How to ask a question in German


How to ask a question in German

A question is a sentence in an interrogative form, addressed to someone in order to get information in reply. Quite often questions can be answered with either “yes” or “no”.

In German there are 3 ways of asking a direct question:

1. by changing the word order in a sentence
2. by adding oder, doch, nicht, nicht wahr to the sentence
3. by using a question word, e.g. Wo? (where)

Asking a question by changing the word order

Many questions are simply formed by changing the word order of a sentence. You can form questions by reversing the subject pronoun and verb.

Let’s have a look at a few examples:

Du magst Kuchen. ⇨ Magst du Kuchen?
You like cake. ⇨ Do you like cake?

Max geht in die Schule. ⇨ Geht Max in die Schule?
Max goes to school. ⇨ Does Max go to school?

In sentences with more than one verb, such as the perfect tense, conditional tense, future tense and pluperfect, the verbs haben / sein / werden come before the subject while the infinitive / past participle goes to the end of the sentence.

For example:

Die Rechnung haben Sie noch nicht bezahlt. ⇨ Haben Sie die Rechnung noch nicht bezahlt ?
You haven’t paid the bill yet. ⇨ Haven’t you paid the bill yet?

Anna wird nächstes Jahr ihre Freundin besuchen. ⇨ Wird Anna nächstes Jahr ihre Freundin besuchen?
Anna is going to visit her friend next year. ⇨ Is Anna going to visit her friend next year?

Asking a question by adding doch, oder, nicht, nicht wahr

In English isn’t it and won’t you are added to a sentence to make it into a question. In the same way a statement in German can be made into a question by adding nicht, nicht wahr, oder or doch.

For example:

Du machst das, oder? ⇨ You’ll do it, won’t you?
Das weißt du doch? ⇨ You know it, don’t you?
Du bist hungrig, nicht wahr? ⇨ You are hungry, aren’t you?
Sie sind Amerikaner, nicht? ⇨ They are Americans, aren’t they?

Asking a question by using a question word

Question words are used to ask for information. They can usually be found at the beginning of the sentence. Below are the most common question words:

German English
wie? how?
was? what?
wann? when?
wo? where?
welcher? which?
wer? who?
wem? whom?
wessen? whose?
warum? why?

Example sentences:

Wann kommst du nach Hause? ⇨ When are you coming home?
Was machst du heute Abend? ⇨ What are you doing this evening?
Wessen Auto ist das? ⇨ Whose car is this?
Wie koche ich ein Ei? ⇨ How do I boil an egg?
Wo ist die nächste Bank? ⇨ Where is the nearest bank?
Welcher Monat kommt nach Mai? ⇨ Which month comes after May?
Wer hat mich gerufen? ⇨ Who called me?
Warum bist du krank? ⇨ Why are you ill?
Wem kann ich meinen Mantel geben? ⇨ To whom can I give my coat?

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