Inversion in non-direct questions

We use indirect questions in polite settings.



A very common mistake is to include the auxiliary verb (do / does / did) in indirect questions.

Direct or not direct? That is the question

Knowing how to ask questions in a foreign language is a basic ability that will have different functions depending on the context. In general, it serves to expand information and it can be formulated directly or indirectly.

With direct questions we request directly the information that we need. However, indirect questions are used when we are not asking directly because we want to use more formal language or be more polite. But if you want to be even more polite, you can use the conditional.

It is very important to know how to differentiate what type of questions we are asking because the grammatical structure is different. The direct question follows the normal patterns depending on whether the verb is normal or special. However, indirect questions can be asked in two different ways: 1) embedded questions (e.g. do you know in how many countries English is spoken?) and 2) questions in indirect speech (such as I wonder in how many countries English is spoken).


In this section we have learned about direct and indirect questions. But, there are different classifications of questions in English. For example, depending on the type of answers: open, closed or implicit questions.

More information:

  • Castillo Rodríguez , C. & Díaz Lage, J.M. (2018). Misuses of inversion in non direct questions: a case study with a learner corpus. In A. García Manso (Coord.), Aportaciones de vanguardia en la investigación actual (pp. 101-110). Tecnos.