Ho chi minh city university of education

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Instructor : Nguyen Ngoc Vu

Student : Vo Thi Thu Quyen

Class : BT 05
HCM, 30/10/2009



In learning, teaching as well as social communication, interrogative sentence is one of sentences that we use it very often and naturally in our daily life. Perceiving interrogative sentence as well as construct of interrogative sentence, performing of behavioral question are problems that foreign language learners often have difficulties. Especially, in translation Vietnamese into English and English into Vietnamese. In particular, Vietnamese students in high school meet problems in construct and using interrogative sentence. So, my paper on studying contrastive analysis English-Vietnamese interrogative sentence makes my teaching and helps my students easier for understanding and perceiving interrogative sentence.

In the my paper, at the same time we will discuss three types of English interrogative sentence and make comparison between English and Vietnamese to find out whether Vietnamese has the same ways of forming interrogative sentence and the use of interrogative sentence in English comparing with Vietnamese, indicating the similarities and the differences which will conduct the teaching English interrogative sentence to Vietnamese students.
Interrogative sentence


An interrogative sentence is a type of sentence which usually asks a question and use a question mark (?). They may ask for information or for confirmation or denial of a statement. ( “Interrogative sentence,” asp )
Interrogative sentence in English can be classified as three types:

  1. Yes-No questions

  2. Wh- Questions

  3. Alternative questions

We will step by step analyze them with examples and make an inference of interrogative sentence in Vietnamese.

  1. Yes-No questions

A Yes- No question usually will be answered by Yes - No. It asks whether something is true or not. ( “Interrogative sentence,” asp )

The Yes -No question rule: to form a Yes - No question in English, we can transfer the first auxiliary verb that appears before the main verb in the positive sentence to the position before the subject.

If there is no auxiliary verb, as in the Present Simple and Past Simple, then we add one (in both these cases, the auxiliary verb do ).When an auxiliary verb ( including modals ) is used, the main verb is not inflected (no s or ed ending ), meaning that either the base form or past participle is used.

In an article, the author gives the following table used as a review of Yes or No questions in English with some examples. Among them, some use the contracted forms more used in informal writing and speech, and others use the full forms (“ Negative Sentence,” n.d ).


Question Element


Present Simple



Do I play ?

Does she play ?

Past Simple


Did I play ?

Present Progressive


Am I playing ?
Is he playing ?
Are we playing ?

Past Progressive


Was I playing ?
Were they playing ?

Present Perfect


Have you played ?
Has she played ?

Present Perfect


Have you been playing ?

Has she been playing ?

Past Perfect


Had they played ?

Past Perfect


Had she been playing ?

Future Simple


Will I play ?

Future Perfect


Will he have played ?



Would she play ?

Conditional perfect


Would she have played ?



Can I play ?
Should I play ?

Yes –No questions in English is equivalent to “có….. không ” in Vietnamese” ( as cited in Lê, 2004, p.233)

Cậu có học Tiếng Nga không?

( Do you learn Russian ? )

Chúng ta c nên đi xem phim tối nay không?

( Should we go to the cinema ? )

From these examples, we have the following structure:

Subject có Verb không ?

Variants of this question is :

Suject có phaỉ Verb không ?

Các cậu có phải đi tuần tối nay không?

Are you on night duty this week ?

Sinh viên có cần phải đi nghĩa vụ không?

Have students to do for military service ?

Or Subject Verb …….. có phải không ?

Hôm qua Nam vắng học phải không?

Was Nam absent from school yesterday ?

Subject Verb………. ( có ) phải không?

2.Wh- questions

A Wh- question is an open question, meaning that it can have any number of answers.It asks about some missing information the speaker needs.

The rule of Wh –question : to form a Wh -question in English, add a Wh question word before the corresponding yes –no question.

When an auxiliary verb ( including modals is used, the main verb is not inflected ( no s or ed ending ), meaning that either the base form or past participle is used.

Wh-questions are generally accompanied by falling intonation.
In an article, the author gives the following table used as a review of Wh-questions in English with some examples. Among them, some use the contracted forms more used in informal writing and speech, and others use the full forms (“ Negative Sentence,” n.d ).



Question about:


Present Simple


Where does she play ?

Past Simple


When did they play ?

Present Progressive


How is he playing ?

Past Progressive

Direct object

What was he playing ?

Present Perfect

Indirect object

With whom have you played ?

Present Perfect


Which game have you been playing ?

Past Perfect


Why had they played ?

Past Perfect


How often had she been playing ?

