Grammar. 07.09.2011
Grammar Teacher

Basic questions (for lower levels)

Автор: Grammar Teacher

 Hello, my dear readers!

After a half a year break, I am with you again ready to teach you something new about English Grammar. Hope you are doing well and progressing in English learning. Our today’s topic is Basic Questions. We will learn how to ask questions using different tenses, how to give short answers, also I will teach you the difference between general and specific questions, object and subject  questions and the usage of various question words. This topic is of interest at any time because even higher level students tend to make mistakes when it comes to asking questions. They confuse the word order, miss out auxiliary verbs, use wrong intonation.  My mission is to prevent you from future errors.  

The first thing to know about question is that they have different from statements structure. We usually (but not always!) make questions by changing the word order: we put the first auxiliary (helping) verb before the subject of the sentence. The other (main) verb comes after the subject. 


Here are some examples of statements and the questions you can make from them. Notice that the helping verbs are printed in bold and the subjects are in color.


The verb to be also comes before the subject when it is an ordinary verb rather than a helping verb:

  • Dad is ill today  --------  Is Dad ill  today?
  • They are in love with Green Forest   ---------   Are they in love with Green Forest?

If there is no helping verb in a sentence (in Present Simple, Past Simple) we use do/does or did.

In present simple questions we use do/does:

  • She loves sweets  ----------   Does she love sweets?
  • The cats want to be fed  ---------  Do the cats want to be fed?

In past simple questions we use did:

  • He sold his car    ----------   Did he sell his car?
  • The accident happened yesterday -----------  Did the accident happen yesterday? 

Notice: The main verb in the question is in its simple form; there is no final  -s (in simple present) or –ed (in simple past).

Now I want you to listen to another teacher in the following video. He might seem a bit strange, but his eyes are clever and he’s quite nice, so we can trust himJ


 All the examples we have above are examples of yes or no questions. They are called so because you ask them to get just yes or no as the answer; they don’t give you any specific information.

For instance,

A: Does he live in Chicago?

B: Yes, he does or No, he doesn’t

 The answers of this kind are called short answers. They consist only of the subject and auxiliary verb. Here are more examples:

Did Miss Lee sing a song? – Yes, she did.             

Am I doing it right? – Yes, you are.

May I leave now? – No, you may not.

 The young lady in the video below makes it clear how to form yes/no questions and answer them.



To ask for facts, we use the question words what, which, who, whom, how, when, where before the auxiliary verb. The answers to this type of questions reveal some extra information that is why they are called special questions (wh-questions). The helping verbs in wh- questions usually come before the subject as in yes/no questions:

The phrases which are underlined are the answers to the questions.

I strongly recommend you watching the next video, because it explains the usage of each question word (WHO, WHAT, WHICH, etc…)




Look at this sentence:

Now look at these two questions:


In the first sentence we use a general scheme with the auxiliary verb after the question word. But in the second sentence the wh-word (WHO) itself is the subject of the sentence. In this case, we don’t use the auxiliary verb! If you translate into Ukrainian, you’ll get 2 different questions: 1) Кого кохає Джон?; 2) Хто кохає Лізу? В першому випадку питання поставлено до додатка, в іншому  - до підмета. Compare one more time:

Let’s have a look at more examples:

Who wants something to eat? (NOT ‘Who does want’)

What happened to you last night? (NOT ‘What did happen’)

Which bus goes to the city centre? (NOT ‘Which bus does go’)

In these examples, WHAT/WHO/WHICH is the subject.

 It is always correct to follow the rules that I’ve just taught you, but sometimes in informal communication we can use the word order of a statement to ask questions in order to show surprise like in the examples:

You are going on Wednesday? I thought it was Friday.

You are moving in April? So soon…


As a rule, Yes/No questions have a rising intonation at the end of the sentence. This means that the speaker’s voice gets just a little higher as they finish the sentence. Special questions (Wh-questions) have a rise/fall intonation at the end of the sentence. This means that the speaker's voice goes higher for a moment and then drops lower to end the sentence. Answers as all statements usually have falling intonation:

This is it for today. I hope the information was helpful and clear enough. Below you can see the links to the exercises for practice. Check your understanding of the material covered in this post.

Interactive exercises :


P.S: If some Grammar topic is confusing for you, don’t hesitate to tell me its name. I’ll do my best to make it easier for you!












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