Indirect Questions (Indirekte Fragen)

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What are Indirect Questions? (Indirekte Fragen)

There are ways of asking something without technically asking a question. For example, you can state that you don't know something and imply that you would like to know. Situations like this, where the question is only implied, are called indirect questions.


  • „Wie heißt deine Tochter? Ich habe es vergessen.“ (Direct Question)
  • „Ich habe vergessen, wie deine Tochter heißt.“      (Indirect Question)

They are called indirect questions because, well, they are an indirect way of asking the question.

We do this for different reasons in different situations: sometimes it just feels more natural to do it this way, and sometimes we want to be more polite. Either way you ask, they are likely to tell you their daughter's name.

Indirect Yes/No-Questions (Ja/Nein - Fragen)

Using ob (="if"):

  • „Ich weiß nicht mehr, ob ich den Herd ausgemacht habe.“
    ( ⇒ „Habe ich den Herd ausgemacht?“)
  • „Kannst du mir sagen, ob Maria gestern mit deiner Frau telefoniert hat?
    ( ⇒ „Hat Maria gestern mit deiner Frau telefoniert?“)
  • „Wissen Sie, ob Herr Meier schon an seinem Arbeitsplatz ist?“
    ( ⇒ „Ist Herr Meier schon an seinem Arbeitsplatz?“ )

In the first example, the question is implied. In the other two examples, you aren't asking the question you want the answer to. You are expecting the other person to read between the lines and tell you whether Maria talked to their wife or if Herr Meier is at his desk.

Indirect W-Questions (W - Fragen)

Indirect w-questions are constructed in a way similar to direct w-questions, but they are placed in a subordinate clause instead of a main clause. That means you have to move the conjugated verb to the end.


  • „Ich wüsste gern, was bei der Prüfung abgefragt wird.“ 
    ( ⇒ Was wird bei der Prüfung abgefragt?“)
  • „Können Sie mir sagen, wo hier die Kantine ist?“ 
    ( ⇒ Wo ist hier die Kantine?“)
  • „Weißt du, warum wir alle warten müssen?“ 
    ( ⇒ Warum müssen wir alle warten?“ )

Punctuation marks in the Indirect Question

In Indirect Questions, there is usually a period at the end of the sentence. We put the question mark only if the main clause is also a question.

This way you can see if the main clause is a question:

  • If the verb is in position 1, the main clause is a question.  ⇒ Question Mark
  • If the verb is in position 2, the main clause is not a question.  ⇒  Period


  • „Ich wüsste gern, was bei der Prüfung abgefragt wird.“ 
    ( ⇒ Ich wüsste gern,...⇒ Verb at position 2 ⇒ no question ⇒ Period)
  • „Können Sie mir sagen, wo hier die Kantine ist?“ 
    ( ⇒ Können Sie mir sagen,...⇒ Verb at Position 1 ⇒ question ⇒ Question mark)
  • „Ich weiß nicht mehr, ob ich den Herd ausgemacht habe.“
    ( ⇒Ich weiß nicht mehr,...⇒ Verb at Position 2 ⇒ no question ⇒ Period)
  • „Kannst du mir sagen, ob Maria gestern mit deiner Frau telefoniert hat?
    ( ⇒ „Kannst du mir sagen,...⇒ Verb at Position 1 ⇒ question ⇒ Question mark)

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  • Indirect questions require the listener to read between the lines to realize that a question is being asked.
  • They are seen as more polite than direct questions
  • Since indirect questions are subordinate clauses, the verb goes at the end.
  • Indirect yes/no-questions are formed using „ob 

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