Mastering the Question Form in English

Updated: Nov 16


Questions are powerful. Knowing how to ask questions is vital to building relationships in America. But how accurate is the word order of the questions you ask? Even advanced English speakers struggle with how to form questions at times. It's easy to confuse the order of the words in the sentence.

Today we'll review the forms of the question.

ASKING A QUESTION WITH AN ACTION VERB

Formula = QUESTION WORD + DO/DOES + SUBJECT + BASE VERB + OBJECT (if there is one)

EXAMPLES:

When does he study English?

Why do I work?

When do you get home?

What do we do now?

How do they study?

YES/NO QUESTIONS WITH ACTION WORDS

Just leave off the question word.

EXAMPLES:

Does your dad cook dinner?

Do we turn left here?

QUESTIONS WITH ACTION VERBS IN THE PAST TENSE

To turn this into the past tense, change DO/DOES into DID. It doesn't matter what the subject is; use DID every time in the past tense.

EXAMPLES:

Did he/she/it/we/you/they eat breakfast?

Why did he/she/it/we/you/they leave?

QUESTIONS WITH TO-BE VERBS (IS, AM, WAS, ETC.)

If you use a "to be" verb, you do not use the helping verbs DO/DOES/DID.

Examples:

What is her name?

Where am I?

Where are you?

Why are we late?

Who are they?

YES/NO QUESTIONS WITH "TO BE" VERBS

Just leave off the question word.

EXAMPLES:

Is his name Robert?

Am I correct?

Are you okay?

Are we on time?

Are they here?

In the past tense, conjugate the "to be" verb accordingly:

am → was

is → was

are → were

THE QUESTION WORD "WHO"

"Who" can be used as the object or the subject of a question, and that changes the word order. If "who" is the subject of your sentence (and not the object), you don't use the helping verb in the present or past.

EXAMPLES:

Who writes articles for the company?

Who wrote the article?

(Who is the subject.)

This is different from:

Who do you talk to every day?

Who did you see yesterday?

(Who is the object; thus you need the helping verb.)

QUESTIONS IN OTHER TENSES

Here are example questions in other verb tenses. Do you see how they follow the patterns above?

EXAMPLES:

Have you seen Sandra? (Present Perfect)

Why did he do that? I'll never know. (Simple Past)

What will you do when I am away? (Future)

NOW, LET'S PUT IT TO USE


Now, I command you to go out and ask some questions! I'm only joking, but, yes, please practice the question form. It's the only way to learn, and it's the only way to get to know someone better and build stronger relationships in work and in your personal life.

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