The w-questions

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Question words – often referred to as interrogatives – usually start with the letter w in German. Frequently used question words include:

wer? who?
welcher? which?what?
was? was für? what?  what kind of ?
wann? when?
wo? wohin? woher? where? where (to)? where from?
wie? wie viel? wie viele? how? how much? how many?
wie lang? wie lange? how long? for how long?
warum? wieso? why?
wozu? what for?

Here are some examples of w-questions:

Wann fängt der Film an? When does the film start?
Warum essen Sie kein Brot? Why don’t you eat bread?
Wie viel kostet das? How much does it cost?
Wer hat gerade angerufen? Who just phoned?
Wie hast du das gemeint? How did you mean that?

Points to watch out for

• wie ‘how’ can also correspond to the English ‘what’ when referring to names, telephone numbers and addresses:
Wie ist Ihr Name?
What is your name?
Wie ist deine Adresse?
What is your address?
Wie ist Ihre Handynummer?
What is your mobile telephone number?

• wo ‘where’ indicates position or location, whereas woher ‘where from’ and wohin ‘where (to)’ express movement:
Wo ist das Brandenburger Tor?
Where is the Brandenburg Gate?
Woher kommt Lisa eigentlich?
Where does Lisa actually come from?
Wohin hast du das Buch gelegt?
Where did you put the book?

• was für ‘what kind of’ can be followed by the nominative, accusative or dative case:
Was für ein Mann ist er? (nom.)
What kind of man is he?
Was für einen Wagen hat er? (acc.)
What kind of car does he have?
Mit was für einem Stift schreibst du? (dat.)
What kind of pen are you writing with?