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In-Depth Tips from Dr English

doceng3Dr English is the resident expert in language and communication training at Workplace English Training E-Platform (WETE). The informative and often in-depth articles below will help more advanced learners to understand and improve various aspects of their English, especially the English they need for work. You can read Dr English's tips on your PC, laptop or mobile device. These articles are only available for members of WETE. If you would like to subscribe and receive email notifications of future postings, please subscribe by clicking the Newsletter link above.

Welcoming Visitors: Using Open and Closed Questions

13 Jul 2021

visitors2In English (as in most languages), we can ask either open-ended questions or closed questions.

Closed questions are questions which generally only require a yes/no answer. When you are asked a closed question, try to add some extra information to your answer. Conversations can quickly come to an end if you always answer with a simple yes or no. It tells the other person that you’re not really interested in talking to them.

Here are a few closed questions you could ask a business visitor. Note the responses.


Did you enjoy your last trip to China?

Yes, I did.


Did you enjoy your last trip to China?

Yes, I did. I had a really productive time. But it was very tiring.

Would you like a glass of water?

Yes, please. It’s very kind of you to offer.

Are you going to see the band at the Peace Hotel tonight?

No. I’ve been told they’re not very good. What do you think of them?

Are you staying at the Hilton?

No. I’m actually staying at the Carlton Towers. I prefer it to the Hilton because it’s got a great spa.

Open questions are questions, often using a WH- word, in which the speaker is asking for MORE information than just yes or no. Open questions are very useful in helping to develop a conversation. In a way, you are forcing the person you are speaking with to provide you with longer answers:

What did you enjoy most about your meal last night?

Where would you like to go while you’re here?

Why are you only staying three days in Shanghai this time?

When welcoming visitors it's best to use a combination of open and closed questions. Perhaps start off by asking a few closed questions about your visitor's flight, hotel, etc. Then ask a few open questions to get your visitor to open up and speak more expansively about things.


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