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I Asked What You Did - Indirect Questions

Quiz playing is a wonderful way to increase your knowledge of English as a Second Language. Remember that all of our ESL quizzes have titles that are both friendly and technical at the same time… In the case of this quiz you might like to tell your friends about “I Asked What You Did” but no doubt your teachers will talk about the “Indirect Questions quiz”! If you hear a technical term and you want to find a quiz about the subject then just look through the list of quiz titles until you find what you need.

Indirect Questions such as 'I asked what you did' behave much like other indirect (or 'reported') speech: you have to adapt the tense of the verb on the inside.

'I asked what you did' might be what an English speaker would say, when you have just asked them to repeat their original question that you hadn't understood.

Let's see how you cope with some indirect questions!

  1. Choose the answer which best completes the gap/s in clear correct English.
    'Please tell me whether you ... ... mend this watch by the end of the week.'
    'Can' in its simple present form is fine here: the question is being asked 'now' and the information needed in the reply refers to someone's present ability to do an action in the immediate future (for which English often uses the Present tense anyway, as you may well know already).
  2. Choose the answer which best completes the gap/s in clear correct English.
    'After watching the acrobats at the circus, everyone wondered how ... ... it.'
    There is only room for one 'do' here: ' ... wondered how they did it'. (Even though the original question in the people's minds would have been 'How do they do that?'.)
  3. Choose the answer which best completes the gap/s in clear correct English.
    'At that moment, she remembered where ... ... the key.'
    Her actual question to herself (until the moment when she remembered!) would have been: 'Where have I left it?' ~ so 'she would have been wondering where she had left it', and then 'remembered where she had ... '.
  4. Choose the answer which best completes the gap/s in clear correct English.
    'Very few people at the wedding knew where the couple ... ... on their honeymoon.'
    The wedding guests were probably asking each other, 'Where will they go?'; so, in indirect terms, they were wondering where the couple WOULD go.
    Note the switch of tense; 'would' has a sense of the past about it, whereas 'now' ( = afterwards), the destination is presumably no secret any more.
  5. Choose the answer which best completes the gap/s in clear correct English.
    'Unfortunately, hackers have accessed the computer and discovered details of where ... ... .'
    The first item inside an Indirect Question is usually the (grammatical) Subject: in this case, 'the terrorists'.
    The active verb comes next.
    Note again that when a question is reported indirectly, the inversion is turned back round:
    What the hackers wanted to find out was, 'Where are the terrorists?' ...
    'They wanted to know where the terrorists were.'
  6. Choose the answer which best completes the gap/s in clear correct English.
    'The customs officials asked me in great detail about where ... ... my camera.'
    Again, the substance of the question goes : Subject + Verb ... .
    In this case the question was itself asked in the past; and my buying of the camera had obviously taken place before that, so the tense within the question has to be 'two steps back' ~ into the Past Perfect (or 'Pluperfect', as it is sometimes known).
    The customs officers' original question would have been 'Where did you buy ... ?', but by the time it is reported, it has undergone at least two major changes! (Turning the front back round, and shunting the tense further into the past.)
  7. Choose the answer which best completes the gap/s in clear correct English.
    'Have you any idea ... ... for the Houses of Parliament?'
    Some English speakers might prefer the word-order in Answer 2, but neither of the other Answers would be correct.
  8. Choose the answer which best completes the gap/s in clear correct English.
    'Many of us on that journey had begun to wonder ... ... London safely, let alone on time.'
    We usually wonder 'whether + subject + verb'; the tense of the verb inside the reported question becomes 'would' (even though what they actually asked themselves or each other, would have been: 'Will we / shall we / are we going to ... ?' ~ very obviously concerned with what, at that time, lay ahead of them in the immediate future).
    Some speakers might find 'whether' rather pompous, even in such a serious situation; they would probably just say 'if', instead.
  9. Choose the answer which best completes the gap/s in clear correct English.
    'That young lad on Work Experience was so clueless: he couldn't think ... ... .'
    Answer 3 is the clearest here.
    Answer 1 is grammatically fine ~ but most English speakers would find it cumbersome, and say Answer 2 instead ... even though that ends with a preposition (which is regarded as poor, or at best informal, style).
    Answer 4 has the active verb in front of the Subject, which is wrong (although its meaning remains fairly clear).
    German (and possibly some other languages) has an advantage here, in that 'what-with / with what' is expressed in a single word ('womit' ~ 'wherewith' in older English).
  10. Choose the answer which best completes the gap/s in clear correct English.
    'Several critics have queried why ... ... on the Government's new scheme.'
    This is a slightly complex, but typically 'newsy' final example. It still contains an indirect question, and the shape of that question still puts the Subject (= money ) before the verb ( 'needs' ).

Author: Ian Miles

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