Right Intonation

PSLE Oral: Asking Questions with the Right Intonation

Hi everyone! I’m Ms Atifa, an English teacher at Lil’ but Mighty. Today, let’s talk about how to ask questions the right way. Although this is not something we often think about, it’s important to make sure we have the right intonation when we read questions. So today, let’s talk about asking questions with the right intonation!

Questions and statements should be read out differently. This is good to take note of for the Reading Aloud component in Primary School Oral, as you might come across some questions that are part of direct speech in the passage, as shown in this extract taken from Day 1 of the 2020 PSLE Paper 4:

“Thanks! I’m Bala and this is my younger sister, Lena. We’ve just finished unpacking and we found our rackets! Would you like to join us for a game of badminton downstairs?” asked Bala.

Did you notice anything different about my intonation when I read the question that Bala asked?

Before we discuss the answer to that, let’s first talk about intonation. What exactly is intonation? Basically, intonation refers to how high and low your voice sounds. When your intonation rises, it means that your voice becomes higher. When your intonation falls, your voice becomes lower. Normally, our intonation remains consistent and does not become significantly higher or lower when we read a statement. If I say, “I had a large cup of coffee today?”, that doesn’t sound right, does it? When you are reading a sentence, make sure you keep your intonation consistent, and that your intonation does not rise at the end. It should sound something like this: “I had a large cup of coffee today.”

Now, let’s compare this to how we would read a question. Let’s return to the extract that you saw earlier:

“Thanks! I’m Bala and this is my younger sister, Lena. We’ve just finished unpacking and we found our rackets! Would you like to join us for a game of badminton downstairs?” asked Bala.

Would it sound right if I read this question by keeping my intonation consistent? As you can see, there is a certain way to ask a question with the proper intonation. Always make sure that you end the question with rising intonation.

As a bonus tip, it’s also good to note that for 5W1H questions, your intonation should not rise too much. These are questions that begin with What, Why, Who, When, Where and How. For example, take a look at this question.

“What did you do in school today?” Mother asked.

If I say it with significantly rising intonation, it would sound a little strange. So, to really sound like a pro for these types of questions, make sure that your intonation rises only slightly.

I hope that you take note of your intonation during your Oral practices and exams, especially when it comes to reading out statements and questions differently! To challenge yourself, you can also practise asking 5W1H questions the right way.

Thank you for watching. Bye!


To some children, speaking to a stranger about his day or life is not a natural thing to do. However, if you are able to have a structured plan about how to think and what to say, doesn’t this make the task a lot less daunting?

We want to help you do just that.

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Ms Atifa

In her time teaching, she has incorporated elements of drama into her classes to engage her lower primary students. She tries her best to get to know all of her students and is always keen to find out each of their interests and hobbies. She believes that each student has personalised needs, and aims to make lessons fun and helpful for all of her students.

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