Questions: the basics

by | May 12, 2020

There are two basic types of question:

  1. yes/no questions (questions that can be answered with the words yes or no)
  2. wh- questions (questions that start with who, why, where, when, what and how.)

Yes/No questions

To form yes/no questions with the verb to be, you simply change the order of the verb and the subject. Compare the following:

  • Marco is hungry. (statement)
  • Is Marco hungry? (question – the verb and the subject are the other way round)

We do the same when there is an auxiliary verb or a modal verb:

  • Can Lily play the piano?
  • Have their parents bought a new car?

To form yes/no questions with other verbs, you need to use the auxiliary verb do before the subject of the question:

  • Do you like cheese?
  • Does Susie go to the same school as you?
  • Did Peter tell you his good news?

Wh- questions

These work in the same way, with one of the words who, why, where, when, what and how at the beginning of the sentence.

So wh-questions with to be, modal verbs and verbs with auxiliaries are formed like this:

  • Why is Lena so tired?
  • What will you do if you lose your job?
  • Where has Mum hidden the chocolate?

Wh- questions with other verbs are formed like this:

  • When do you do your homework?
  • How does Katie travel to college?
  • Where did you buy that coat?

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About Liz Walter

About Liz Walter

Liz Walter is a freelance lexicographer, teacher and writer, living in Cambridge, UK. She worked for many years on Cambridge University Press's range of ELT dictionaries and now works with Kate Woodford on books about the English language. Her other interests include politics, growing vegetables and family holidays in her camper van. She tweets at @LizJWalter