How to ask questions in German

Anybody who has watched the German Sesame Street – Sesamstraße – will most likely remember the theme song:

Der, die, das.
Wer? Wie? Was?
Wieso? Weshalb? Warum?
Wer nich fragt bleibt dumm!
Der, die, das.
Wer? Wie? Was?
Wieso? Weshalb? Warum?
Wer nich fragt bleibt dumm!
Tausend tolle Sachen
Die gibt es überall zu sehen.
Manchmal muss man fragen,
Um sie zu versteh´n.
Der, die, das,
Wer? Wie? Was?
Wieso? Weshalb? Warum?
Wer nich fragt bleibt dumm!

Wer nicht fragt bleibt dumm! Well, we don’t want to stay stupid, so today’s blog post is about asking questions in German.

Just as in English, there are two types of questions, those yes/no questions and those with question words.

Yes/ no questions are those that can only be answered with yes or no, of course in German it’s ja/ nein. The questions always start with a verb, so for once you can ignore the “verb always in second place” rule! German would be so boring without those exceptions to the rules, right?

Hast du Hunger? Ja/ nein.
Sind Sie Herr Meier? Ja/ nein.
Wohnst du in Berlin? ja/ nein.

Of course, we don’t always want a yes or no answer. So let’s look at some German question words.

Wer? – Who (subject)?
Wer ist das? Who is that?

Wen? – Who (Accusative – direct object or after accusative prepositions)?
Wen siehst du? – Who do you see?
Für wen ist das Geschenk? – Who’s that present for?

Wem? – Whom (Dative – indirect object or after dative prepositions)?
Wem gehört das? –  Whose is it? (but lit. translated to whom does it belong)
Mit wem gehst du ins Kino? With whom are you going to the cinema.
Bei wem übernachtest du? – At whose house are you staying?

Wessen? – Whose (Genitive)?
Wessen Auto ist das? – Whose car is that? (in spoken German the preferred question is ‘Wem gehört das Auto?’)

Was? – What?
Was ist das? – What’s that?
Was für … ist das? – What type of … is that?

Wie? – How? (but often translated as ‘What?’)
Wie heißt du? – What are you called?
Wie viel? – How much?
Wie viele? How many?
Wie oft? – How often?
Wie weit? – How far?
Wie lang? – How long (mainly used for distance)?
Wie lange? – How long (time)?
Wie alt? – How old?
Wie schwer? – How heavy?
Wie spät ist es? – What’s the time?
Wie viel Uhr ist es? – What’s the time?

Warum? – Why?
Wieso? – Why?
Weshalb? – Why?
Weswegen? – Why (for what reason)?

Wo? – Where?
Wo wohnst du? – Where do you live?
Wohin gehst du? – Where are you going to? (in spoken German often used as ‘Wo gehst du hin?)
Woher kommst du? – Where are you coming from?  (in spoken German often used as ‘Wo kommst du her?)
Womit spielt deine Katze? – What is your cat playing with? (womit – what with)
Wofür brauchst du Geld? – What do you need money for?    (wofür – what for)
Wozu brauchst du Geld? – What do you need money for?  (wozu – what for)
Woran liegt das? – Why is that?

Wann? – When?
Wann fängt der Film an? – When does the film start?
Bis wann läuft die Austellung? – Until when is the exhibition?
Ab wann läuft die Austellung? – From what time does the exhibition start?
Seit wann läuft die Austellung? – Since when is the exhibition on?
Von wann bis wann? – From when until when?

Welcher/ welche/ welches/ welchen …? – Which (depending on the case and gender of the following noun)
Welcher Film ist das? – Which film is that?
Welche Musik ist das? – Which music is that?
Welches Buch ist das? – Which book is that?
Welchen Film willst du sehen? – Which film do you want to see?
Welche Musik willst du hören? – Which music do you want to hear?
Welches Buch willst du lesen? – Which book do you want to read?
Durch welchen Park bist du gegangen? – Which park did you walk through?
Welchem Mann hast du zugehört? – Which man did you listen to?
Welcher Frau hast du zugehört?  – Which woman did you listen to?
Welchem Kind hast du zugehört? – Which child did you listen to?
Mit welchem Freund bist du nach Hause gegangen? – Which friend did you go home with?

If you would like to practise those question words, go to Memrise, where I have uploaded them all for you: German question words
For those who don’t know Memrise, you need to register with the site (via Facebook, Google+ or your email) to access all their vocabulary learning courses, including now my German question words

And if you’d like to know more about German word order, check out my online course German grammar – word order, it may just be the course you;ve been looking for!

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