"Her eyes are beautiful."

I want to ask about her eyes, to put a question to the attributive. What is the correct wording of my question? Thanks.

  • 2
    "Are her eyes beautiful?" – Andrew Nov 18 '16 at 12:19

Your question isn't really about the noun—you know about her eyes. It's about the adjective—the description of her eyes.

A 'closed' question—one which prompts the answer 'Yes' or 'No'—is easy: you simply 'invert' the subject and the auxiliary verb BE:

Are her eyes beautiful? —Yes, they are.

But for an 'open' question—one which accepts any adjective or adjectival as answer—you have to start your question with a wh- word. And that gets a little tricky. In English we have interrogative pronouns (wh- words like who, what, which which invite nominal answers) and interrogative pro-adverbs (wh- words like where, when, why, how which invite adverbial answers), but we don't have interrogative pro-adjectives or pro-verbs. For verb or adjective interrogatives we have to use constructions with a pronoun plus a verb phrase. Usually the pronoun is what

What did she do? asks for a verb answer: She rose/sat/danced
What do her eyes look like? asks for an adjective answer: They're blue/black/beautiful
What are her eyes like? licenses an answer that goes beyond the eyes' visual appearance: They're like raisins in a cupcake.

With adjectives there is also a construction using the pro-adverb how:

How do her eyes look?

But this is usually reserved for situations when you're asking about temporary appearance, not the usual appearance—for instance, if you know she suffered an injury which may have affected her eyes and you want to know her current condition.

How is also used to ask about the degree of a particular quality; but in this case it serves as an ordinary pro-adverb qualifying an adjective and asks for an adverbial answer.

How beautiful are her eyes? —Her eyes are somewhat beautiful.

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  • 1
    @Araucaria Thengewp. – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 18 '16 at 13:01
  • My pledger entierly.. – Araucaria - Not here any more. Nov 18 '16 at 13:43
  • You forgot plain What are her eyes like?. Without look, that version is a much more "generic" way of asking for information about something, since it works for things like What's her voice like? (i.e. - it's not inherently limited to contexts where you're only asking about the visual appearance of something). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 18 '16 at 16:26
  • @FumbleFingers Good point -- I'll add it. – StoneyB on hiatus Nov 18 '16 at 16:35
  • Curiously, although He looks like trouble is perfectly valid, I think that would inevitably have to be seen as a somewhat facetious reply to What does he look like? (but it could be completely natural in response to What's he like?). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Nov 18 '16 at 16:39

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