language and conversational
language are often
different. In fact,
what's normal, common,
language is often
considered to be
unacceptable in written
is one of several
Hints on some of the differences.
In written language, questions
language, one-word questions are
("Wh-") questions are often
reduced to single words in
A: Jim's having a party.
When? (When is Jim having a party?)
A: Someone left a message for
Who? (Who left a message for me?)
A: Bill's girlfriend isn't speaking
B: Why? (Why isn't Bill's girlfriend speaking to
A: Something really nice happened yesterday.
What? (What really nice thing happened yesterday?)
A: There was a terrible earthquake
Where? (Where was the terrible earthquake yesterday?)
A: I finally solved that difficult
How? (How did you solve that difficult problem?)
Sometimes other words need
to be added to
in order to make the question clearly
A: You'll be expected to work
How often? (How often will I be expected to work late?)
A: One of our friends just got
Which one? (Which one of our friends just got married?)
A: Bob just bought a car.
What kind? (What kind of car did he buy?)
A: There were a lot of people at the
B: How many? (How many people were at the
Sometimes the Wh-word is also
stressed--if the question
more detail about a modifier.
A: The concert tickets were kind of
(Exactly how expensive were
Slightly expensive? Somewhat expensive?
Very expensive? Outrageously
A: I usually get up pretty
(Exactly how early do you
At 6:00 AM? 5:00 AM? 4:00
A: Ibrahim took the TOEFL several times
got the score that he needed.
B: How many (times)?
(Exactly how many times did
the TOEFL before he got the score
he needed? Three? Four?
A: You'll need more time for tomorrow's
B: How much(more time)?
(Exactly how much more time
I need? 15 minutes? A half
One-word questions are used
only when the omitted words
in the question
are clearly understood--that is, when they
form a clear
connection to what
another person has just said.
If a conversation begins with a one-word
question will not (of course) be understood.