Can thinking and playing games go hand in hand? Is it possible that something only meant to entertain, can cause an intellectual conversation, between a large group of people? Question games answer "yes" to both questions. Teaching children how to play 20 questions is used quite often as the first day of school icebreaker in the classroom; it encourages everyone to get to know one another.

Anything with an inquiring nature is beneficial to any age group, but question games are also a great way for young children to build social skills and relationships. While it is common in school, playing 20 questions in social settings even beyond the classroom is a way for us to have fun educating ourselves. People can even use it for a humorous conversation.

little girl thinking

 The question game is also useful while learning another language. Answers are precious as we seek them all the time, but they will never be as important as the questions. Questions are the start of answers. The following article will give you a step-by-step guide on how to play 20 questions. You will learn what the game is, the object and the other ways to play.

What is 20 Questions?

A Guessing Game

Since it is a guessing game, it revolves around a specific dialogue of asking questions. The participants must keep this dialogue by asking questions and answering them. In some games, the questions are asked back and forth between only two people. 20 questions may be a little unique to the others of its kind because you can only ask 20 questions per round. Besides that and one other basic rule (which is the question has to be about one person, place or object), the rest of playing 20 questions is simple and random. It hardly needs a thousand words to show you a step-by-step guide.

 All ages can enjoy the game. Unlike most board games and sports, you don't have to wear a uniform, you can play outside or in, and there isn't necessarily a required number of players. It can range from small groups to large groups, so the whole family or football team can join. There is a recommended amount, however, and it's a small group of 2 to 5 people.

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 If it is played in a large group, the questions could get scattered, but there are ways around that. We'll show you a couple of variations in this article. There are no supplies needed for this game. Just voices. You won't be risking any injuries either. 20 questions can be played anywhere and time. It is one of the most laid-back activities.  

What is the Goal of the Game?

Game Success

Assuming we all can think (since we even do it in our sleep), anyone who can talk can play 20 questions. Alongside guessing, it is also a talking game. For those of us who don't describe ourselves as being geeks, teaching someone how to play 20 questions is not the same as teaching Chess, Kerbal Space Program or even 7 Wonders.

 There's only one goal in 20 questions and one way to reach it. The goal is simple; guess the person or place in only 20 questions. Whoever is the first to accurately name the person or place, is the winner. It's that simple. We suppose you can time it if you like, or have the loser do something silly, but you don't have to.

 Sometimes, especially if you're playing with someone you know, you may have the privilege of guessing a person or object of interest to you, which makes it more amusing. If you don't reach your goal, don't be discouraged and definitely don't quit. Try again and again until you do and are good enough to teach someone else how to play 20 questions.

A Step-by-Step Guide of How to Play

You Don't Have To Guess How To Play 20 Questions

Our minds aren't muscles, but they can certainly be exercised and stretched. It can keep our minds busy by testing the ability to ask the right questions, memory, and listening skills. By thinking about which questions to ask, we practice critical thinking. Humanity's greatest achievements have come from thinking critically. The standard version has three steps.


Step 1

The first step is to choose an oracle. In 20 questions, you have one Oracle and the rest of the players. The Oracle can also be classified as the "it" one. The oracle or "it" is sort of the boss and leader. He or she is the one who chooses the person, place, or object to be the center of the game. There can only be one oracle at a time.


The person can be anyone, from a real living person or a deceased person such as a movie star, athlete or classmate, to a cartoon or novel character. The place can be real like a restaurant or city or made up ones like that of Hogwarts and Narnia. Examples of objects include colors, food, a book, etc. The Oracle will usually say he or she is thinking of so and so.


There should only be one person, place or object per round. Though it can be of anything the oracle chooses, it is best to select a person, place or thing that everyone can logically guess based on the knowledge they already have. It's no fun guessing something that can't be guessed. You shouldn't have to give a physics or history lesson before the game.


Step 2

The next step is to begin the guessing.  After the Oracle has chosen the person, place or object, you can begin the guessing. The oracle may use hints if he or she likes but anyone who knows how to play 20 questions, will tell you it's much more stimulating and fun without hints. The only hint is usually the question the oracle gave (e.g., "I'm thinking of someone we both knew in the past.")


As the other players are asking the questions, the oracle must respond with either a "Yes" or "No," and nothing else. During the guessing time, one of the players, maybe the oracle, should keep track of the number of guesses made until the limit of 20 has been reached. This article wouldn't be talking about how to play 20 questions if we were allowed to ask more.


Step 3

The next step is to take a bow or keep going. Once 20 questions have been reached, the players then have two choices: they can continue, or they can stop. If the players decide to continue, but no one guessed the correct answer, you keep the same Oracle. The Oracle can then choose if he or she wants to keep the same person, place or object or choose something different.


If, however, someone guessed correctly, the person who did so becomes the new Oracle gets to choose what is guessed amongst the players next. It keeps going. Whoever guesses right becomes the boss or "it." 



As we mentioned before, there are other variations of this game. Sometimes 20 questions is played with over two people, comprising large groups such as a classroom. Each of the players can take turns asking the oracle a question. The Oracle just has to make sure the total amount of questions does not go past 20.

If there are enough people, as there will be in a classroom, the players can separate themselves into teams. The teams may vary depending on how many players there are. Let's say there are 12 people. Step 1 is making teams. The teams could separate into two groups of six. Once the teams are set, give everyone paper and a pen. If 20 questions is being played in a classroom, it's best to pair students with those they don't normally talk to as a way of having them get to know one another and build social skills essential for their development.

Step 2 is question time.  The Oracle is to write a question pertaining to someone on one of the pieces of paper. Remember to never ask straight-to-the-point "yes" or "no" questions. Rhetorical questions are not exciting and cannot contribute to the game.

Questions requiring long answers include but are not limited to:
⦁    Ashley's favorite T.V. shows
⦁    Ashley's favorite foods
⦁    Ashley's favorite things to do

When working with ESL students (English learners), the oracle can use flashcards of any category (e.g., animals, foods, colors, nature, inanimate objects such as a mug or book). It will help the students learn new words and won't be as overwhelming as memorization; they'll enjoy choosing which category to use before playing each round.

child win


As we mentioned before, anyone can be taught how to play 20 questions. Let's say you're snowed in, you're on a road trip, you're looking to pass some time while standing in a long grocery line, or you and your friend just feel like playing a game. This game will most definitely come in handy. It is a pure thinking game that does not take long to master.

Given how simple and fast it is to learn, you can teach even children as young as preschool how to play 20 questions. Just remember to always be a good sport. It's no fun dealing with a sore winner or loser. When we win, it's time to feel proud. When we lose, we learn something new. Everyone should be happy and having fun. 

Last update on 2022-11-27 at 04:56 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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