Questions and negatives

Level: beginner

Yes/No questions

Yes/No questions are questions which we answer with Yes or No. Look at these statements:

They are working hard.
They will be working hard.
They had worked hard.
They have been working hard.
They might have been working hard.

We make Yes/No questions by putting the first part of the verb in front of the subject:

Are they working hard? 
Will they be working hard?
Had they worked hard?
Have they been working hard?
Might they have been working hard?

Yes/No questions 1
ReorderingHorizontal_MTYxNjY=
Yes/No questions 2
GapFillTyping_MTYxNjk=

Negatives

We make negatives by putting not after the first part of the verb:

They are not working hard.
They will not be working hard.
They had not worked hard.
They have not been working hard.
They might not have been working hard.

In spoken English, we often reduce not to n’t:

They aren't working hard.
They won't be working hard.
They hadn't been working hard.
They haven't been working hard.
They mightn't have been working hard.

Negatives 1

ReorderingHorizontal_MTYxNzA=

Negatives 2

GapFillTyping_MTYxODQ=

Present simple and past simple questions and negatives

For all verbs except be and have, we use do/does or did to make Yes/No questions in the present simple and past simple:

They work hard. > Do they work hard?
He works hard. Does he work hard?
They worked hard. Did they work hard?

For all verbs except be and have, we use do/does + not or did + not to make negatives in the present simple and past simple:

They work hard. > They do not (don't) work hard
.
He works hard. > He does not (doesn't) work hard.
They worked hard. > They did not (didn't) work hard.

Here are the question forms and negative forms for be in the present simple and past simple:

Positives Questions Negatives
I am (I'm) Am I? I am not (I'm not)
He is (he's) Is he? He is not (He's not/He isn't)
She is (she's) Is she? She is not (She's not/She isn't)
It is (it's) Is it? It is not (It's not/It isn't)
You are (you're) Are you? You are not (You're not/You aren't)
They are (they're) Are they? They are not (They're not/They aren't)
Positives Questions Negatives
I was Was I? I was not (I wasn't)
He was Was he? He was not (He wasn't)
She was Was she? She was not (She wasn't)
It was Was it? It was not (It wasn't)
You were Were you? You were not (You weren't)
They were Were they? They were not (They weren't)

We make questions and negatives with have in two ways. Usually we use do/does or did:

Do you have plenty of time?
Does she have enough money?
Did they have any useful advice?

don't have much time.
She doesn't have any money.
They didn't have any advice to offer.

but we can also make questions by putting have/has or had in front of the subject:

Have you plenty of time?
Has she enough money?
Had they any useful advice?

and make negatives by putting not or n't after have/has or had:

haven't much time.
She hasn't any money.
He hadn't any advice to offer.

Present simple and past simple questions and negatives 1

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTYxODU=

Present simple and past simple questions and negatives 2

GapFillTyping_MTYxODY=

Wh-questions

Wh-questions are questions which start with a word like what, when, where, which, who, whose, why and how.

Question words

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTYxODc=

Questions with when, where, why

We form wh-questions with these words by putting the question word in front of a Yes/No question:

They are working in a shop. > Where are they working?
They have been working hard for their exams. > Why have they been working hard?
They arrived at six. > When did they arrive?

Questions with who, what, which

When we ask whowhat and which about the object of the verb, we put the question word in front of a Yes/No question:

He is seeing Joe tomorrow. > Who is he seeing tomorrow?
I want a computer for my birthday. > What do you want for your birthday?
I'd prefer some tea. > Which would you prefer, tea or coffee?
Wh-questions 1

ReorderingHorizontal_MTYxOTU=

When we ask whowhat and which about the subject of the verb, the question word takes the place of the subject:

Barbara gave me the chocolates. > Who gave you the chocolates?
Something funny happened. > What happened?
The dog frightened the children. > Which dog frightened the children?

We sometimes use what or which with a noun:

What subjects did you study at school?
Which English newspaper started in 1986?
What subjects does everyone have to study?
Which newspaper do you prefer, The Times or the Guardian?

Wh-questions 2

GapFillTyping_MTY1ODU=

Questions with how

We use how for many different questions:

How are you?
How do you make questions in English?
How long have you lived here?
How often do you go to the cinema?
How much is this dress?
How old are you?
How many people came to the meeting?

Questions with how 1

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTYxOTY=

Questions with how 2

GapFillTyping_MTYxOTc=

Questions with verbs and prepositions

When we have a question with a verb and a preposition, the preposition usually comes at the end of the question:

gave the money to my brother. > Who did you give the money to?
She comes from Madrid. > Where does she come from?​​​
They were waiting for an hour. > How long were they waiting for?
Questions with verbs and prepositions 1

ReorderingHorizontal_MTYxOTg=

Questions with verbs and prepositions 2

GapFillTyping_MTYxOTk

Level: intermediate

Other ways of asking questions

We sometimes use phrases like these in front of a statement to ask questions:

Do you know …?    
I wonder …    
Can you tell me …?

