Making Questions in English


In English, there is a simple formula for making questions: Simply invert the order of the subject and the first auxiliary verb. 

It is raining. = Is it raining?

He can speak English. = Can he speak English?

He has lived here for a long time. = Has he lived here for a long time?

She will arrive at eleven o’clock. = Will she arrives at eleven o’clock?

He was riding fast. = Was he riding fast?

They have been smoking. = Have they been smoking?


If there is no auxiliary, use an appropriate form of the verb ‘to do’.

You speak fluent English. = Do you speak fluent English?

She lives in Dehli. = Does she live in Dehli?

They lived in Mumbai. = Did they live in Mumbai?

He had an accident. = Did he have an accident?


Most questions containing question words are constructed in the same way:


How often do you use it?


Why don’t you come?
Where do you work?
How many did they buy?

What time did you go?

Which one do you like?

Whose car were you driving?


Note who, which and what can be the subject. Here are some examples. Compare.

Who is coming to dinner? (who is the subject of the verb)

Who do you want to invite to dinner? (you is the subject of the verb)

What happened? (what is the subject of the verb)

What did you do? (you is the subject of the verb)


Note the position of the prepositions in the following questions:
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Who did you speak to?

What are you looking at?

Where does he come from?

If there is no auxiliary, use the form of the verb ‘to do’. For example:

What time did you arrive?


How often do you play tennis?


However, when we ask for information, we often say ‘Do you know…?’ or ‘Could you tell me….?’ These are indirect questions and more polite. 

Note that the word order is different. For example:

Does he know where Johnny is?


Have they any idea if he has found it?
Could you tell me the meeting date?


Note that we don’t use do, does or did. For example:

Could you tell me what time he departed?


Would you mind telling me how often you play basketball?

Use if or whether when there is no question word.

Has he done it? = Do you know if he has done it?


Is it ready? = Can you tell me if it is ready?


The same changes in word order happen when we report questions. Note that in reported questions, the verb changes to the past:

What are you doing? = He asked me what I was doing. 


What have you done about it? = He asked me what I had done about it.
Do you work with Pamela? = He asked me if I worked with Pamela.
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