wh- clauses


Wh-words are what, when, where, who, which, why and how.

We use clauses with a wh- word:

  • In wh-questions (see Questions and Negatives):

What are you doing?
Who ate all the pies?
Why did you do that?

  • after verbs of thinking:

know - understand - suppose - remember - forget - wonder

I know where you live.
She couldn’t remember who he was.
John wondered what was going to happen next.

NOTE: We also use clauses with if

I wonder if we’ll see Peter.
She couldn’t remember if she had posted the letter.

  •  after verbs of saying:

ask - say - admit - argue - reply - agree - mention - explain - suggest

I asked what she wanted.
He tried to explain how the accident had happened.
She wouldn’t admit what she had done.
Did he say when he would come?

tell and some other verbs of saying must always have a direct object (see clauses, sentences and phrases):

tell - remind

We tried to tell them what they should do.
She reminded me where I had left the car.

  • after some verbs of thinking and saying we use wh-words and the to-infinitive:

We didn’t know what to do.
We will ask when to set off.
Nobody told me what to do.
Can anyone suggest where to go for lunch?

NOTE: We use the to-infinitive:

-- When the subject of the to-infinitive is the same as the subject of the main verb:

He didn’t know what to do >>> He didn’t know what he should do
We will ask when to set off >>> We will ask when we should set off

-- When the subject of the to-infinitive is the same as the person spoken to:

Nobody told me what to do. >>> Nobody told me what I should do.
Can anyone suggest where to go for lunch? >>> Can anyone suggest [to us] where we should go for lunch.

  • after some nouns to say more about the noun:

Is there any reason why I should stay?.
Do you remember the day when we went to Edinburgh.
That was the town where I grew up.

We often use a wh-clause after is:

I missed my bus. That’s why I was late.
This is where I live.
That’s what I thought.
Paris – that’s where we are going for our holidays.




Hello Riyadh Nasser,

These are all the fundamental wh-question words, which are also presented on our questions page. 'whose' and 'whom' are related to 'who' - the former is a possessive form, and 'whom' is used when referring to a direct object. Other forms such as 'how long' contain one of these fundamental wh-question words, though we also have pages on how long and how often.

Some wh-question words can also be used as relative pronouns, so you might want to take a look at that page as well.

I hope this helps you.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Could someone give me a hand please?
How we pronouce "Wh" in "Wh-words"
thank you very much

Hello hafid oran,

Much of the time, the 'wh' in wh-words is pronounced as a 'w' without any 'h' sound. If you look up each of these words in the dictionary, you can click on the little red or blue icons to hear how they are pronounced in standard British and American English.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team


I am confusing that should I use "Wherein" as the beginning word of a sentence, please?
Additionally, it seems to be less used than other Wh, doesnt it?


Hello Hoang_Hoang,

wherein isn't used much at all in modern English, only in very formal contexts or perhaps in legal documents. As far as I know, it most often used at the beginning of a dependent clause rather than at the beginning of a sentence. You might want to do an internet search to see different examples of wherein in use.

Best wishes,

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello thiha131082,

Which book is 'best' will depend on what exactly you want the book for.  Are you looking for a book with exercises, or a reference book?  Do you want to find something similar to the grammar section here on LearnEnglish, or something in a different style?  Something written in English or your own language?  Perhaps the best idea is for you to take a look at what is available to you locally and try to get some advice from a teacher, if possible.  If you have a smartphone then you might also have a look at our LearnEnglish Grammar App, which you can find here.

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Is this sentence grammatically correct?
Jane made a face when she saw it rain.