For Yes/No questions, we use the phrases with if:

This is the right house. > Do you know if this is the right house?
Everyone will agree. > I wonder if everyone will agree.
Mr Brown lives here. > Can you tell me if Mr Brown lives here?

For wh-questions, we use the phrases with a question word:

Do you know who lives here?
I wonder how much this dress is.
Can you tell me where she comes from?

We often use do you think …? after question words:

How much do you think this dress is?
Where do you think she comes from?
Who do you think lives here?

Indirect questions 1

ReorderingHorizontal_MTYyMTA

Indirect questions 2

GapFillTyping_MTYyMTE

Negatives with the to-infinitive

 When we make a negative with the to-infinitive, we put not in front of the to-infinitive:

He told us not to make so much noise.
We were asked not to park in front of the house.

Take your language skills and your career to the next level
Get unlimited access to our self-study courses for only £5.99/month.

Submitted by Sidra on Wed, 10/11/2021 - 08:42

Permalink

Hello Sir,
Which could happen during a picnic?
is using "Which" in above question right? why does writer use "Which" instead of "What"?

Hello Sidra,

We generally use 'which' as a question word when there is limited range of options. Without knowing the situation this question was asked in, I'm afraid it's difficult for me to explain why 'which' was used here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

It’s a part 3 question asked by the examiner in IELTS exam. She said “Which could happen during the picnic?” not “What could happen during the picnic?”
I want to know the difference between two questions, in terms of their meanings.

Hello again Sidra,

If I remember correctly, part 3 refers back to part 2. So I suppose the examiner was referring to a few different options in part 2, but I'd need to know more to be able to explain this specific case.

As I said before, we use 'what' to ask a more open-ended question, that is, when we don't have a range of options in mind. For example, if we were just beginning to speak about sports, I could ask you 'What's your favourite sport?'. In this case, we haven't discussed any specific sports yet.

But imagine we started speaking about sports and then spoke specifically about football, rugby and cricket. If I wanted to find out which of those three you like the most, I'd say 'Which is your favourite?' In this case, 'which' indicates that I'm speaking about those three sports that we've just been discussing. It would be incorrect to say 'What' here if I was referring to those three sports.

I hope this helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Mason2afm on Thu, 26/08/2021 - 09:42

Permalink
Hello sir. Can you please tell me wich one the following sentences is grammatically correct? a) why has not my request been fulfilled? b) why has my request not been fulfilled? Thanks a lot.

Hi Mason2afm,

Sentence b is correct. In a negative question, not should be positioned after the subject (my request).

Sentence a is grammatically possible if you make the contraction: Why hasn't my request been fulfilled?.

Have a look at this page from the Cambridge Dictionary (see the 'Not and n’t in questions' section) for more explanation and examples. I hope it helps!

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Slava B on Wed, 16/06/2021 - 14:59

Permalink
Hallo again, BCTeam! Tell me please,which of these senteces is more correct in terms of grammar? If both ,then what meaning does the shifting of particle NOT attach to the sentence? Thanks in advance... 1. You are not doing it for us, but for the sake of justice. 2. You are doing it not for us, but for the sake of justice.

Hello Slava B,

Shifting 'not' can change the meaning, but in your example it has little effect beyond the style as the second part of the sentence removes any possible ambiguity.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by integrala on Wed, 17/02/2021 - 14:36

Permalink
Hi, "Can you guess (on/at) what (are we/we are) working these days?" "Can you guess what (are we/we are) working (on/at) these days?" Which is the correct phrasing of these questions? Thank you.

Submitted by Jonathan R on Wed, 17/02/2021 - 15:03

In reply to by integrala

Permalink

Hi integrala,

It should be: Can you guess what we are working on these days?

We don't invert 'we are' because there's already inversion earlier in the question ('Can you'). The verb 'work(ing)' needs the preposition 'on' to link it to an object (e.g. 'working on a project').

The first question (Can you guess on what we are working?) is grammatically correct too, but putting the preposition 'on' in this position is very formal in style and less commonly used.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Akash Rathore on Mon, 14/12/2020 - 05:14

Permalink
Hello sir, Please explain how the verb usage is changing in the following sentences. One and a half years have passed. One and a half year was given to you. One and a half years were given to you. Two and a half year has passed.

