Alternative question in English: rules, examples of use

In English, there are five types of interrogative sentences: separation, general, special and alternative questions, as well as questions to the subject. All of these species are almost equally complex and occur at about the same frequency. The alternative question is not considered the most difficult, nor the easiest, but certainly it can rightly be called indispensable. It is about him and will be discussed in this article.

General definition

An alternative question is a question that contains a certain choice that is offered to the respondent. Asking such a question, speaking as if implies that the listener will have to make a decision independently, choosing one of the options offered to him.

Understanding Alternative Question

A characteristic feature of such issues is the presence of the union "or" - "or". Grammatically, examples of alternative questions are not very different from other types of questions: they also use the auxiliary verb,submitted to the beginning of the sentence and facing the subject.

How to ask such a question?

Easier than it might seem at first glance. It is best to consider the use of alternative questions in English with examples. For example, a fairly simple sentence:

  • Yesterday my boyfriend bought a new blue car. - Yesterday my boyfriend bought a new blue car.

And here is a whole list of alternative questions that can be asked to this proposal:

Question Transfer
Did your boyfriend buy a car? Did your boyfriend buy a new blue car yesterday or the day before?
Did your boyfriend buy a new blue or red car yesterday? Your boyfriend bought a new car in blue or red?
Did your boyfriend buy an old blue car yesterday? Did your boyfriend buy a new or old blue car yesterday?
Did your boyfriend buy? Did your boyfriend buy or borrow a new blue car yesterday?
Did your boyfriend buy a new blue car yesterday? Your brother or boyfriend bought a new blue car yesterday?
Did your boyfriend buy one? Did your boyfriend buy a new car or a blue bike yesterday?
Did you or your sister's boyfriend buy a new blue car yesterday? Your boyfriend or your sister's boyfriend bought a new blue car yesterday?

As the examples show, all alternative questions contain several answers, from which the speaker suggests choosing his interlocutor.To formulate such a question, it is necessary to imagine possible options and voice them to the interlocutor through the already mentioned earlier "or".

How to answer alternative questions?

How to answer alternative questions

It is logical that a question that suggests answer options cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." The answer should be complete, most often - a full sentence. For example, to the following question:

  • Did he arrive a week or two ago? - He came a week or two ago?

Maybe the following answer:

  • He arrived two weeks ago. - He arrived two weeks ago.

Sometimes, to avoid tautology, the word "one" is used. For example, in response to such an alternative question:

  • Would you like to wear a black suit? - Would you prefer to wear a black or gray suit?

You can answer as follows:

  • I think I'll choose the black one. - I think I will most likely choose black.

Colloquial, monosyllabic answers are also acceptable. For example, a household question such as:

  • Would you like some tea or coffee? - Would you like to drink some tea or coffee?

You can answer briefly:

  • A cup of coffee, please. - I'd like a cup of coffee.

Such factors as the social status of the interlocutor, the relationship with him, and the formality or informality of the situation in general become decisive in the choice between a complete and incomplete answer.

Alternative questions with a question word

Question words

The question word may well be used when using this type of questions. To understand how this works, it is better to use a simple sentence, using as an example you can ask ordinary alternative questions, which can then easily be reorganized into questions with a question word. Here is a simple sentence:

  • We will go to Spain by car. - We will go to Spain by car.

But how can you put an alternative question to him:

No question word With a question word Transfer
Will we go to Spain by train or by car? What will we go to Spain by: car or train? Will we go to Spain by train or by car?
Will we go to Spain or to France by car? Spain or to France? Will we go by car to France or to Spain?
Will we go or fly to Spain? What will we do? Will we go or fly to Spain?
By car, or will they? Who will go to Spain by car: we or they? Who will go to Spain by car: we or they?

As the examples of questions with a question word show, alternative questions of this type look and form just like special ones, with the only difference being that they use a colon and the conjunction "or".

Questions to the subject

Question to the subject

They have already been used as examples in this article, but not separately understood.To ask a question to the subject, it is necessary to formulate a special question for the first subject, and then separate the second half of the separation question for the second subject, separated by commas. In theory, this seems complicated, but in practice it looks quite concise and simple:

Example Transfer
Did you tell him the truth, or did she? Did you tell him the truth or is she?
Should we help him, or should they? Do we or should they help him?
Or is your sister? Are you the one I should blame, or is it your sister?
Was you the one who decided to come here, or was he? You were the person who decided to come here, or is it all he?

Where are such questions used?

Examples of alternative questions, of course, can be found not only on the pages of English textbooks. If this were so, there would be no point in studying them. In fact, these questions are used in almost all styles of speech and writing.

The use of alternative questions

In addition, alternative questions are a tool of manipulation, a favorite technique for marketers and merchants, well trained to inspire buyers to buy something they never need in their life. It works as follows: giving the listener answers, the speaker limits the range of possible actions. For example:

  • Alright, sir, do you buy it yourself? “So, sir, would you prefer us to pack the goods, or would you do it yourself?”

Perhaps the “sir” mentioned in this phrase had not yet decided to buy the product, but only thought about it, recklessly mentioning that theoretically he might like it. So, when you hear an alternative question from a service worker, you should be very careful.

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