German Indirect Questions
Indirect questions are questions that are included within the structure of another sentence. Because indirect questions are dependent clauses (Nebensätze in German), we have to change the position of the verb. When it comes to sentence structure, the rule for word order in indirect questions is: question-word + subject + object + verb.
An indirect question is a question that is embedded in another statement or another question. Indirect questions in German follow the word order of a subordinate clause, with the question word taking the place of a subordinating conjunction.
An indirect question can be embedded in a statement. The conjugated verb is placed at the end of the sentence, and we use a period, not a question mark:
Er wird mir morgen erzählen, wie sein erster Arbeitstag war.
He will tell me tomorrow how his first day at work was.
An indirect question or question sentence can also be embedded in another question. The conjugated verb is still at the end of the sentence, but we use a question mark:
Kannst du mir sagen, wo wir hingehen?
Can you tell me where we are going?
In comparison, direct questions are in the main clause in inverted word order:
Wie war dein erster Arbeitstag?
Wo gehen wir hin?
Indirect questions can be used to make a question more polite
1. Indirect Yes/No–Questions
When forming an indirect question that is answered with either “yes” or “no”, we use the subordinating conjunction “ob” (if/whether), placed at the beginning of the subordinate clause.
Can you tell me if you are going shopping tomorrow?
Can you tell me if a bus will run tomorrow?
Have you told him whether you have worked on Saturday?
He asks her if she can work tomorrow.
When forming an indirect question with a question word (w-word), the question word takes the place of the subordinating conjunction. Question words that inquire about a specific quantity or kind of noun (e.g. what kind of wine, how many roses, etc), the noun immediately follows the question word.
Can you tell me when you are going shopping tomorrow?
Can you tell me how often a bus will run tomorrow?
Have you told him why you have worked on Saturday?
He asks her which wine she will order.
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