Hello Akash Rathore,

Only sentences 1 and 3 are correct. 'one and a half years' is considered plural, and so the verb forms need to be plural.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by knownman on Thu, 10/12/2020 - 09:25

Permalink
Hello, The LearnEnglish Team, There is no comment section on the page of 'Short Forms' lesson just after this lesson. Best Regards

Hello knownman,

Thanks very much for telling us about this. I've just changed the Short forms page so that people can comment there now.

Sorry for the inconvenience!

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ZIZO on Wed, 28/10/2020 - 19:06

Permalink
Hi, Which sentence is correct? And why? "Who do you think is the famous actor in the world today?" OR "Who do you think the famous actor in the world today is?" Thank you,

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 29/10/2020 - 11:38

In reply to by ZIZO

Permalink

Hello Zizo,

The verb 'is' goes at the end, as in the second sentence, but I'm afraid the sentence is still a bit strange in a general context.

Do you mean something like 'Who do you think the most famous actor in the world is today?' The word 'most' creates a superlative form.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Mr. Kirk, Thank you for your answer. I appreciate it. Best regards,

Submitted by amrita_enakshi on Wed, 07/10/2020 - 07:48

Permalink
Sir Anna writes a story. If this sentence is rewritten in the negative form, then should it be, ( Anna does not write a story. ) ? But then the meaning changes. So what should be the correct way to rewrite? By changing the meaning or simply adding 'not'. Thank you

Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 07:18

In reply to by amrita_enakshi

Permalink

Hello amrita_enakshi,

Anna does not write a story is correct.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'the meaning changes' here. Of course the meaning changes from positive to negative, but the time reference and the action described do not change.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AkiraTa05 on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 17:27

Permalink
He could hardly look at it, nor examine it in my presence. [Could I say: "He could hardly look at it or examine it in my presence."?] We can see no error in the judge admitting the recordings, nor in his evaluation of the evidence nor in his ultimate finding. [could I replace "nor" in this sentence with "or"? Is there any difference in meaning?] Thank you for your help teachers.

Hello AkiraTa05,

I think the first sentence is fine with or. In fact, I think or is the more natural choice here.

The second sentence is more problematic. It's unusual to use or in negative sentences, so I think the sentences sound rather clumsy if nor is replaced. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is incorrect, but it certainly has a worse style, in my opinion.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LubNko525 on Sat, 29/08/2020 - 11:32

Permalink
Hi English Team, The court did not refer to the correspondence, nor to the contradictory passages in his testimony - How is it different from: 1. The court did not refer to the correspondence or the contradictory passages in his testimony. 2. The court referred to neither the correspondence nor the contradictory passages in his testimony Thanks a lot.

Hello LubNko525,

All of these sentences mean the same thing. They are progressively more formal. In other words, the first one is the one you'd be most likely to see or hear in speaking or writing these days, followed by 1 and then lastly 2.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by liching on Sun, 23/08/2020 - 05:34

Permalink
Dear LearnEnglish Team, I would like to inquire if both of the two sentences below are correct and the rules apply to them? I have tried searching online but in vain. Is it more advisable to focus on one topic (sport / subject) at a time when asking a question to avoid confusion? a. What is your favourite sport and subject? b. What are your favourite sport and subject? Thank you very much.

Hello liching,

The first sentence is correct.

The choice of verb is determined by the first item in the list, so we would say this:

What is your favourite sport and subject?

What are your favourite sports and subjects?

What is your favourite sport and subjects?

What are your favourite sports and subject?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Teacher Peter, Appreciate the swift reply. Thank you!

Submitted by AsahiYo20 on Sun, 23/08/2020 - 03:47

Permalink
the bank was on any view extremely foolish to invest a large sum of money without independent expert advice Could I say "without any independent expert advice"? Thank you.

Hi AsahiYo20,

Yes! The meaning is the same. But, the version with any is more emphatic.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anurat227 on Sat, 22/08/2020 - 05:55

Permalink
Hello LearnEnglish Team, He didn’t have any money vs he had no money vs he didn’t have money -- Any difference between them? He had done nothing about it vs He didn’t do anything about it -- Any difference? He consulted neither his wife nor his parents vs he didn’t consult his wife or his parents. -- Any difference? You have to be very careful what you do or say, so that you do not make a mistake or cause a problem. -- How about "do not make any mistakes or cause any problems"? Thanks teacher.

Hello anurat227,

Those are a lot of questions! As for the first three, the first two mean the same thing in general. The third one isn't really correct, though you might hear people use it in informal contexts.

The second pair of phrases you ask about have different verb forms, so they are different that way, but as with the first phrases you asked about, otherwise there is no difference in general.

As for the third pair, again, there's no difference in general, though I would remark that people don't use 'neither ... nor' very often in all but formal contexts any more.

