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Everyday English 1
Everyday English 1

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4.2 Asking questions

How you ask questions depends on what you want and who you’re talking to. Even with people you know well, you may think twice before asking them to do things for you. You may be afraid to ask them for information if you think they won’t want to tell you. You may feel that some subjects are off limits.

When you are with people you don’t know, you usually have to ask questions to get information. You may find it difficult to find the right words to use.

In an assessed discussion for a Functional Skills English Level 1 or an Essential Skills Wales Communication Level 1 qualification, you are expected to ask questions as well as answer them.

Asking questions is arguably more difficult than answering them as you need to think of what you want to know and how you want to ask it. Often asking questions requires you to be more proactive and thoughtful than answering questions.

Asking for information

This is a key part of any discussion, but also something you have to do almost every day.

Activity 25 When do you have to ask for information?

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Try to think of as many different situations as possible in which you might have to ask for information. Make a note of them below.

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Discussion

Here are some suggestions:

  • asking for directions when you don’t know where to go
  • asking for information at the local Citizens Advice
  • asking the nurse in a hospital about a sick relative
  • asking for information on benefits or jobs at the local job centre
  • asking about something at work
  • asking a child why they’re upset
  • asking your partner about their day at work
  • asking a passer-by what the time is
  • asking about courses at your local college.

Sometimes you might ask questions that the other person is embarrassed to answer or that make them feel uncomfortable. Knowing when a question is appropriate is a useful skill.

Activity 26 Being appropriate

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Decide whether each question below is appropriate or inappropriate.

1. You are at a school parents’ evening. You ask how your son gets on with other children.

a. 

Appropriate


b. 

Not appropriate


The correct answer is a.

2. You’re paying for goods at a checkout. You ask the assistant what they think of their manager.

a. 

Appropriate


b. 

Not appropriate


The correct answer is b.

3. You’re in the canteen at work. Your supervisor comes in and you ask why your friend was turned down for promotion.

a. 

Appropriate


b. 

Not appropriate


The correct answer is b.

4. Your car has broken down. The breakdown service arrives after you’ve waited for two hours. You ask them what took so long.

a. 

Appropriate


b. 

Not appropriate


The correct answer is a.

5. You meet someone at a party and discover that they have seven children. You ask why they have so many.

a. 

Appropriate


b. 

Not appropriate


The correct answer is b.