Some questions are open-ended while others are closed-ended. Inquiries that are closed-ended can be answered by a simple "yes" or "no" (or another super-short reply), while open-ended questions require a more detailed response. Explore some open-ended questions examples vs. closed-ended ones, so you'll be clear on the difference and have an idea of how to change one type of question to the other.
If you can answer a question with only a "yes" or "no" response, then you are answering a closed-ended type of question. Examples of closed-ended questions are:
Are you feeling better today?
May I use the bathroom?
Is the prime rib a special tonight?
Should I date him?
Will you please do me a favor?
Have you already completed your homework?
Is that your final answer?
Were you planning on becoming a fireman?
May I please have a bite of that pie?
Does four plus four equal eight?
Not all closed-ended questions have to be answered with a "yes" or "no." Any question that is worded such that it can be answered with a simple, direct response of one word or just a few words is closed-ended. These questions have direct responses that don't require elaboration in order to fully answer what was asked.
Who made this cake?
Do you want fried or baked chicken for dinner?
What kind of pie is your favorite?
Do you want to eat at home or go out?
Who is driving to the beach?
What time will the next Mass be held?
Which internet browser do you prefer?
Where did you go to school?
What time does the movie start?
Would you rather have a car or a jeep?
Open-ended questions are ones that require more than one-word answers or choosing among a few options. These questions require longer responses, with answers often coming in the form of a list or a few sentences or paragraphs. They can also come in the form of a speech or essay.
- What led to the two of you having a disagreement?
- What do you look for when choosing a veterinarian?
- How did you and your best friend meet?
- How can I know it's the right time to get married?
- What major effects did World War II have on the United States?
- What suggestions can you share to help me prepare to buy a house?
- What is it like to raise children as a single parent?
- Why can't I come along with you?
- What makes the leaves change color?
- Why is it important to save money for retirement?
Closed-ended questions are appropriate in situations where you're looking for a quick, definitive answer, but they're not conversation starters. When you're looking for an explanation or a rich level of detail, you'll want to use questions that are open-ended.
Most closed-ended questions can easily be adapted to be open-ended. Explore examples in relation to a wide variety of conversation topics. Choose the option that will provide the type of response or level of detail that you are seeking
|Closed-Ended Question||Open-Ended Alternative|
Is pasta alfredo on special tonight?
What are the specials tonight?
Are you planning to become a nurse?
What kind of career do you plan to pursue?
Would you like to go to the movies tonight?
What would you like to do tonight?
Is the haunted house really scary?
What are the haunted house's scariest features?
Are you buying anything good at the supermarket today?
What are you planning to buy today at the supermarket?
Are you going to get a job as soon as you finish college?
What do you plan to do immediately after you graduate from college?
Are you going sightseeing on your vacation?
What sights do you expect to see on your vacation?
Do you know how to find good deals on airline tickets?
What tips can you share for finding good prices on airline tickets?
Are you decorating for the birthday party?
How will you decorate for the birthday party?
When you're trying to get a feel of what a person likes, it's always a good idea to ask. If you just want to know if they like something or not, a closed-ended question will work just fine. If, however, you want to get a sense of their overall preferences, a closed-ended question will likely be more appropriate and effective.
|Closed-Ended Like/Dislike Questions||Open-Ended Preference Inquiries|
Do you like vanilla ice cream?
What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Do you like rain?
How do you feel about rainy days?
Is math your favorite subject?
What do you like about math?
Do you prefer hot weather or cold?
What is your favorite kind of weather?
Do you like to spend time outdoors?
What's your favorite outdoor activity?
Open ended-questions are critical in customer service and sales scenarios. By phrasing questions in a way that requires more than a super-short response, customer service and sales professionals can build positive relationships with customers and engage them in a dialogue. They're also great to include on customer satisfaction surveys.
|Closed-Ended Customer Inquiries||Open-Ended Customer Queries|
Can I help you with that?
How can I assist you with that?
May I be of service?
How may I be of service?
Can I help you find something?
What can I help you find?
Do you want a car or an SUV?
What features are most important to you in a car?
Do you like our products?
Which of our products are your favorites?
For healthcare professionals, open-ended questions are important to being able to diagnose and treat patients. Nurses, doctors and others involved in patient care are well-served by learning how to ask the right kinds of open-ended questions when interacting with patients.
|Closed-Ended Health Questions||Open-Ended Patient Questions|
Does your arm hurt?
How would you describe the way your arm feels?
Do you feel sick?
What symptoms are you having?
Do you get enough sleep?
What are your sleep habits like?
Does your tummy hurt?
How does your tummy feel right now?
On a scale of one to 10, how tired are you?
How would you describe your level of exhaustion?
The purpose of a job interview is to get a good sense of whether a candidate will be a good fit for the job. That means that the interviewer needs to get the applicant to share a good bit of information. That won't happen if the interviewer only asks closed-ended questions. It's better to ask questions that require thoughtful responses.
|Closed-Ended Interview Inquiries||Open-Ended Job-Related Questions|
Do you really want to work here?
Why are you interested in working here?
Do you think we should hire you?
Why should we hire you?
Do you have the right skills and abilities for this job?
What skills and abilities uniquely qualify you for this job?
Would your last boss recommend you?
How would your last boss describe you as an employee?
What is your best quality as an employee?
How can your top qualities help our company to thrive and grow?
Job interviews aren't the only scenario in which questions can be a tool for getting to know a person. Open-ended questions can be amazing conversation starters. They can help you get to learn more about your current friends or colleagues or get to know new people. Ice breaker exercises typically include open-ended questions.
|Closed-Ended Approach||Open-Ended Alternative|
Do you have some favorite childhood memories?
What are your favorite childhood memories?
Did you live in Morocco for a long time?
What is it like to live in Morocco?
Did you like the college you attended?
What was the most beneficial part of your college experience?
Did you enjoy high school?
What was your high school experience like?
Do you have any hobbies?
What are your favorite hobbies?
Both closed-ended and open-ended questions serve important purposes in communication and can be used in a variety of scenarios. Closed-ended questions should be used to elicit a short, quick response, while open-ended questions can be gateways to a conversation. Think of closed-ended questions like objective true/false or multiple-choice questions on a school exam, while open-ended questions are more like subjective short responses and essay questions. Now that you know the difference between these question types, boost your knowledge of how to provide supporting details. You just might improve your test-taking skills along with your conversation abilities!