Future Simple


How much will I play ?



Whose role can he play ?



How long would it take ?

Conditional perfect


How old would he have been ?

In English, we often use question word “what “ to ask something

Function of “what “ is subject .

What made you think of doing such a thing ?

Cái gì khiến anh làm như thế?

What made you decide ?

Điều gì làm cậu quyết đinh như thế?

Look at the examples and translation above , we can find some equivalents in Vietnamese. Actually, Vietnamese are in favor of using “what “ to rise a question about something. Moreover, in Vietnamese have another materials is to use “ như vậy , thế “.

In English the another difference is that we can transform “ what “ meaning of asking something into meaning of asking cause, for examples.What happened to made you change ?

Tại sao anh lại thay đổi như thế ?

What made him say all those thing ?

Tại sao cậu ấy lại nói như vậy ?

The another difference is that position at the beginning of the question have function complement of “ what “. It is not similar to question position of “ what “ in Vietnamese for instance.

What does he want ? ( Cậu ta muốn )

What did books have to do with children ?

( Bọn nhóc thì cần sách ?

The function of “ what “ in English and Vietnamese is object and predicate but its position in two languages is different from . In particular “ what “ is at the beginning of the sentence whereas in Vietnamese it is at the end of the sentence with its meaning is “gì”.

Cô ta đã làm tôi ?

What did she do to me?

Và cô ta muốn vậy ?

What are the other students called ?

( Những sinh viên khác có tên ? )

What did most of the students do ?

(Phần lớn sinh viên làm việc ? )

In Vietnamese, with its position “what “ is in the middle of the sentence.

Những người không học hành cần đến sách vở ?

What did books have to do with them ?

From the examples above, we have the following structures :

In English : Object Verb Subject ?

In Vietnamese : Compliment Verb Subject?

In Vietnamese, equivalent to “ who “ is “ai “ to ask someone for instance

Ai đấy ? Who is that ?

Cậu ta muốn gặp ai ? Who does he want to meet ?

These examples above “who “ with function subject, predicate is similar to in two languages.So the structure is

Subject Verb Object ?

But its function is object, we have the different structures

In English : Object Verb Subject ?

In Vietnamese : Subject Verb Object

Similarly to English, in Vietnamese use question words to ask place ( ở đâu )

Time (khi nào ) , why ( nguyên nhân ), cách thức ( manner ),when ( khi nào ) ( as cited in Diệp Quang Ban ,1998, p. 276)

Bao giờ cậu vào ?( When will you go home ?)

Hàng ngày cậu dậy lúc mấy giờ ?( When do you get up everyday? ) 3.Alternative interrogatives

In English, alternative interrogatives offer two or more alternative responses.

Do you want beer, wine, or whisky ?

Alternative interrogatives are introduced by an auxiliary verb.

There are some equivalences in alternative interrogatives between English and Vietnamese. We can use alternative question word like “or” in English and “hay( hay là), hoặc( hoặc là ) in Vietnamese to construct alternative interrogatives.

In English : Would you like chocolate or vanilla ?

Are you going or coming?

Should we go by bus or train ?

Look at the examples above, we can have the following structure

Operators Subject Verb Object or Object ?

In Vietnamese : Anh chỉ có thể được chọn (hoặc ) tôi hoặc nó ?

(Can you choose me or him?)

Anh học tiếng Anh hay tiếng Pháp ?

Do you learn English or Russian ?

Look at the examples above, we can have the following structure :

Subject Verb Object 1 hay Object 2 ?

The difference is that in Vietnamese , we often use “ có … không, (có ) phải không, đã chưa “ to form alternative interrogatives.

Cậu có học tiếng Nga không ?

( Do you learn Russian ?)

Chúng ta nên đi xem film không?

(Will we go to the cinema?)

Hôm qua Nam bỏ học phải không ?

(Was Nam absent from school?)

Anh đã từng đến Luân Đôn chưa ?

(Have you been to London?)

From the examples above, we can see that we have materials to form this question comparing with in English.

To sum up, English and Vietnamese have similarities and differences in establishing the interrogative question. In English the rules for interrogative question is very systematic. As a teacher, we have to supply the knowledge in a systematic way and then drew student’ attention especially the differences between two languages to help them overcome the language barrier. The most important point of learning grammar is to use it.So, at the same time of comparing we should give many examples in both languages to help students familiarize and use the new structure.

