which office is Mr. Smith's?
Whose office is at the end of the hall?

BE: Questions about Information after the Subject

Wh-* + BE + subject + other words

Where is Ahmed?
When are your office hours?
Why is Ricardo absent today?
What is that man's name?

 

Verbs with Auxiliaries: Questions about the Subject

Wh-* + AUX + verb + other words

Who can speak French?
How many people will be there?
Which person might help us?
Who has been absent 10 times?
How many people have finished the test?
Whose brother has been married four times?

Verbs with Auxiliaries: Questions about
Information After the Subject

Wh-* + AUX + subject + verb + other words

What languages can you speak?
When will your parents arrive?
Why have you been absent so often?
What time should I arrive?
How often has Ricardo been absent?
Who(m) have you talked to about this problem?

Verbs without Auxiliaries: Questions about the Subject

Wh-* + verb + other words

Who speaks French?
How many people live here?
Which professor teaches this class?

Verbs without Auxiliaries: Questions about
Information After the Subject

Wh-* + DO / DOES / DID + subject + verb + other words

What languages do you speak?
When did your parents arrive?
Why do you miss class so often?
What time does he expect to arrive?
How often do you see Ricardo?
Who(m) did you talk to about this problem?

________________________________________________

 

Conversational English

In everyday conversation, information ("Wh-") questions
(especially those with BE, will, does, has, have, did, and
had) often use contractions--contractions that are often
heard in speaking, but almost never used in writing.

Examples: BE

When's, Who's, Which's, Why's, Where's, What's,
How's, Whose's
When're, Who're, Which're, Why're, Where're,
What're, How're, Whose're

Examples: Will

When'll, Who'll, Which'll, Why'll, Where'll, What'll, How'll
How many'll, How often'll, What time'll, Whose'll

Examples: Does

When's, Who's, Which's, Why's, Where's, What's, How's

Examples: Has

When's, Who's, Which's, Why's, Where's, What's, How's

Examples: Have

When've, Who(m)'ve, Which've, Why've, Where've,
What've, How've, How many've, How often've

Examples: Did

When'd, Who'd, Which'd, Why'd, Where'd, What'd,
How'd, How many'd, How often'd

Examples: Had

When'd, Who'd, Which'd, Why'd, Where'd, What'd,
How'd, How many'd, How often'd

 

Examples: Complete Questions

When's the party? ( = When is the party?)

Why's Luz angry? ( = Why is Luz angry?)

When'll the party be? ( = When will the party be?)

What time'll you arrive? ( = What time will you arrive?)

What time'll you be arriving? ( = What time will you be arriving?)

When's he want to leave? ( = When does he want to leave?)

When's he going to leave? ( = When is he going to leave?)

When's she been absent? ( = When has she been absent?)

What's she wearing? ( = What is she wearing?)

What's she want? ( = What does she want?)

What's she done? ( = What has she done?)

How often've you been absent? ( = How often have
you been absent?)

What've you done? ( = What have you done?)

When'd they arrive? ( = When did they arrive?)

Where'd he go? ( = Where did he go?)

Who'd he been talking to? ( = Who had he been talking to?)

How many times'd he been absent before today?
(How many times had he been absent before today?)

 

____________________________________

 

Important: Contractions like the ones above
are very common in spoken English, but they
are very uncommon (and generally not
appropriate!) in written English.

____________________________________

 

Special Notes:

1.  

Notice that 's can mean is, has, has or does.
To know which one is meant, listen for the words
after 's:

Where's he from? ('s = is)
Where's he been? ('s = has)
What's he want? ('s = does)

     
2.  

Notice also that 'd can mean did or had. To know
which one is meant, listen for the words after 'd:

When'd he arrive? ( 'd = When did he arrive?)

Where'd he lived before he moved here?
('d = Where had he lived before he moved here?)

     
3.*  

Some "Wh-" words are single words (Who,
Why, Where, How, etc.) and some are more
than one word:

How often, What time,
How many, etc.).

Some "Wh-" words also contain nouns or
other words as part of the "Wh-" expression:

Which ___ , What ___ ,
What kind of ___ ,
How many ___ ,
Whose ___ , etc.

 

Remember:

The contractions heard in relaxed, everyday conversation
are frequently heard in speaking even though they are
usually not acceptable in writing!

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