German Question Words

    Beginner German - Level A1


    Interrogative Pronouns / Question Words


    Interrogatives: wie, was, wann, warum, wo, wohin, woher, wie lange, wer, wen, welch-, wie viel, wie oft

    German A1.1

    Back to the Course

    German A1

    Question Words

    In English and in German, we can differentiate between two kinds of direct questions: "Ja/Nein Fragen" (Yes/No questions), or Ergänzungsfragen (problem questions). 

    1. Ja/Nein-Fragen/ Entscheidungsfragen 

    When forming a yes/no question or "decision" question in German, we need to use inverted word order. Inverted word order means that the subject slips behind the word. This happens in English when we ask questions with "to be", or when we ask questions with modal verbs.

    Are you tired?
    Can you drive me to the airport? 

    In German, we always use inverted word order for direct questions, even for questions that would require the auxiliary verb "to do". (e.g. Do you have the keys?"

    Du hast die Schlüssel.                   Hast du die Schlüssel? 
    You have the keys.            ->         Do you have the keys? (lit: Have you the keys? 

    Er kann mich anrufen.                  Kann er mich anrufen? 
    He can call me.                ->         Can he call me? (lit: Can he me call?) 

    Notice how the answer for the above questions can only either be "Ja/yes" or "Nein/no". 

    2. Ergänzungsfragen (probe questions)

    Ergänzungsfragen, or "proble" questions ask about specific details, either about time, location, duration, purpose, etc. Probe questions require a question word, which will always be placed in position one, followed by the verb and the subject in inverted word order.  

    Question Words

    The question words "Woher" und "Wohin" are separable. Their suffices "-her" and "-hin" can also be placed at the end of the question sentence:

    Woher kommst du?  -> Wo kommst du her? (Where do you come from?)
    Wohin geht sie?  -> Wo geht sie hin? (Where is she going?) 

    Questions that ask about quantity "Wie viel" and "Wie viele" follow a slightly different word order. The noun for which we are asking the quantity is placed before the verb and subject. 

    Wie viel Geld hast du? (How much money do you have?)
    Wie viele Hunde hat er? (How many dogs does he have?)

    Additional Activities

    Review the lesson above and complete additional activities to build your understanding of this topic. For the activities listed below, sign in for additional access. It's free.

    Online Language Classes with an Instructor

    Online Language Training

    Start improving your learning experience by working with one of our incredible language instructors. Visit the shop today.

    officebusinessAsset 97@250x-8Business Language Training

    Start learning a foreign language at work with your team. Discover how CORE Languages can support an array of language services for your business.

    CORE Compass BlogDiscover the Compass Blog

    From PR to news updates to teaching tips and learning topics, let the Compass Blog be your guide to language services you need.