Using interrogative questions in English for teaching Interrogative question in English and Vietnamese generally is the same. For instant, someone says, “He is a doctor “ – an affirmative sentence, when you want to make sure about the occupation of him , you will say the interrogative question “Is he a doctor ? and use rising intonation at the end of the sentence. Similarly, in Vietnamese, “ Cô ấy ta là giáo viên.”( She is a teacher ) and “Is she a doctor ? “ (Có phải bà ta là giáo viên không )?

However, Vietnamese students also encounter with problem of using interrogative sentence in English because of differences between two languages. In this paper I want to refer are Tags question and Statement using rising intonation at the end of the sentence.

Tags Question in English can be equivalent to “phải không”; “như thế không” ?” à “?.....in Vietnamese .

So the structure of this form of sentence in English and Vietnamese is different from at the end of the sentence.

Nam was there, wasn’t he ?

Cậu Nam có mặt ở đó không?

You didn’t see you, did you ?

Anh không nhìn thấy cậu ta ?

From above two examples, we can see the structure of Tags questions in Vietnamese.

In Vietnamese:

Subject Verb à?

Phải không ?

However, Yes –No questions in Vietnamese, we can use Tags elements such as “ đúng không”, “ được không”,”có phải không”, “có phải là ”,”có phải là”, “có đúng là ”,ø “có phài là” “ to form this question sentence and their position are at the end of the sentence and not use rising intonation at the end of sentence and sometime, they are inverse at the beginning of question sentence with semantic mood emphasize.

Có đúng là anh không nhìn thấy cậu ta không?

( Is is right that you did not see him ? )

In English, the statement using rising intonation at the end of the sentence to form the interrogative sentence while Vietnamese use question elements, question words.

Anh đi xem phim tối nay phải không?

( Is he going to the cinema tonight? )

Cậu ta đi gặp ông chủ phải không?

( Will you speak to his boss? )

Moreover, the Vietnamese students have difficulties in using and forming negative question .In English, a negative question often expresses surprise for example “Can’t you ring me ?( Bạn gọi tôi à? ) or Haven’t they repaired your phone? ( Họ vẫn chưa chưa sửa dđiện thoại cho bạn hả? )” .We can use a negative question for complaining for instance “Can’t you be quiet? ( Bạn không thể im lặng hả?)”.And we can also use negative question to ask the hearer to agree that something is true “ Didn’t I see you on television last night ?”(as cited Eastwood in 2006, p.25)

We can make a question question negative by putting n’t after the auxiliary, for example “ Haven’t you finished yet ?” not “ Have not you finished yet ?” Or we can use other negative words “ Are you never going to finish?” or “Why does the government take no action?”And if the question words is the suject, n’t or not comes after the auxiliary “ Who hasn’t returned this library book?” .

Comparing with English, this kind question in Vietnamese is easier .And this using and forming of it make the Vietnamese students confused and difficult to make a question.In Vietnamese in question nagative, we often use question words “hả, thế” for example, “ Bạn không đi học hả?”


To many teachers, interrogative question is complicated and diversified . And it is one of the most and basis grammatical matter in English and Vietnamese. So, the teachers usually do pay attention and spend much time giving examples and checking students’ errors. Moreover, we have to change our mind and make efforts to solve the problems of language barrier for the students. As mentioned above, English and Vietnamese have similarities in the construct of its form but also some differences in using. It is not easy to learn the new language. In my opinion, the best way to ask students to master the interrogative question in English, the teachers must be sure that that their students have profound knowledge of the interrogative one in Vietnamese. It is not easy job because that a long process of students’ learning Vietnamese. The teacher only have to repeat what the students have forgotten, not teaching again all the whole thing. Then, based on the student’s knowledge, the teacher can make a transition to English comparing with the two languages and remark the differences for students to notice, one student can make a clear distinction between the English and Vietnamese interrogative question, they will it easily. That is the purposes of the teacher to help students understand and use English efficiently .


Diệp, Quang Ban (1998).Ngữ pháp Viêt Nam. Retrieved December 17th, 2009.

Lê, Quang Thiêm .(2004). Ngôn ngữ học đối chiếu.Hanoi:Hanoi National University Publisher.

John Eastwood.(2006 ). Oxford Guide To English Grammar.

WhiteSmoke. (2009).Negative Sentence and Question in English .The rules for forming negative and interrogative sentences, using auxiliary verbs in English. Retrived December 17th, 2009 from http:// www.Negative sentences and Questions Formation in English.htm.

Retrieved December 17th, 2009 from http://www.englishlanguageguide.com/english/grammar/interrogative-sentence.asp

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