All questions in English use auxiliary verbs (helping verbs) unless a wh-word is the subject of the verb in the sentence.
If a sentence in English contains no auxiliary verb, then we use ‘DO’ as an auxiliary verb when asking a question.
Sentences with auxiliary verbs
- She can speak French. – Can she speak French?
- John will arrive tomorrow. – Will John arrive tomorrow?
- They should go to school. – Should they go to school?
- Sarah has written a novel. – Has Sarah written a novel?
- The dogs are playing in the field. – Are the dogs playing in the field?
- Sarah didn’t like Anna. – Didn’t Sarah like Anna?
HOW TO MAKE A STATEMENT INTO A QUESTION
Look for helping verbs. Helping verbs are separate words that change the meaning of the main verb. If a statement has a helping verb, you can change it to a question easily. Here are some example statements with the helping verb in bold text:
- The teachers have treated us kindly.
- They had already eaten.
- She will win the fight.
- My cat would climb that tree.
- A pie can feed eight people.
- We shall meet again.
- I was standing.
Modal auxiliaries (do not change form)
- Ought to
Move the helping verb to the start of the sentence. Leave the rest of the sentence as it is. Just move the helping verb to the front, and you’ve got a question.
- The teachers have treated us kindly. → Have the teachers treated us kindly?
- They had already eaten. → Had they already eaten?
- She will win the fight. → Will she win the fight?
- My cat would climb that tree. → Would my cat climb that tree?
- That pie can feed eight people. → Can that pie feed eight people?
- We shall meet again. → Shall we meet again?
- I was standing. → Was I standing?
Only move one word from long helping verbs. Some helping verbs are more than one word long. For example, has been, will have been, will be, or would have been are all helping verbs. Just move the first word to the beginning of the sentence, and leave the rest where they are. Here are two examples:
- Your brother has been growing quickly. → Has your brother been growing quickly?
I could have been studying. → Could I have been studying?
Look for helping verbs in contractions. Helping verbs are often put in contractions, making them hard to find. Keep an eye out for examples like these:
- We’ll be running all day. → We will be running all day. → Will we be running all day?
Our boss hasn’t arrived yet. → Hasn’t our boss arrived yet? (Or you can say “Has our boss not arrived yet?”)
Learn when to use “does”. If the statement has a singular subject and a verb in the simple present tense, add “does” to the beginning of the sentence. Change the verb to its base form, dropping all special verb endings. Here are a few examples:
- He cleans the bedroom. → Does he clean the bedroom?
- A year consists of four seasons. → Does a year consist of four seasons?
My cat listens when I talk. → Does my cat listen when I talk?
Add “do” instead for plural subjects or “you”. If the subject is a plural noun and the verb is in the simple present tense, add the word “do” to the beginning of the sentence. Use “do” when the subject is “you” as well.
- They greet their teacher. → Do they greet their teacher?
- The protesters call for change. → Do the protesters call for change?
You throw stones at my window. → Do you throw stones at my window?
Use “did” for simple past tense verbs. “Did” is also used when the verb is in the simple past. It does not matter whether the subject is singular or plural. Even though the question is still in the past tense, change the verb back to its base, present tense form.
- He saved the cat. → Did he save the cat?
- The sheep jumped over the fence. → Did the sheep jump over the fence?
- He broke my oven. → Did he break my oven?
Remember, a simple past tense verb has no helping verb. If you see the word “was” or “has” in front of a verb, you’ll need to use the helping verb method instead.
Move the verb “to be”. Statements with the verb “to be” do not need any extra words to turn into questions. Just move the verb in front of the subject.
- I am happy to see you. → Am I happy to see you?
- You are going home. → Are you going home?
- He is → Is he thirsty?
- I was → Was I tired?
- You were → Were you happy?
- My father will leave tomorrow. → Will my father leave tomorrow?
For other forms of “to be”, use the same rules as helping verbs: move the first word only. For example: The horse has been angry. → Has the horse been angry?