The key difference between direct and indirect questions is that direct questions are informal, whereas indirect questions are formal.
Both these methods are ways of asking questions. It is very important to know both these methods of asking questions since asking questions using the indirect method is more polite and formal than the direct method, and using the direct method may sometimes sound ruder.
What are Direct Questions?
Direct questions are informal questions that end with a question mark. We consider these questions as ‘normal’ questions since they can be asked by anyone closer to us like family, friends or people we know very well. We use direct questions in our everyday conversations. Sometimes direct questions can be rhetorical questions, which do not need an answer. We can use them for obvious statements. There are various types of direct questions. They are,
- Question word questions (WH)
Question Word + Auxiliary Verb + Subject + Main Verb + Remainder
The answer to a question word question will be some kind of information.
What is Pizza?
(Answer –Pizza is an Italian dish)
Where is the school?
Where are you going?
- Choice questions
Auxiliary Verb + Subject + Main Verb + Choice 1 + “or” + Choice 2
The answer to such questions can be found in the question itself.
Do you want tea or coffee?
(Answer – coffee)
Are you going to sing or dance?
Is that answer correct or wrong?
- Yes/No questions
Auxiliary Verb + Subject + Main Verb + Remainder
The answer to a yes/no question will be either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
Do you like tea?
Can you speak English?
Did you have your dinner?
What are Indirect Questions?
Indirect questions are more polite and formal. They are also less confrontational. We usually ask these questions from people we are not familiar with. Indirect questions typically take the form of a statement. When forming an indirect question, the word order changes. Indirect questions are always embedded inside another question or statement, and they can be classified as noun clauses. There are various ways to form indirect questions. The following examples illustrate how to change direct questions into indirect questions
Changing Direct Questions into Indirect Questions
- Changing word order
Can you tell me why she was late? (D.O- Why was she late?)
- Omitting ‘do’
We have to omit ‘do’, ‘does’, ‘did’ in a direct question when turning that into an indirect question.
Could you tell me when the lesson starts? (D.O-When does the lesson start?)
- Using ‘if’ or ‘whether’
When there is no question word such as who, why, when, which, whose, where or how is used, we have to use either ‘if’ or ‘whether’ in making an indirect question.
Can you tell me whether this is the correct path? (D.O-Is this the correct path?)
Phrases Used in Making Indirect Questions
- I was wondering…
- Could you tell me…
- Would it be possible…
- Do you have any idea…
- I would like to know…
- Do you know…
What is the Difference Between Direct and Indirect Questions?
Both these methods are ways of asking questions. Usually, we use direct questions in day to day conversations. We mainly ask indirect questions from people we are not familiar with, especially when we are trying to be polite. Moreover, direct questions are a more friendly way of asking questions than indirect questions. So, this is the key difference between direct and indirect questions.
Below is a summary of the difference between direct and indirect questions in tabular form for side by side comparison.
Summary – Direct Questions vs Indirect Questions
The key difference between direct and indirect questions is that direct questions are informal and friendly, whereas indirect questions are polite and formal. A direct question always ends with a question mark, but this is not always true with indirect questions. Moreover, a direct question is not a statement, but an indirect question is always embedded inside another question or statement.