Short Simple Natural Follow-up Questions

Who what when where why how

An Introduction to Short Simple Natural Follow-up Questions (SSNQs)

In addition to reactions, follow-up questions are an important part of a conversation in English. What I’m about to share with you is something no one else is teaching. This is the only place you’ll find this information.

“How can I make a perfect sentence?”

Many students ask this question. They want to speak in perfect sentences. They have even more difficulty when asking questions.

There’s good news!

Native speakers don’t usually speak in perfect or complete sentences!

We have many shortcuts (ways to save time and effort) that you can learn. Learning these shortcuts makes speaking English easier. It takes time and practice to use some of them, but many can be learned quickly. In fact, you probably already know some of them!

“I want to speak real English.”

This is something I often hear. It is one reason I began this website. There is SO MUCH information I want to share with you about how to speak English naturally. It’s going to take time to share it all.

To begin, let’s look at an example of a conversation 3 ways: first with complete sentences, then with the questions and answers shortened, and finally with reductions, which is how the conversation actually sounds when spoken. Notice the differences.

Complete sentences (not the way people really speak)

Elsa: What did you do this weekend?

Ollie: I went to a movie.

Elsa: Oh, yeah? What movie did you see?

Ollie: I saw Black Panther.

Elsa: Cool! I love that movie!

Shortened sentences (the way people really speak)

Elsa: What did you do this weekend?

Ollie: Went to a movie.

Elsa: Oh, yeah? What movie?

Ollie: Black Panther.

Elsa: Cool! I love that movie!

The way it sounds when spoken (with reductions)

Elsa: Wuhdja do this weekend?

Ollie: Wen-to-uh movie.

Elsa: Oh, yeah? What movie?

Ollie: Black Panther.

Elsa: Cool! I love that movie!

The conversation above introduced one SSNQ:

What ___________?

The ____________ can be completed in many ways, for example:

  • What game?
  • What restaurant?
  • What country?

*What is sometimes substituted with Which. There is a grammatical difference, but in some cases, there is little difference. Grammatically, what is used when there is an unlimited number of choices, and which is used when the choices are more limited. For those of you who would like to know more about the difference and get some practice, I recommend watching Rebecca’s engVid explanation.

Other Short Simple Natural Follow-up Questions


  • Who with? or  With who? (whom is disappearing – most people say who)
  • To who? (This is used if someone tells you they are getting married.)


  • What kind?
  • Like what?
  • Whadja get? = What did you get? = What grade did you get? or What did you buy? or  What did you receive?
  • Which ____________? (for more specific options)
  • What ____________? (for more general options)
  • What happened? (A go-to question when someone had a problem.)
  • What’s wrong? (A good question if someone has a problem or seems upset.)
  • What’s the matter? (Same meaning as What’s wrong?)


  • When?
  • When is/was it?
  • When was this? = When did it happen/occur/take place?


  • Where?
  • Where in ______________?
  • Where at?
  • Where to?
  • From where?
  • Where is/was it?
  • Where is/was this?


  • Why?
  • Why not?
  • Why is/was that?
  • How come? = What is the reason/excuse?

A: He isn’t here.
B: How come?

*How come? = How come he isn’t here? = Why isn’t he here?

  • What for? = For what reason? = What is the reason?

A: I’m studying English.
B: Really? What for?

*What for? = For what reason are you studying English? = Why are you studying English? = What are you studying English for?


  • How?
  • How so? = In what way?
  • How many?
  • How often?
  • How much?
  • How long?
  • For how long?
  • How far?

The difference between whyhow and how so takes time to learn. It depends on the situation. I explain in more detail on Quora.

This is just an introduction. In future posts, I will explain in more detail with examples from real conversations.

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