Helping Learners Understand Spoken English

How to Ask Better Follow-up Questions

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Sentence Frames to Create Follow-up Questions

In How to Ask Interesting Questions, I explained 3 types of questions you can use to begin a conversation. Now, let’s look at 5 ways to ask more interesting follow-up questions. Combined with SSNQs (Short Simple Natural Questions), these will add to your ability to engage in more interesting conversations in English.

We ask follow-up questions to keep conversations going and to get people to tell us more about their experiences, ideas, and opinions. Combined with rejoinders, follow-up questions show the person we are talking to that we are interested in their ideas, feelings, and experiences.

For many English language learners, asking questions is more difficult than answering them. Learning some formulas will help make asking questions easier. The sentence frames below provide 5 formulas you can use to ask better follow-up questions. They can be used in many different situations.

When having a conversation, simply fill in the blanks with the information you hear to ask a question.

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Sentence Frames

  1. What do you mean by _______________________? ( asking for clarification/explanation)
  2. Why do you think ____________________________? (asking for reasons)
  3. What’s _____________________ about _____________________? (adjective + noun/noun phrase)
  4. What was the ______________ thing about ________________? (superlative adjective + subject)
  5. If you could ________________, wh- would you ______________? (ask a hypothetical question)

Example Follow-up Questions

  1. What do you mean by too difficult?
  2. Why do you think mandatory English courses are unnecessary in universities?
  3. What’s difficult about speaking English?
  4. What was the best thing about your vacation?
  5. If you could travel to any country, where would you go?

Of course these are not the only structures you can use to ask follow-up questions. These are just some to help you begin to ask questions that get people to talk more and express their thoughts and feelings more.

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While these questions can be more difficult to ask and answer, they will help you improve your English fluency as you search for the missing links in your vocabulary in order to express yourself. You will also become a more interesting and enjoyable conversationalist!

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Quick and Easy Grammar Formula: QUASM

If you need a grammar review of question formation, check out Espresso English’s post: An Easy Way To Form (Almost) Any Question In English.