Types of Questions
There are two types of questions in German (just like in English!):
- Yes/No Questions
- „Woher kommst du?“ - „Ich komme aus Deutschland.“
- „Kommst du aus Deutschland?“ – „Ja/Nein.“
As the name suggests, yes/no-questions are ones where the only possible answers are yes and no (plus a special word „doch“ for so-called negative questions).
Positive Questions: „Kommst du aus Berlin?“
- „Ja, sicher“
- „Nein, aus Bern.“
Negative Questions: „Magst du Lisa nicht?“
- „Doch, ich mag sie.“
- „Nein, ich mag sie nicht.“
What does „doch“ mean?
In English, it's difficult to know how to answer when someone asks a negative question like "Do you not like Lisa?" Does „ja“ mean "Yes, it's correct that I do not like Lisa" or does it mean "Yes, I do like Lisa"?
German has a solution to this problem: the word „doch“. „Doch“ is used when you disagree with what the person said in the question, so in a sense „doch“ means "actually I do."
„Doch“ is used whenever you disagree with a question with a negative, because the answer „ja“ would not be clear whether you like the person, as in the example, or agree with the person asking.
Word Order and Yes/No-Questions
The conjugated verb goes in Position 1.
The subject goes in Position 2.
Like in English, you can also form a yes/no-question by making a statement and raising your voice at the end of it: "You're coming to the party?" But in order to avoid misunderstandings, it's better to use the standard form of asking a yes/no-question: conjugated verb in position 1 - "Are you coming to the party?"
W-questions are questions that use question words. They are called w-questions because all question words in German start with the letter "w".
W-questions are asking for more information, and a "yes" or "no" is not enough to answer them.
Just like in English, the question word goes in position 1 and the conjugated verb goes in position 2.
- „Woher kommst du?“ – „Ich komme aus Deutschland.“
- „Was machst du?“ – „Ich spiele Fußball.“
Recommendation: Question with Prepositions / Indirect Question
When you ask about things that are used together with a preposition, you usually have to use the preposition in the question word as well. I'll explain how this works in the lesson: Questions with Prepositions.
You can also ask indirect questions. That is, ask something without asking a question (from a grammatical point of view). This is less direct and often more polite. I explain how indirect questions work in the lesson: Indirect Questions.
- In German, there are w-questions and yes/no-questions
- W-questions start with a question word - in German, all question words start with the letter „W“.
- Yes/No-Questions can be answered with „ja“, „nein“ or „doch“.
More information on German Sentence Structure and Word order: Sentence Structure.
- Word Order in Subordinate Clause
- Word Order in Main Clause
- Difference between Main Clause and Subordinate Clause
- The Subordinate Clause (The different types of Subordinate Clauses)
- Questions with Prepositions
- Indirect Questions
- The Position of „nicht"
- Sentence Brackets
- Coordinating Conjunctions
- Multi-Part Conjunctions
- Subordinating Conjunctions
- Conjunctional Adverbs
You can find an overview of all topics under German Grammar.