Questions in spoken English

When we try to speak in casual situations, classical forms of questions do not often fit the situation. So, there are various short forms in English like in other languages. The post is devoted mostly to short questions and different spoken derivatives from classical structures.

I decided to write about the topic after a thorough online search but without success. If you are familiar with the topic and know different sources please share them in the comments down below.  

Let us get started.


Before we begin discussing colloquial questions, let’s recap classical questions, we know.

Yes/no. Are you going to The Almany Swamp next week? Will our team have finished the project by the end of this month?

Wh- (what, who, when, where, why, how, whom, whose): Whom do you believe? or Whose car is this?

Tag: We have never seen that, have we? You are going to go to the market, aren’t you?

Wh- negative: Why don’t you think so? What should he do in this case?

Yes/no negative: Didn’t you clean the dishes? Haven’t they thought about the solution?

Indirect: Tell me please how much the book costs. Do you know whether she likes apples?

Question to subject: What created the cave? Who decided so?

You can use these forms extensively. One day you notice that these questions are too wordy for daily talks. What is more, in movies and fictions you find other structures how to ask.

Cut the beginning or inside

The main idea of the type is to remove a helping verb and subject.

Full form: Have you got the message?
Short form: Got the message?

Full form: Are there any trees on the field?
Short form: Any trees on the field?

I hope you caught the idea.

If we use wh- questions, we can cut a helping verb and subject remaining a question word.

Why ask her the question? She will never answer you frankly.

Full form: Why do you ask her the question?

Short form: Why not play their game now?
Full form: Why should we not play their game now?

Short: cut almost everything

Sometimes we can erase almost a whole sentence.
Here we cut not only a helping verb and subject, but also the main verb and some details.

Full form: Did you receive any news?
Short form: Any news?

Full form: Do you want more bread?
Short form: More bread?

Even more radically:

A: Going to fix it now?  // Full form: Are you going to fix it now?
B: Sure.
A: With a screwdriver? // Full form: Do you want to fix it with a screwdriver?
B: Yep.

Or another example:

A: Any plans for tomorrow’s workout? // Full form: Do you have a plan for tomorrow's workout?
B: As usual.
A: Jumping Jacks, planks, and burpees? // Full form: Will we begin with Jumping Jacks, planks, and burpees?
B: Yes, that is perfect.


This type of questions we build based on repeating the statement and adding a question word we need to clarify.

You can use any question word fitting a need: what, who, when, where, why, how, whom, whose.


I am going to Brest next week.
You are going to where next week?

His hobby is beekeeping.
His hobby is what?

I finished the book last month.
You finished the book when?

Where is your phone?
Where is my what?


The type of questions is very similar to a tag-question but it follows a positive or negative form depending on a preceding sentence. Let us look.

Reminder: We use tag-questions if we want to approve/reaffirm of our words from a counterpart,

I did not like his behavior yesterday. Didn’t you?

Insead of

I did not like his behavior yesterday. Didn’t you like his behavior?

They can’t build the bridge.
Can’t they?

She is going to complete the project next week.
Is she?

I am not sure where to go.
Aren’t you?

We haven’t got the idea of the presentation.
Haven’t you?

Here is the main action to choose the form of pronoun you need for a focused question. The last example shows how we transformed WE to YOU, or before the previous one - I to YOU.

The shortest: just a question word

Here is the shortest structure. It consists of a question word and sometimes one more word (preposition, pronoun, not)

I want to clean the room.

I won’t help him tomorrow?
Why not?

Are you ready for the contest?
Why me?

You need to train your body every day.
What for?

They decided to bypass the river.

Request for reiteration

Sometimes we use questions to reiterate what was said. Maybe we expect more details or just repetition.

I am leaving Belarus tomorrow.

I want to change the color of my hair.
Oh, yes?

Informal tag-questions

They are all spoken, but in spite of their clear grammatical structure we often avoid this type in our colloquial practice. Because in Belarusian and, I think, in other languages this tag-question sentence structure may not so popular.

Instead of some tag (isn’t she, have you, … etc), we can use more universal right (yeah, ok, yes).

Informal: We are going to meet next month, right?
Common: We are going to meet next month, aren’t we?

Informal: Is it your pencil, yeah?
Common: Is it your pencil, isn’t it?

Informal: You won’t cook the soup today, ok?
Common: You won’t cook the soup today, will you?

With right or yeah you can easily employ tag questions in your talk, right?


All the use cases I’ve collected from different sources. If information above is not enough for you, use these links:

  1. Questions: short forms. // Cambridge dictionary
  2. Short questions. // Various forms
  3. Conversational English – Short, easy questions // Video + exercise
  4. Grammar Exercise: Short questions.// Short theory and exercise
  5. Echo questions // Wikipedia
  6. Echo questions // Polish source
  7. Tags. See Universal tags: right, yeah // Cambridge dictionary
  8. Tags. See Universal Tags // Langeek
  9. That’s a “tag question”, right?
  10. A history of emotive interjections in English: what, why and how. // Academical research