Formation of questions

It is important to know how to form questions. The rules given below apply to almost all written questions and most spoken questions.

Auxiliary verb before subject

In a question, the auxiliary verb comes before the subject. Note that if there are two auxiliary verbs, only the first comes before the subject.

Study the examples given below.

  • He is working in the garden. (Statement)
  • Is he working in the garden? (Question)
  • They are playing.
  • Are they playing?
  • It was raining.
  • Was it raining?
  • That was a difficult question. (Statement)
  • Was that a difficult question? (Question)
  • They have arrived. (Statement)
  • Have they arrived? (Question)
  • She has been told. (Statement)
  • Has she been told? (NOT Has been she told?)
  • They have been waiting for hours.
  • Have they been waiting for hours?

The sentence given above contains two auxiliary verbs, but we have already learned that only the first auxiliary verb comes before the subject in a question.

  • She should have been more careful. (Statement)
  • Should she have been more careful? (Question)

Cases where there is no auxiliary verb

Affirmative sentences in the simple present and simple past tense do not have an auxiliary verb. We use do, does or did to change them into questions.

Note that do and does are used in the present tense. Do is used with plural nouns and the pronouns I, we, they and you. Does is used with  singular nouns and the pronouns he, she and it.

Did is used in the past tense with both singular and plural nouns and pronouns. Study the examples given below.

  • She writes plays for radio.

This statement is in the simple present tense and it doesn’t have an auxiliary verb. When we change this statement into a question, we use does as the first word. Note that we use does because the subject is a third person singular pronoun.

  • Does she write plays for radio? (NOT Does she writes plays for radio?)

More examples are given below.

  • Mike likes cakes. (Statement)
  • Does Mike like cakes? (NOT Does Mike likes cakes?)
  • They live in the same city. (Statement)
  • Do they live in the same city? (Question)
  • Here we use do because the subject is a plural pronoun.
  • I like Mozart. (Statement)
  • Do you like Mozart? (Question)
  • I liked the concert. (Statement)

This statement is in the simple past tense. When we change it into a question, we use did as the first word. Note that did is used with both singular and plural nouns and pronouns.

  • Did you like the concert? (Question) (NOT Did you liked the concert?) Did + like = liked
  • I met them yesterday. (Statement)
  • Did you meet him yesterday? (Question)
  • She went to the movies last night. (Statement)
  • Did she go to the movies last night? (NOT Did she went to the movies last night?)
  • Susie called James in the morning. (Statement)
  • Did Susie call James in the morning? (Question) (NOT Did Susie called James in the morning?)

Word order with question word as subject

When the subject is a question word (e.g. who, which, what or whose), it comes before the verb in questions. Do is not normally used in these questions.

  • Who is that? (NOT Is who that?)
  • Who called in the morning? (NOT Who did call in the morning?)
  • Who took my pen? (NOT Who did take my pen?)
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Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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