How to use German question words (W-Questions)

How to use German question words (W-Questions)

Asking questions is something that you will almost immediately need to know when you start to study German. Therefore, this article will explain everything you need to know to form correct sentences using German question words. 

Question words

Before we start with the questions themselves, it is important to know the meaning and function that question words have. You should be aware that their usage will always make your question become an open question (also referred to as an interrogative question). For instance, if somebody asks you: “Was sind deine Hobbies?” (What are your hobbies?), you could answer a million different things. In contrast to that, you could only answer “ja” or “nein” to a closed question like “Spielst du gern Fußball?” (Do you like to play soccer?) that does not use any question words.


German question words

In German,  all common question words start with the letter “W,” and therefore, they are also known as “W-Fragen” (W-Questions). There is also a well-known song from Sesame Street that uses many German question words and contains the famous line: “Wer, wie, was, wieso, weshalb, warum? Wer nicht fragt bleibt dumm!” You should not miss out on this classic. In the following, you can find the most common question words and their English translation.


Frequently used German question words:

German English
wer who
wie how
was what
warum / weshalb / wieso why
wo where
woher from where
wohin to where
wie lange how long
wen whom
wem to whom
welche which
wessen whose
wie viel / wie viele how much / how many


Building a sentence with a question word

The structure of an elementary sentence in German is Subject + Verb + Object. Thanks to German cases like Accusative and Dative, you can easily start your sentence with the object and Germans often do that. However, your verb will stay at the second position no matter if you start your sentence with the Subject (Nominative case) or not. The same applies when it comes to forming a question by using a question word.

For instance:
Peter hat Urlaub.

(Peter has a vacation.)

Wer hat Urlaub?

(Who has vacation?)

Ihr schreibt einen Test.

(You write a test.)

Was schreibt ihr?

(What do you write?)

In der Küche kocht Jan eine Suppe.

(Jan cooks soup in the kitchen.)

Wo kocht Jan eine Suppe?

(Where does Jan cook soup?)



Forming questions in German

As you could hopefully see in this article, forming questions using a question word in German is not too complicated. If you want to know what to answer to one of the most common questions, “Wie geht es dir?“, you can also check out the article How to properly react to small talk!


Bis bald!



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