Question words can combine with adjectives and other words to create expressions.
One common combination is how + adjective to ask for specific information about adjective.
In this lesson, you will learn about these expressions with question words.
Lesson objectives: Learn question words in English.
Goals: Learn how to ask questions using expressions such as how far, how long, what about, how about, how come, and so on.
Prerequisite: Lesson requires a basic understanding of the verb to be in the present.
How + Adjective
Imagine a car is going very fast. If you want to ask about specific information about it, you do not need a special question word. You can simply, “how fast is the car going?”
When you ask how fast something is, it does not mean you think it is fast. You just want to know if it is going 10mph, 20mph... or 1,000 mph.
This combination with “how” and an adjective creates many expressions.
How + adjectives | Examples
— John, how tall are you?
— I’m 5 foot 10 (1.78 meters).
— How old is the Great Pyramid of Giza?
— It’s 4,500 years old.
— How old is the baby?
— Six months.
— How far is the supermarket from here?
— It’s about 5 miles. (It’s an 8-minute drive from here.)
— How far can you run?
— I can run about 10 miles.
— How sweet are these mandarins?
— They’re not very sweet.
— How long is that rope?
— It’s only a foot long.
— How long is the movie?
— It’s an hour and 45 minutes long.
Note. As you can see above, you can ask how long to know the length (for example, 2 meters) or duration (for example, 2 hours).
— How much coffee would you like?
— Only a small cup, please.
— How much time do I have left? (during a test)
— Sorry. You have only 5 minutes left.
— How much money do you have on you?
— I have $120 on me.
Note. Use how much to ask about mass nouns (things you cannot count) (e.g., water, coffee, money, time, etc.).
— How many minutes do I have left? (during a test)
— Sorry. You have only 5 minutes left.
— How many eggs do you need for the cake?
— How many pets do you have?
— I have one dog and two cats.
Note. Use how many to ask about things you can count (e.g., cars, people, dogs, dollars, minutes, etc.).
— How spicy are those peppers ?
— They’re very spicy.
— How difficult is it to learn Russian?
— It’s very difficult.
— How difficult is the test?
— It’s easy.
— How strong are elephants?
— Very strong! They can lift a person with their trunks.
— How angry are you that he is late for your birthday party?
— I'm livid!
Question Word + ever
Sometimes you can add “ever” to a question word, you express surprise or to show emphasis. You usually do that with “how,” “what,” “where,” “who,” and “why.”
For example, if someone drinks 6 cups of coffee a day, you may ask, “How ever can you drink so much coffee?!”
Be careful when asking a questions with “ever.” Depending on the situation, it can also express anger, frustration, and other negative feelings.
Question word + even to show surprise | Examples
— I can run a mile in 5 minutes.
— Wow! How ever can you do that?!
— I want to move to Alaska?
— It’s very cold there! Why ever do you want to live there?
— I keep the bananas in the refrigerator.
— In the refrigerator? Who ever does that?!
— Don’t talk to me like that! Who ever do you think you are?!
— You just hang around the house all day. When ever are you going to get a job?
— Why ever do you wash your hair with detergent? You need shampoo!
Question Word + “on earth”
When you add “on earth” to a question word, you show surprise. It can also express anger, frustration, irritation, and so on, so be careful when you use it.
Question word + “on earth” showing surprise | Examples
How on earth can you run a mile in 5 minutes?
What on earth are you doing up? It’s 4 o'clock in the morning!
Where on earth are my glasses?
Question word + “on earth” showing negative emotion | Examples
Why on earth are you asking me so many questions?
How on earth do you think you can run a mile in 5 minutes?
What on earth is wrong with you? Stop doing that!
Don’t talk to me like that! Who on earth do you think you are talking to?
How Come (Informal)
“How come” is another way of asking “why,” or for the reason. It is used in informal, conversational English.
When you use “how come,” you do not use auxiliaries, nor do you put the verb in front of the subject.
Home come | Examples
— How come you’re so tired?
— I worked all day today.
— How come you and Mary are not talking?
— We had a terrible argument yesterday.
— How come you don’t like your teacher?
— He’s rude and makes fun of his students.
Practice coming soon.
Other Lessons on Question Words
This list of lessons includes many other question words.
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