Asking Questions

Types of Questions

There are two types of questions in German (just like in English!):

  • W-Questions
  • Yes/No Questions

Examples:

  • Woher kommst du?“ - „Ich komme aus Deutschland.“
  • „Kommst du aus Deutschland?“ – „Ja/Nein.“

Yes/No-Questions

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).

Examples:

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 "yes" 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."


Word Order and Yes/No-Questions

The conjugated verb goes in position 1.

The subject goes in position 2.

Examples:

Wortstellung Ja Nein Frage


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

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.

Examples:

  • Woher kommst du?“ – „Ich komme aus Deutschland.“
  • Was machst du?“ – „Ich spiele Fußball.“


W-Question Words:


Summary

  • 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."


Related Topics:

More info about questions with prepositions and indirect questions.

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