Indirect Questions

What are Indirect Questions?

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.

Examples:

  • „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

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

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.

Examples:

  • „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?“ )

Punctutation 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

Example:

  • „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 ⇒ Punkt)
  • „Kannst du mir sagen, ob Maria gestern mit deiner Frau telefoniert hat?
    ( ⇒ „Kannst du mir sagen,...⇒ Verb at Position 1 ⇒ question ⇒ Question mark)

Special offer: 5 Ebooks for Free!

Do you like EasyDeutsch? When you buy my Ebooks, you get exercises and even more simple, easy-to-understand explanations, and you also actively support me. Right now there is an offer where you get all 10 EasyDeutsch ebooks for the price of 5 ebooks! Get my ebooks today at a special price: Yes, I want the ebooks and over 100 bonus lessons!

Summary

  • 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 

Recommendation: Free lessons in Email Grammar course

Special offer: 5 Ebooks for free!


All German EasyDeutsch Ebooks - 5 plus 5! (5 x 17 = 85)

Buy 5 Ebooks together now and get the other 5 for free!


  1. EasyGerman - German Grammar (Preview)
  2. DaF Grammar Trainer - 300 Exercises (Preview)
  3. 137 German Prepositions (Preview)
  4. Intensive Trainer: German Prepositions (Preview)
  5. Connectors - Conjunctions, Subjunctions, Conjunctional Adverbs (Preview)
  6. 40+ Grammar Lists - Free (Preview)
  7. Nominative, Accusative, Dative or Genitive? - Free (Preview)
  8. Intensive Trainer: German Cases - Free (Preview)
  9. 200+ pages of Grammar Exercises: Level A1-A2 - Free (Preview)
  10. 200+ pages of Grammar Exercises: Level B1-B2 - Free (Preview)


 BONUS:

Over 100 ready-to-teach grammar units on all topics of German grammar (A1-B2)

Perfect as homework or for self-learners!

85€ - 219€

Receive gifts and...