2.2 The Clean Language Questions

The Core Clean Language Questions

Originally devised by the late David Grove, categorised by Penny Tompkins and James Lawley

Click here for a handy list

Background Materials

For more in-depth explanation of the core Clean Language questions and specific ways each can be used, get the book Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds

If you’d like to know why I refer to myself as The Elephant Whisperer in these videos, read this article.

The Intelligent Influence course I refer to is no longer available – but I have other influence courses available here.

Translations of the core Clean Language questions into languages other than English are available here.


Comments below are closed due to excessive spam.


  • Hilary Gallo says:

    Like the power switch Judy. Thanks for this.

  • Barry Cooper says:

    Yes, i like the Power Switch too. Thanks.

  • Peter Hirst says:

    Thanks Judy, very well explained with an excellent visual representation.

  • David Penn says:

    Hello all!
    I recently tried one of the Jedi questions at work, and was amazed! This may seem like a mundane example, but if you know the guy I’m dealing with, it more interesting. I am a team driver on a commercial truck. My co-driver and I are “stuck” together for a week at a time in close quarters. On several occasions, Jim had stated to me, “I HATE Subway!” (the sandwich restaurant franchise).
    Now, those three words epitomize superficial interactions with Jim. Jim is in his 60s, has a Ph.D., is quite smart, and has very strong opinions. He seems convinced that his higher education adds to the validity of his opinions about everything from former colleagues to sandwiches. His opinions are stated as fact, they are numerous, and are mostly negative evaluations. (I’m coping fairly well, thank you).
    After hearing “I HATE Subway” three or four times, and with no particular outcome in mind, I decided to ask, “What kind of hate is hate for Subway?” I said nothing else. He asked me to repeat. He softened and said something about the recipe. I just went back to work, thinking to myself “hate … a sandwich? Where is the REAL pain, Jim?”
    The next thing I know, Jim had come back to the truck with a sandwich from the former enemy restaurant. He announced what he had done. I really care very little what the man eats, so long as it is reasonable, so I forgot all about this quirky bit of trivia. About a day later, I realized what had happened: the issue is not about sandwiches, but that such a stubborn man would change his behavior. He had other choices about what to eat. I can’t help but think that it was due to the Jedi question. I think it clarified his exaggerated feelings about the restaurant.
    Now, this whole scenario seems comical and trivial, and there are much better uses for Clean Language. My point is that my use of the Jedi question was so effortless, and given Jim’s general tenacity, his behavior change seems a shovel doing the work of a bulldozer. I’m impressed. Can’t wait to try some more on him!
    Thanks Judy!

  • Judy Rees says:

    What a lovely story! Thanks David

  • Excellent stuff David! The beauty of the stuff is in its simplicity. I was so busy today I forgot to apply it, but I’ll definitely use some of it tomorrow!

  • martin glover says:


  • Ken Stofft says:

    And, what are the Jedi Questions? Please, get to the point.and give more than one demo. Thanks.

  • Judy Rees says:

    Ken, the 2 Lazy Jedi questions are “What kind of X (is that X)?” and “Is there anything else about X?”
    I’m adding demo videos to the site as fast as I can, honest! Have you seen the new one here: http://bit.ly/IZ2gwE ?

  • Lucky 007 says:

    the last of the 6 DEVELOPING QUESTIONS: That’s X like what?
    What does this mean? Confusing.

  • Judy Rees says:

    Lucky, it works best if you ask it slowly. “That’s…. X…. like…………what?”

    It’s the Clean Language question which asks explicitly for a metaphor.

  • Magnus Andersson says:

    Hi Judy!

    English is not my native language so I tried to translate the 2 Lazy Jedi Questions and tried to use them in normal conversations.

    I think the language in these questions is quite formal and I have a hard time to fit them into a everyday conversation with my spouse or children. I have tried some different variations of translations, where the questions become a bit more unformal.

    Here are some examples of questions I have asked:
    1. “In what way X?” or “How do you mean X?”,
    2. “Can you tell me more about X?” or “Can you describe X?”

    It has very interresting and rewarding conversations!! Asking these questions and trying not to tell them my opinon and instead try to listen has been challenging and fun. 🙂

    But here are my question to you. Please give me your view on this.
    Is it OK to change the wordings in the questions? Will they still work and be clean in your opinon?

    – Magnus

  • Judy Rees says:

    Hi Marcus, my recommendation would always be to *begin* by using the 2 Lazy Jedi as they are.

    That’s because it’s actually really quite tricky to remove assumptions and metaphors from questions, particularly in the moment. Knowing you are only going to use the 2JLQs saves you the trouble of thinking of your own questions!

    When people relax their approach too early, before they have grasped some of the subtler Clean/not-Clean distinctions, what they end up doing is no longer Clean Language, but a Cleanish form of NLP.

    For example, it seems a short distance from “Does X have a colour?” (which would be Clean, though it isn’t one of the core questions) to “What colour is X?” (which assumes X has a colour). But the difference in impact on the client, if X doesn’t happen to have a colour, is enormous. (I’ll blog more about this soon – Angela Dunbar provided a useful distinction at the Clean Conference this weekend).

    The core Clean Language questions have been polished and honed by dozens of facilitators and hundreds of clients, and are used because they “just work”. And the 2LJQs represent between a third to two-thirds of the questions used in full-on Clean Language sessions.

    From your examples:
    “In what way X?” I think is pretty Clean

    “How do you mean X?” sounds pretty Clean on the face of it, but could be experienced as very challenging, depending on the voice tone

    “Can you tell me more about X?” is not Clean because it potentially draws the client’s attention to “me”, the facilitator. The client’s attention might well go to the “can you” rather than the “more about X?”

    “Is there anything more about X?” would be Cleaner. Irish facilitators habitually use “Is there anything more about X?” rather than “Is there anything else about X?” and I have never found a way of persuading them not to. They seem to do OK!

    “Can you describe X?” is again Cleanish, but potentially challenging and with the “can you” problem.

    Hope this helps!

  • Judy Rees says:

    Oops! Sorry Magnus, for calling you Marcus!

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