Do you ask questions with the correct intonation?
Have you found that your American colleagues don’t always respond right away when you ask questions?
Many of my accent reduction clients have told me that they’ve experienced this.
How to ask questions so that Americans will understand you
If people don’t understand you when you ask questions, it could be because you’ve never learned the correct intonation patterns for asking questions in American English.
If you don’t know these rules…don’t worry….I’ll explain them now.
In American English we use different intonation patterns when asking questions. Here are the two most common patterns.
Question Intonation Pattern 1
1. We use rising intonation when the question can be answered with a “yes” or a “no”.
For example the question; “Are you COMing? ⤴” has rising intonation.
Question Intonation Pattern 2
2. We use rising -falling intonation when the question starts with a “wh” word such as what, when, where, who or how.
For example the question; “When are you COMing? ⤵” has rising falling intonation.
While many people use Pattern 1 above, they don’t use Pattern 2. This can create confusion in the ears of the American listener.
If you want American listeners to understand that you’re asking a question, you must master this rising falling intonation pattern for WH type questions!
Learn to ask questions effectively using the correct intonation
If you’re a non native English speaker wants to speak American English with the correct intonation, take a free trial lesson by following the link below.
My training programs will teach you how speak American English in a way that your colleagues will respect and understand!
About the author
Susan Ryan is an American English communication and accent reduction coach.