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Questions

In English there are two types of questions: Yes/No questions, and Question-word questions.

Yes/No questions

Yes/No questions always starts with a verb. If the verb is ‘to be’, we invert the subject and verb to make the question:

  • He is a teacher. –  Is he teacher?  – Yes, he is.
  • They are from Ireland. – Are they from Ireland? – Yes, they are.
  • You are Italian. Are you Italian? – Yes, I am

 

To form Yes/No questions where there is an auxiliary verb or a modal verb, we invert the word order of the subject and the auxiliary/modal placing the subject between the two parts of the verb.

  • You can swim. – Can you swim? – Yes, I can.
  • I will see you tomorrow. – Will I see you tomorrow? – Yes, you will.
  • She has eaten lunch. – Has she eaten lunch? – Yes, she has.

 

When there is no auxiliary verb we add ‘do’ to form the question keeping the subject between the two parts of the verb.

  • You eat fish. – Do you eat fish? – Yes, I do.
  • She doesn’t know you. – Does she know you? – No, she doesn’t.
  • They drank coffee. – Did they drink coffee? – Yes, they did.

NOTE: When adding the verb ‘do’, we must conjugate it for the subject and leave the main verb in its root form (infinitive without ‘to’)

 

Question-word questions (objects)

We ask a question-word question by placing a question-word (interrogative pronoun) at the beginning of the sentence. Here are some of the more common question words: ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’, ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘which’, ‘how’, ‘how much’,  and ‘how many’. When we ask a question-word question, we usually want to know about the object of the answer.

 

When the verb is to ‘be’ we invert the subject and verb to make the question:

  • Where is he from? – He is from Ireland.
  • Where is the book? – The book is on the table.

 

Where there is an auxiliary or modal verb, that verb is used to form the question.

  • What can you see? I can see the ocean.
  • Where have you been? I have been to NY.

 

When there is no auxiliary verb we add ‘do’ to form the question keeping the subject between the two parts of the verb.

  • How did you go home? – I went home by train.
  • What did James drop? – He dropped a glass.
  • How much does it cost? – It costs $20.

 

Question-word questions (subjects)

Sometime, we want to know about the subject of the question. In this case, we don’t add an auxiliary verb (do) and the subject-verb order is not inverted. In these questions the question-word is the subject of the sentence.

  • Who dropped the glass? – James dropped the glass (James did).
  • What is on the table? The book is on the table (The book is).
  • Who shot Willy? – The sheriff shot Willy (The sheriff did).

Look at this example:

The sheriff shot Willy

  • Who did the sheriff shoot? (The sheriff is the subject of the question.)
  • Who shot Willy? (Who is the subject of the question.)

 

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