When we learn a new language, we learn lots of new vocabulary. We quickly learn to make sentences. But it’s also important to ask questions. We need questions when we are travelling, at work or at school. This post focuses on making questions in the simple present tense.
Questions with a helping verb
Let’s take a simple sentence in the present tense:
I like chocolate.
Subject – verb – object
The main verb in this sentence is like.
To make a question, we also need a helping verb. The helping in the simple present is normally do. This goes at the beginning of the question, and the subject and the main verb swap places:
Do you like chocolate?
Helping verb – subject – main verb – object
Here is another example:
They work in Manchester.
Do they work in Manchester?
Here is an example with the main verb do. It sounds strange because we say do twice, once as the helping verb and once as the main verb.
I always do my homework.
Do you always do your homework?
If the subject in the sentence is he/she/it (a person or a thing) we add an ‘s’ to the verb.
She plays tennis.
To make a question we use the helping verb does but the main verb does not have an ‘s’. We only need one ‘s’ in the question.
Does she play tennis?
Most verbs use do as a helping verb in the simple present, but there are some special verbs with different rules.
Questions without a helping verb
The verb to be doesn’t have a helping verb. To make a question, just swap the verb and the subject:
I am happy.
Are you happy?
He is here.
Is he here?
They are finished.
Are they finished.
Modal verbs include can, must, should, etc. They are used with other main verbs in the sentence. They are like helping verbs. If there is a modal verb, there is no extra verb helping verb in the question. We just swap the modal verb and the subject.
I can speak Spanish.
Can you speak Spanish?
They should be here.
Should they be here?
We will see the film.
Will we see the film?
With W question words
If we use a W question word (when, where, why, what, etc.), this comes at the beginning of the question. After that comes the helping verb do.
When do you start work?
Where do you live?
Why do you like the film?
What do you think about the new project?
Extra practice It can feel strange to use "do" to make questions, but it's important to practise this form. Make a short list of verbs from your course. For each verb, say and then write a question with "do" as a helping verb.
What questions do you often ask at work or at school?