Indirect interrogative clauses (reported questions)





Indirect interrogative clauses (reported questions) do not have a specific meaning when functioning as subject or object clauses. They report a question in an indirect manner and express doubt or uncertainty.


Form and function


Indirect interrogative clauses (reported questions) are subordinate clauses that are introduced by a conjunction, contain a finite verb form and are subject or object clauses.



indirect interrogative clause
yes-no question
interrogative pronoun
question-word question (w-word question)
preposition + interrogative pronoun
interrogative adverb




Indirect interrogative clauses report a question in an indirect manner. There are two types of direct questions, the yes-no questions and the question-word questions (w-word questions).


The yes-no questions can be answered with a "yes" or a "no", i.e. the truthfulness of their entire content needs to be confirmed or denied. In these questions, the verb stands in the first position; that is why they are also called V-Fragen (v-questions). With question-word questions, we ask for clarification of a certain part of the entire content of the question which is unknown. These interrogative clauses are introduced by an interrogative pronoun or an interrogative adverb, which stands in the first position of the clause. That is why these clauses are also called W-Fragen (w-word questions). 


Wohnst du in München?
yes-no question
Hast du heute Geburtstag?
Wo wohnst du?
question-word question (W-Frage)
Wann hast du Geburtstag?



When a direct yes-no question is converted into a reported question, this question is introduced by the conjunction ob. When a direct question-word question is converted into a reported question, it is introduced by the same interrogative word that is used in the direct question.


Wohnst du in München? Er fragt, ob du in München wohnst.
Hast du heute Geburtstag? Er fragt, ob du heute Geburtstag hast.
Wo wohnst du? Er fragt, wo du wohnst.
Wann hast du Geburtstag? Er fragt, wann du Geburtstag hast.
  direct question indirect question




Note: Indirect questions are more polite in regard to direct questions.


Wie viel kostet das?
direct question
Kommst du zur Party?
Können Sie mir sagen, wie viel das kostet?
indirect question
Ich hätte gern gewusst, ob du zur Party kommst.