As for your last question, I also prefer the plural forms that you suggest. In most cases, there'd be no difference in meaning.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by LubNko525 on Fri, 21/08/2020 - 09:45

Permalink
Hi, I need your help please! I am confused about something. We need more money if we are to make any further advances in this area of science Is '...make further advances' also okay? Honesty is the bedrock of any healthy relationship. Is 'bedrock of a healthy relationship' also acceptable? If you have a query about your insurance policy, contact our helpline. How about "...have any queries..."? Thanks a lot for your help teachers!

Hello LubNko525,

'...make further advances' is fine here and does not change the meaning.

'the bedrock of a healthy relationship' is fine.

You can say '...have a query...' or '...have any queries...'. The meaning is the same.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Thu, 20/08/2020 - 00:09

Permalink
Hello. Could you please tell me if the following sentence correct or there is something wrong? - I rarely do go to bed late. I mean using "do" and "rarely" Thank you

Hello Ahmed Imam,

The auxiliary do adds emphasis, so you would only use it with an adverb like rarely if someone had questioned whether rarely was really true. For example:

I rarely go to bed late.

Honestly? I thought you often went to bed late.

No, really, I do rarely go to bed late.

As is normal, adverbs come before the main verb and after the auxiliary.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sunyoung1005 on Fri, 14/08/2020 - 16:58

Permalink
The buses can drive themselves without any human intervention under certain conditions. Would it be acceptable to say “without human intervention” or "with no human intervention"? Thank you in advance teachers.

Hi Sunyoung1005,

Yes, both the versions you suggested are grammatically correct. The meaning is the same, but the versions with any and no are more emphatic.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Lakshmi94216 on Tue, 11/08/2020 - 13:58

Permalink
Hello LearnEnglish Team "Overturning a legal precedent is no easy matter." Could I say "is not an easy matter"? "Most verbs behave in the same way, but there is not complete uniformity " Could I say "there is no complete uniformity"? Thanks.

Hi Lakshmi94216,

Yes! Both of your rephrasings are fine, and the meaning is the same. But, the versions with no are more emphatic than the versions with not.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by MarciaBT on Fri, 07/08/2020 - 15:47

Permalink
"Even if you are my elder brother, you haven’t the right to tell me what to do." Could I say "...you have no right..." or "You don't have the right" instead? Is there any difference in meaning? Thanks a lot!

Hello MarciaBT,

Both alternatives are possible.

It's unusual to use haven't as the negative form of have. Normally we use don't have or haven't got; have is not normally used with a contraction when it is the main verb.

The meaning of the forms is the same in each, though 'no right' is perhaps more emphatic/stronger than the other.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kashvi.la27 on Thu, 06/08/2020 - 11:57

Permalink
Hello sir, Hope you have a nice day! I would like to ask two questions: 1. They treated us without much consideration vs They treated us with little consideration - Is there any difference between these two sentences? 2. Kim regretted having married someone with no ambition. - Could I replace "with no ambition" with "without any ambition" or "without an ambition"?

Hello Kashvi.la27,

In general, the two first sentences mean the same thing. Sentence 1b is what I would say; it's not that 1a is wrong, though.

All of the variants you ask about in 2 are possible, though it would be strange to say 'an ambition' without specifying it more afterwards -- for example, something like 'an ambition to be doctor'. If I were choosing one of these sentences, I would use the first one.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher, Could I say that in general, all these options are grammatically correct, but it is ultimately a matter of collocation or which one sounds more natural in deciding which of them would be better? Thanks in advance.

Hello Kashvi.la27,

Yes, that sounds right to me.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Munir1405 on Thu, 30/07/2020 - 11:58

Permalink
Gentleman. Good day I have 2 questiona First question is, can I use negative with wh questions.? For example What don't you eat? Where don't you go? How don't you answer the question? Second question Can I use theis phrase ( what to do or what I know) in a place of subject. For example I can say ( that is what I know) (he knows how to work) in place of object But in place of subject ( what I know is he can not go) How to play football depends on your desire to learn.

Hello Munir1405,

The answer to your first question is 'yes'. All of the questions you wrote are correctly formed.

The answer to your second question is also 'yes'. 'I don't know what to do' or 'She doesn't know what I know' are both correctly formed and so are the three other examples in brackets. In the last sentence, I'd suggest 'How you play football' instead of what you wrote.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot for your quick reply, regarding the negative wh question. You said, they are formed correctly, but the main question Are they used commonly in the English communities?

Hello Munir1405,

That's a difficult question to answer, really. I can say that they are less common than affirmative wh-questions, but I'm afraid it's difficult to say much more than that.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by OlaIELTS on Tue, 28/07/2020 - 23:07

Permalink
Really helpful. Thanks.