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Questions which anticipate an answer of “yes” or “no” are easily formed by simply adding ĉu to the front of the sentence:
Questions which ask for some specific kind of information, such as English questions with “who,” “what,” “where,” etc., are formed by adding one of the correlative question words (those beginning with ki-) to the beginning of the sentence. (See the section on Correlatives [link].)
English normally reverses the subject and verb for a question with forms of “to be.” (“He is a violinist.” “Is he a violinist?”) Esperanto does not make such a change. Quite aside from this, both languages can vary word order for emphasis. Accordingly, it does not work at all to depend on word order for information about whether something is a question or not!
Another type of question can be created by adding ĉu or ĉu ne to the end of a statement, comparable to English expressions like “isn’t it,” “doesn’t he,” and “wouldn’t they.”
*-Most speakers maintain that ĉu alone is appropriately added at the end of a sentence only if the verb is already negative, and that ĉu ne is added only to positive sentences. Logically, a ĉu with either a ne nor a jes simply creates a question, regardless whether the sentence is positive or negative. Accordingly for other speakers, ĉu and ĉu ne seem to be close to interchangeable, even though ĉu ne is much commoner.
The use of ĉu alone is especially common in negative sentences, which sometimes (rarely) even add ĉu jes:*
As a practical matter, a question may also be indicated merely by raising the pitch of the voice at the end of a statement, but be cautious. Nothing in “official” Esperanto defines a question this way. This intonation is not universal in human languages, and some speakers may not recognize it as a question!
Ĉu is also used to introduce an indirect question, corresponding with the English term “whether.” (Some editors prefer a comma before the ĉu.)
Note that the tense of the verb in the ĉu clause reflects the perspective of the actor in the main clause:
Sometimes the rising intonation or careful attention to placement of pauses is necessary to clarify whether the question is direct or indirect:
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