In-Depth Tips from Dr English

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Questioning Techniques: Five Types of Question Structures

19 Jan 2021

questionsWithin the English language, there are five kinds of common question structures. These are as follows:

Open questions

What/What sort of .…..?

Could you tell me…...?

I 'd be interested to know if/whether…...?

How/Why did you …...?

These are called open questions because we don't know what the answer will be. The number of possible answers is infinite.

Closed questions

Is there...?

Did you...?

Are you going to…?

These questions are seeking a Yes/No answer. The number of answers is limited to two possibilities. These questions are commonly used to get a definitive answer, although they are not good question structures for developing a conversation.

Leading questions

Shouldn't we...?

There isn't..., is there?

These questions force an answer in a certain direction. You have your own opinion of what you think is correct or you want to get a certain answer, so the question structure tries to force the listener to agree with you, yet it is still a question.

Probing questions

What exactly do you mean by...?

May I know more about ……?

Could you go into more detail about .......?

These questions are seeking further information on the topic being discussed. They are commonly used for interviewing people or in meetings/discussions to extract further information.

Reflective questions

So you're worried about…….....?

If I understand you correctly, you mean….………..

I 'm not sure I really understand...

These questions support the person answering. They show that you have been listening and appreciate the point that is being made; they help you to clarify the answer.

Overall, all these question structures are commonly found in English language, although, obviously, open, closed and probing questions are the most commonly used in everyday speech. Probing, leading and reflective questions can also be commonly used in business throughout meetings and discussions.


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