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Say What? Direct Questions vs. Reported Dialogue

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A direct question is when you ask a question by speaking directly (e.g. “How are you doing today?”). Reported dialogue is when you report what someone else says (e.g. “Joan asked how you’re doing today.”). Reported dialogue usually uses the third person point of view.

Direct Questions

Direct questions usually include interrogative pronouns or adverbs. Interrogative pronouns and adverbs include words like as who, what, where, when, and why. When spoken, people tend to ask direct questions in a rising tone of voice. In writing, direct questions also end with question marks (?).

Kinds of Direct Questions

Three kinds of direct questions are yes/no questions, wh- questions, and alternative questions. Yes/no questions are ones where the answer is either yes or no. Something like “Did Sally clean her room?”

Wh- questions begin with who, what, where, when, and why. “When did Sally clean her room?” is an example.

Alternative questions offer options and use the word or, as in “Do you want ice cream or frozen yogurt?”

Reported Dialogue

Reported dialogue doesn’t use quotation marks because the speaker isn’t directly speaking. To turn a direct question into a reported one, you might need to make some changes in verb tense. For example, “Are you going to the store?” is a direct question. As reported dialogue, it might become “Bill asked if you’re going to the store.” Note the change from first person to third person, as well as the change in tense.

An indirect question is an example of reported dialogue. A major difference between a direct and indirect question is that indirect questions don’t end in a question mark. Another type of reported dialogue is reported statements, as in “Bob said he can’t come to lunch today.”

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