What’s The Deal with Direct and Indirect Questions?
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There are many tricky aspects of English grammar but one which particularly seems to cause our learners a lot of trouble is direct and indirect questions. Firstly, they need to learn and understand how to construct direct questions (which is tricky in itself), and then they need to be able to ask questions in an indirect way in certain situations in order to sound more polite or formal. So what’s the deal with direct and indirect questions?
Read more: How to Teach Good Grammar
There are, of course, a number of problems students can have when it comes to direct and indirect questions. Some students have problems with intonation when asking a question, others get mixed up with their word order, while others struggle to understand which are the appropriate situations for different questions.
To help our students as much as we can with regards to direct and indirect questions, there are a few steps we need to take. We first need to make sure our learners are comfortable constructing direct questions before moving on indirect questions.
What are direct questions?
When dealing with direct questions, we can teach our learners that they are formed by using the QUASM model.
Qu – Question word A – Auxiliary verb S – Subject M – main verb
Where do you live?
Qu A S M
This is an example of an object question. Subject questions, in which we ask about the subject of a question, follow the QuAM model (without the subject) but they do not include the auxiliary verb do.
This is a good rule of thumb to lay the foundation for forming questions, but it’s not the only rule. This rule applies to open questions – i.e., questions which have a question word, and questions which the answer can be any answer. For the question Where do you live?, for example, the answer could be London or Houston or the moon; in other words, there are endless possibilities for the answer.
In contrast, closed question are questions which can only have the answers yes or no. These are also known as yes/no questions. If the question is a yes/no question, the question will follow the ASM model, without the question word.
Do you drink coffee?
A S M
Questions with the verb to be follow a different pattern:
Are you happy?
To be S Complement
These questions are what are known as direct questions.
Then we get indirect questions.
What are indirect questions?
While we use direct questions in everyday conversations and with friends and people we know, indirect questions are questions framed with a particular phrase. Effectively, indirect questions help us sound more polite or more formal. If you consider the two sentences:
Where’s the bathroom? (direct question)
Excuse me, do you know where the bathroom is? (indirect question)
you should immediately understand the use and context of indirect questions. In terms of structure, basically, an indirect question is a direct question with an indirect structure attached to the beginning.
These structures include:
Can/Could you tell me…
Do you know…
I was wondering…
Would it be possible…
Is there any chance…
Then, in terms of word order, it depends on the nature of the question. Questions with question words invert the auxiliary verb and the subject: QuSAM (which isn’t nearly as memorable!).
Where are you going? (direct question)
Can you tell me where you are going? (indirect question)
Qu S A M
(You may notice that this is actually the same order as a positive sentence; basically indirect questions do not use inversion like other questions do).
Again, though, there are exceptions.
If the question includes the auxiliary verb do, this does not transfer to the indirect question:
What time does the bank open? (direct question)
Do you know what time the bank opens? (indirect question)
Qu S M
For yes/no questions, the indirect question does not have a question word, so will follow the pattern if/whether + SAM.
Has she been there before? (direct question)
Do you know if she has been there before? (indirect question)
If S A M
How can we teach direct and indirect questions in the EFL classroom?
Indirect questions are particularly important to our English language learners, as they are likely to find themselves in situations in English-speaking countries which they are not familiar with. In such cases they will need to know how to speak politely if they need to ask for information or directions. Not using indirect questions will make them sound rude or unfriendly to the very people they are asking for help.
As we generally try to replicate our students’ real lives in the classroom, the best thing to do is to create situations which replicate these authentic situations. As you can guess, the most logical activity is to do a role play. First, give your students time to come up with the usual questions foreigners need to ask locals when they are visiting a city; for example, Where’s the bus stop? What time does the bank close? Is there a restaurant near here? Then, give them time to reconstruct these as indirect questions – Excuse me, do you know where the bus stop is? Can you tell me what time the bank closes? Do you know if there is a restaurant near here? Finally, allow the students to mingle and ask each other the questions or create a role play in pairs or groups which they can re-enact for the class.
Read more: The Importance of Role Plays
If you are teaching in an English-speaking country then a great option is to take your students on an outing in a public place. Set your learners a few tasks with information they need to find out; for example, what is the closest Italian restaurant to the school? What time does the bank close? Where is the bus stop? Give the students time beforehand to look at the tasks and construct and memorise the appropriate questions. Then let them go outside the school and find out the information they need by asking people the questions.
While constructing indirect questions may seem a bit confusing with so many exceptions to the “rules”, with enough practice your students will get the hang of them. Especially if your students are living in a foreign country, indirect questions are an important structure to be able to use so as to sound polite and courteous rather than rude or aggressive. If your lessons are done well, your students will reap the benefits of this new language as they go about their daily lives outside the classroom.
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- proof of your identity
- proof of your home address
- any information that we reasonably need to locate the information you have requested (for example details of the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD offices or staff that you have had contact with and when)
We will not start looking for your information until we receive all of the above. In order to submit your request, or for help making a request, please contact us.
Rights concerning the processing of your personal information
- Right to restrict processing of personal information
- In some situations, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of your personal information. We may restrict your personal information by temporarily moving the information to another processing system, making the information unavailable to users, or temporarily removing published information from a website. We may also use technical methods to ensure the personal information is not subject to further processing and cannot be changed. When we have restricted processing of personal information, this will be clearly indicated on our systems.
- You can require us to restrict processing in the following circumstances:
- You are concerned that the information we hold about you is inaccurate. You can ask us to restrict the information until we can determine whether the information is accurate or inaccurate.
- We are processing your personal data unlawfully and you do not want us to delete the information but restrict it instead.
- We no longer need the information for the purposes for which we collected it, but they are needed by you for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
- You have objected to the processing (see below), and we need to decide whether the legitimate grounds we have to process the information override your legitimate interests.
Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by ELEARNING FUTURES LTD but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES LTD is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.