English sentences are sometimes classified according to the mood of their verbs. A sentence whose main verb is indicative is called a declarative sentence. Most English sentences are declarative; they simply make statements. A sentence whose main verb gives a command is an imperative sentence.
- Listen carefully to what he says.
- Cut a slice of pie for your grandmother.
An interrogative sentence asks a question. Interrogatives always end in a question mark (?). Technically, “interrogative” is not a verb mood, although one common way of asking a question involves inversion, that is, placing the verb in front of the subject. Simple present- and past-tense verbs require the addition of the auxiliary verb do for inversion.
- Declarative: Tom is going to the store.
- Interrogative: Is Tom going to the store?
- Declarative: Nikita loves pineapple cake.
- Interrogative: Does Nikita love pineapple cake?
Inverted questions typically require a yes or no answer.
Another way of asking a question involves wh- words (who, whom, whose, what, which, where, why, when, and how). The wh- word comes in front of the inverted verb. Wh-word questions require a specific piece of information as an answer:
- How do you feel?
- What are you making for dinner?
- Why did you call him?
- Where is the movie playing?
Another way of asking a question involves tag questions. A tag question comes at the end of an otherwise declarative sentence. Tag questions have inverted verbs, but they use only the auxiliary, not the main verb of the sentence.
- You know Sasha.
- You know Sasha, don’t you?
Tag questions expect confirmation of what the declarative sentence says. If the declarative sentence is positive, the tag question is negative. If the declarative sentence is negative, the tag question is positive.
- Giulio is going to the show, isn’t he?
- Giulio isn’t going to the show, is he?
Tag questions, which are common in spoken English, usually involve a contracted form of a negative (isn’t, aren’t, don’t, doesn’t, can’t, won’t, and so on.
In spoken English, speakers can turn any declarative or imperative sentence into a question using rising intonation. The pitch of the speaker’s voice rises at the end of the sentence. The only way to note this difference in print is to place a question mark at the end of the sentence.
- Take the boxes to the attic. (The pitch is level.)
- Take the boxes to the attic? (The pitch rises at the end of the sentence.)
Finally, declarative sentences can contain indirect questions. These are usually second-hand reports of questions, not questions themselves. A sentence with an indirect question does not end with a question mark.
- Your mom asked me whether you would be going with us.
- Tara wondered what Amy thought of their plan.