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 there,

Could you help me? I would like to know which among the three sentences is correct.
1. It is the reason why the temperature is low.
2. It is the reason that the temperatre is low.
3. It is the reason of which the temperature is low.

Thank you.

Hello moonshadow1008,

3 is definitely wrong, because the preposition 'of' is wrong; 'for' would be correct. I consider both 1 and 2 correct, though there are many who consider 1 incorrect, arguing that 'reason' and 'why' are redundant.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

is "why joining many while you can get them all in one?" correct? it is in the purpose of inviting people to join a club.

Hello Haqqul,

I'm afraid that I don't understand that sentence. Perhaps you mean something like 'Why join other clubs when you can find them all here?'?

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi, I have a huge doubt when formulation why questions. What is the difference between, for example:

1. Why are you laughing?
2. Why you are laughing?

Thanks in advance to the team.
As I've seen that "Why you're so awesome" seems to be grammatically correct.

Hello monicam_21,

If you're just asking someone a direct question, only 1 is correct. 2 is not correct unless it is part of a larger sentence or thought, e.g. 'Why you are laughing is what puzzles me.' You might find our Reported speech and Reported questions pages useful for understanding this in more detail.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, I would like to ask you which of these sentences is correct:

1) "The purpose of this report is to explain what the reason is to choose it among others that present the same topic."
2) "The purpose of this report is to explain what is the reason to choose it among others that present the same topic."



Hello alisonmagali,

Neither of those are correct. The first one is better, but still needs rephrasing:

The purpose of this report is to explain the reason for choosing it amongst others that present the same topic.

I am not sure if this would fit the context, but it is grammatically correct.

I hope that helps you. Please remember, however, that we do not provide a proof-reading or correction service here on LearnEnglish - we simply do not have time for this. Our role here is to help users with the material on the site, and sometimes to help with more general questions about English, not to help with other projects or reports. If we tried to do this then we would not have time for anything else!

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team