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Have You Ever 'Wondered?'


Ask a Teacher
Have You Ever 'Wondered?'
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This week we answer a request from Thant Zin Aung.

Question:

He writes: “Hi Teacher, Let me know how to use "wonder" as question form. Thanks in advance.” – Thant Zin Aung

Answer:

Dear Thant Zin Aung,
Thanks for writing to us. Your request is somewhat difficult to answer because it involves a kind of question unlike any other.

For one thing, in English, written questions almost always end in the same way. They end with a question mark, a kind of punctuation that shows the reader you are requesting information.

For example, one could ask, “What did you eat for dinner?”

The question comes through with not just the punctuation. When asking a question, English speakers usually try to end what they are saying with a rising tone in their voice.

Here is an example: “Are you leaving?”

But when one uses wonder in the form of a question, you are asking a completely different kind of question.

First, the way you form the question is different. To wonder means to ask oneself something. So the identity of the person wondering usually comes at the beginning of the sentence.

For example, say you have not spoken to your friend Tina in many years. One day you might ask yourself: “I wonder where Tina is.” This means you are asking yourself to imagine what has happened to your friend since you last spoke.

If you are writing this down as a question, you would not use a question mark. And in speaking, you would not raise the tone of your voice.

You will sometimes hear or read about other people wondering to themselves. In those cases, you will see them identified at the start of the question, as in 'He wonders why this happened' or 'They wondered who did it.’

The word that comes immediately after the person doing the wondering explains the kind of information they want to know. For example, the word ‘who’ means the question is usually about another person. The word ‘when’ relates to time. ‘Where’ relates to a place or location. ‘What’ relates to specific details of an event, and ‘why’ relates to the reason or reasons something happened.

Sometimes the term to wonder means to have interest in knowing or learning something. If your co-workers have a surprise planned for your birthday and you really want more details you might say, ‘I wonder where you are taking me.’

Asking others ‘Have you ever wondered about the future?' means you want to know if they have ever asked themselves that question.

And that’s Ask a Teacher.

I’m Pete Musto.

Pete Musto wrote Ask a Teacher for VOA Learning English this week. George Grow was the editor.

Do you have a question for the teacher? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

punctuationn. the marks, such as periods and commas, in a piece of writing that make its meaning clear and that separate it into sentences and clauses

tonen. the highness or lowness of a spoken syllable

specificadj. precise or exact

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