There are two types of question in German. The first type are interrogative questions or “w – questions“, which tend to be more open. The second type begin with a finite verb and require only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as an answer.
Frequently used question words for interrogative or “w – questions“:
was? – what?
wo? – where?
wer? – who?
wohin? – where … to?
woher? – where … from?
wann? – when?
wie lange? – how long?
wie? – how?
wie viel? – how much?
wie viele? – how many?
wie oft? – how often?
warum? – why?
wieso? – why?
weshalb? – why?
Some examples of questions:
Woher kommen Sie? – Where are you from?
Wie viel kostet das Brot? – How much is the bread?
Wie lange dauert die Bahnfahrt? – How long does the train ride take?
Wann können wir einchecken? – When can we check-in?
Most question words are used in the same way as in English, but there are some differences.
“Wie“ (how) is used for names, addresses and numbers:
Wie ist Ihr Name? – What is your name?
Wie ist die Adresse? – What is the address?
Wie ist die Telefonnummer? – What is the telephone number?
The second type of questions require only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. These questions differ in form from English ones, but are in the end easier. Look at these examples:
Wohnen Sie in Deutschland? – Do you live in Germany?
Kaufen Sie ein neues Auto? – Do you buy a new car?
Fliegst Du nach Spanien? – Do you fly to Spain?
Sind Sie Herr Wagner? – Are you Mr Wagner?
English often needs “do“ to form this type of question. German is simpler in this respect. You just need to move the infinitive verb to the beginning of the sentence to form a question.