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Indirect questions in German

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Do you know how to ask indirect questions in German? If not, you will know that after reading this article.

First of all, let’s find out what an indirect question is:

  • What is my name? – This is a direct question;
  • Do you know my name? – This is an indirect question.

These two questions are the same in their meaning. In German it looks like this:

  • Wissen Sie, wie mein Name ist? – Do you know my name?

Let’s look at the position of the verb “ist”. The rules for building a direct question are that the verb comes right after the question word: “wie ist mein Name? – What is my name? But in the indirect question the verb goes to the end. If it is interesting, it happens because the indirect questions are formally appendage sentences, and in them the order of words changes. As in any appendage sentence, “wie”, for example, changes the word order and sends the verb to the end. But it is important to remember that in the indirect question the verb is put in the last place.

All questions (both direct and indirect) are divided into two types: “Ja/Nein Fregen” – “yes/no questions” and “W-Fragen” – “questions to meaning”.

Examples of “W-Fragen” (so called because all question words begin with the letter “w”):

  • Können Sie mir sagen, wie spät es ist? – Could you tell me what time it is?
  • Darf ich fragen, wie viel das kostet? – Can I ask how much it costs?

They cannot be answered yes or no. Please note that all questions have a verb at the end.

Here are examples of “Ja/Nein Fregen”:

  • Wissen Sie, ob ich noch Zeit habe? – Do you know if I still have time?
  • Ich möchte wissen, ob ich noch Zeit habe – I want to know if I have time.

They can only be answered “yes” or “no”. Note that “Ja/Nein Fregen” is only built using the “ob” – “whether” particle in the second part (appendage sentence). Also, you couldn’t help noticing that the second example is not a question at all, but it is included in this category, because it assumes the answer.

Indirect questions are often a polite form of ordinary questions.

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