Questions and Auxiliary Verbs

A question is a sentence or phrase that shows that the speaker wants the listener to give them some information, to complete a task or in some other way satisfy the request.

1. Auxiliary Verbs

Auxiliary verbs (also known as ’helping verbs’) include be, do and have. They are used along with the main verb in a sentence to make questions, negative statements, passives and tenses.

In this question, "Do you like Czech food?" - do is the auxiliary verb, like is the main verb.

In questions, auxiliary verbs come before the subject - in our example question, you is the subject.

Auxiliary verbs - Do/does/did

Do is used for forming questions and making negatives.

Does is the form for the 3rd person singular (does she...) and did is the past tense of do .

Do and does is never used for the past.

The auxiliary verb - "be"

Be can be used as an auxiliary verb or the main verb in a sentence.

Be when it is used as an auxiliary verb is used to form the continuous tense and the passive form .

Am, is a are are the present tense for be .

Am is used for the first person singular (I). Is is used for the 3rd person singular ( he, she, it ). Are is used for the other cases ( you , they and we ).

Was is the form used for the 1st and 3rd person singular - I, he , she, it .

Were is the past tense for - you , they and we .

The auxiliary verb "have"

Have is used to make the perfect tenses (it is always followed by the past participle - the third form of the verb). The forms of the perfect tense are the present perfect, past perfect and future perfect.

Has is the form for the 3rd person singular (he, she, it) and have is used for all other forms (I, you, we, they).

Had is the past tense for "have" for all pronouns.

Other auxiliary verbs - modal verbs

Other auxiliary verbs: can, could, may, might, shall, should, will, would and ought to.

These are also known as modal verbs . We use them to show obligation, possibility and necessity. For example:

  • Jack is late. He might be sleeping.
  • Possibility
  • I should clean my room today.
  • Obligation
  • I must wear a tie to school.
  • Necessity

2. Present simple questions

Present simple questions where we expect a „yes “ or „no“ reply.

For present simple questions, we use DO or DOES at the start of the sentence.

DO for I, you, we, us them. DOES for he, she, it.

Subject + Verb Question
  • you go
  • Do you go to work on Saturdays?
  • she like
  • Does she like ice cream?
  • they work
  • Do they work in a bank?

3. Past simple questions

Past simple questions where we expect a „yes “ or „no“ reply.

For past simple questions, we use DID at the start of the sentence.

Note that we do not need to use the past tense of the verb in the sentence.

Subject + Verb Question
  • you go
  • Did you go to work last Saturday?
  • she like
  • Did she like ice cream when she was younger?
  • they work
  • Did they work in a bank?

4. Questions with who/what/how etc (Wh- Questions)

When answering Wh- Questions we cannot reply with „yes“ or „no“.

When we are asking a question to find out who or what was the object of a situation we use the auxillary verb DO.

Information sentence Question sentence
  • Kate spoke to somebody.
  • Somebody is the object of the sentence.
  • Who did Kate speak to?
  • We use the auxilary verb (do) in the past tense.

When we are asking a question to find out who or what was the subject of a situation we do not use the auxillary verb do.

Information sentence Question sentence
  • Somebody spoke to Kate.
  • somebody is the subject.
  • Who spoke to Kate?
  • Note, We do not use the auxilary verb DO.
  • Who does want something to drink? incorrect
  • Who wants something to drink? correct
  • Who is the subhect
  • How many people did go skiing with you? incorrect
  • How many people went skiing with you? correct
  • People is the subject
  • Which train does go to London? incorrect
  • Which train goes to London? correct
  • Train is the subject

5. Question Tags

Question tags are often used in spoken English. A rising intonation is used to show that the question is real and you expect an answer, whereas a falling intonation shows that the speaker just wants confirmation from the person being spoken to.

  • It is raining, isn’t it?
  • „Isn’t it“ is a negative tag
  • It is not raining, is it?
  • „Is it“ is a positive tag

The most important thing to remember is that the auxiliary verb in the statement ’It is raining,..’ must be changed to it’s opposite form for the tag ’isnt, it?’

Here are a few examples of the opposite forms of auxillary verbs::

  • will → won’t
  • do → don’t
  • does → doesn’t
  • am → aren’t
  • are → aren’t
  • must → musn’t
  • should → shouldn’t
  • have → haven’t
  • can → can’t
  • Your father doesn’t work in a post office, does he?
  • They aren’t from London, are they?
  • Penguins can’t fly, can they?
  • His name is Paul, isn’t it?
  • You have finished, haven’t you?
  • She will come, won’t she?