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Unit 75 Reported questions

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Main points

* You use reported questions to talk about a question that someone else has asked.

* In reported questions, the subject of the question comes before the verb.

* You use `if’ or `whether’ in reported `yes/no’-questions.

1 When you are talking about a question that someone has asked, you use a reported question.
She asked me why I was so late.
He wanted to know where I was going.
I demanded to know what was going on.
I asked her if I could help her.
I asked her whether there was anything wrong.

In formal and written English, `enquire’ (also spelled `inquire’) is often used instead of `ask’.
Wilkie had enquired if she did a lot of acting.
He inquired whether he could see her.

2 When you are reporting a question, the verb in the reported clause is often in a past tense. This is because you are often talking about the past when you are reporting someone else’s words.
She asked me why I was so late.
Pat asked him if she had hurt him.

However, you can use a present or future tense if the question you are reporting relates to the present or future.
Mark was asking if you’re enjoying your new job.
They asked if you’ll be there tomorrow night.

3 In reported questions, the subject of the question comes before the verb, just as it does in affirmative sentences.
She asked me why I was late.
I asked what he was doing.

4 You do not normally use the auxiliary `do’ in reported questions.
She asked him if his parents spoke French.
They asked us what we thought.

The auxiliary `do’ can be used in reported questions, but only for emphasis, or to make a contrast with something that has already been said. It is not put before the subject as in direct questions.
She asked me whether I really did mean it.
I told him I didn’t like classical music. He asked me what kind of music I did like.

5 You use `if’ or `whether’ to introduce reported `yes/no’-questions.
I asked him if he was on holiday.
She hugged him and asked him whether he was all right.
I asked him whether he was single.

`Whether’ is used especially when there is a choice of possibilities.
I was asked whether I wanted to stay at a hotel or at his home.
They asked whether Tim was or was not in the team.
I asked him whether he loved me or not.

Note that you can put `or not’ immediately after `whether’, but not immediately after `if’.
The police didn’t ask whether or not they were in.
See Units 74, 76, and 77 for more information on reporting.

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