Grammar: How to ask questions correctly in English - Embedded Questions
Hi. My name is Rebecca, and in today's lesson, I'm going to teach you about embedded questions
in the present simple tense and in the past simple tense, okay?
So what is an "embedded question"? An "embedded question" is a question that is hidden inside
another question or inside a sentence. And what happens is that when you have an embedded
question, you have to change the word order back to that of a sentence rather than that
of a question. And that's what makes it a little bit confusing or quite confusing for
many students because you've learned that when you have a question, you change the order.
But in an embedded question like the ones I'm about the show you, you have to change
the order back more or less to a regular sentence order. So let's look at some examples. You'll
All right, so let's take this present simple question. "Where does he live?" Right? "Where
does he live?" Well, that is correct the way it is. But if you add before that one of these
expressions like "can you tell me", "do you know", "could you tell me", "would you know",
"would you happen to know" -- if you add one of these types of questions before the question,
then you're going to have to change something here. So let's look at this one, and let's
look at the embedded question version.
"Where does he live", or "Can you tell me where he lives?" Right? You see what happened?
We lost that word "does", and we came back to "he lives" with an S, right? It was like
it would be if it was a sentence. So "Do you know where he lives?" Okay? "Could you tell
me where he lives?" "Would you know where he lives?" "Would you mind telling me where
he lives?" Okay? Something like that. The mistake that's made is that students sometimes
say, "Can you tell me where does he live?" Right? So they take the question from up here,
and they leave it the same even with the tag. But you can't do that. You need to change it.
Let's look now at a past simple question, okay? A question in the past simple tense
might be, "Where did he work?" Right? So you have to use the word "did" in that question.
But in an embedded question in the past simple tense, it would sound like this, "Could you
tell me where he worked?" Right? "Could you tell me where he worked?" Not "where did he
work"; not, "Could you tell me where did he work"; but, "Could you tell me where he worked?"
Just as where you're saying the sentence. Okay?
Let's look at a few more examples. Now this also applies not only when you have these
kinds of questions -- expressions before, but also with certain kinds of sentences like,
"I know where he lives", or "I don't know where he lives", or "I don't remember where
he worked" Okay? So even in certain kinds of sentences, when you have that embedded
question, you change the order into something like this, okay? All right.
Let me give you a few examples, and then you can hopefully understand a little better.
So if you said -- if you take the regular question, "How do birds fly?" Right? "How
do birds fly?" Well, if you wanted to change that into an embedded question, you'd say,
"Do you know how birds fly?" Okay? "Do you know how birds fly?"
Next one, "When does the concert begin?" Right? Regular question, "When does the concert begin?"
"When does the concert begin" becomes, "Could you tell me when the concert begins?" Okay?
So that's an embedded question.
Next one, "Why did they miss class today?" Right? That's in the past tense, past simple.
"Why did they miss class today?" "Could you tell me why they missed class today?" Right?
Here we have the embedded version.
Last one, "What time did you finish work?" "Could you tell me what time you finished
I know it takes some getting used to. It's a little bit confusing, so if you'd like to
have some more practice, please go to our website, www.engvid.com. There, you'll find
a quiz on this and many other topics in English, and you can practice this. It is an important
point because if you make that mistake of saying this question with the embedded question,
then it's really completely wrong. So practice this a lot, and I'm sure you'll get it. Okay?
All the best with your English.