Question forms

Do you know how to make questions? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how questions are made.

Is he a teacher?
Does she eat meat?
When did you get here?
How much does a train ticket cost?

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Question forms: Grammar test 1

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

To make questions, we often put the verb before the subject. This is called inversion.

Affirmative Question
I am late. Am I late?
I can help. Can I help?
She is sleeping. Is she sleeping?
We have met before. Have we met before?

If there is a question word (why, what, where, how, etc.), it goes before the verb.

Question Question with question word
Are you late? Why are you late?
Was she there? When was she there?
Can I help? How can I help?
Have we met before? Where have we met before?

This is true for sentences with be, sentences that have auxiliary verbs (e.g. They are waiting. She has finished.) and sentences with modal verbs (can, will, should, might, etc.).

Questions in the present simple and past simple

For other verbs in the present simple, we use the auxiliary verb do/does in the question.

Affirmative Question Question with question word
You work at home.   Do you work at home? Where do you work?
It costs £10.  Does it cost £10? How much does it cost?

We use the auxiliary verb did in the past simple.

Affirmative Question Question with question word
She went home.  Did she go home? Where did she go?
They went to the cinema.  Did they go to the cinema? Where did they go?

Subject questions

In some questions, who or what is the subject of the verb. There is no inversion of subject and verb in these questions.

Who broke the window?
Who is knocking on the door?

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Question forms: Grammar test 2

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Average: 4.3 (3 votes)

Submitted by Ankorr on Mon, 05/12/2022 - 11:00

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Hello dear Team! Could you please help me with the question 'Have you no shame'? I'm trying to find a rule to justify the usage of the inversion in the question. In standard English it could have been 'Have you got no shame?' or 'Do you have no shame?' But here either a verb or an auxilliary verb is omitted. So, is it a kind of colloquial way of asking a question? Or does it serve as a rhetoric question? Thanks a lot for your kind help!

Hi Ankorr,

Actually, this is a type of question form that is considered relatively formal, and somewhat old-fashioned in style. It is formed by putting the main verb before the subject and unlike the usual question form, no auxiliary verb is added. Here are some other examples.

  • Have you any idea?
  • Have you the time?
  • Have you nothing else to do?

Because of its formality, it's relatively less common nowadays than the regular question forms that you mentioned in your comment. In the case of "Have you no shame?", however, this particular phrase as a whole has become a fixed phrase and is somewhat commonly used, even though overall this structure is uncommon.

I hope that helps to understand it.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amani Sweidan on Sun, 20/11/2022 - 12:50

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Hi, I have a question please.... Which of the following statement is correct? and why?

Do we say

what did you win? or what you won?

Thank you!

Hi Amani Sweidan,

The first one is correct - What did you win? Past simple questions need the auxiliary verb (did).

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sajatadib on Tue, 13/09/2022 - 10:04

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Hello dear teachers.Could you provide some content on 'Inversion'.
Not only in questions but in other cases like conditionals.
Many thanks.

Hi Sajatadib,

Thank you for your suggestion :) We are hoping to add new content soon and we will keep it in mind.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir could you please explain to me why I shouldn't use "what did happen next?" And why the right form is " what happened next?" ( affirmative and whats the meaning of affirmative) And also in what conditions I should do the same, I mean I thought happen also needs auxiliary verb... I'm confused, the example was from speak out upper intermediate second edition book page 128 GRAMMAR

Regards,
Anahita

Hello anahitabehzadi,

We can ask questions about different parts of a sentence. For example:

The boy broke the window.

In this sentence we have a subject (the boy) and an an object (the window). When we ask about the object we use an auxiliary verb:

What did the boy break?

However, when we ask about the subject we simply replace 'the boy' with a question word:

Who broke the window?

Your example is similar to this so no auxiliary is needed.

 

These are called 'object questions' and 'subject questions'. You can read a little about them here:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/grammar/a1-a2-grammar/question-forms

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Zuzanna on Wed, 31/08/2022 - 11:17

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Dear Sir, Could you tell me why in this sentence: Across a river swam people simply the subject's and a verb's place are changed but in this sentence: Only then did I understand my mistake is an auxiliary verb used? When is the inversion supposed to be done by changing places and when by using an auxiliary verb? Thank you in advance.

Hi Zuzanna,

These examples are actually two different types of inversion.

The first one (Across a river swam people) is subject-verb inversion. No auxiliary is added. This is done for a few particular purposes. One purpose is to emphasise the movement of something, and that is the reason for inversion in this example. Other purposes are to emphasise the location of something (e.g. In the room stood a grand piano) and to report a quotation (e.g. "Where's the station?" asked Diana). 

Your second example is subject-auxiliary inversion. An auxiliary verb needs to be added, if it is not already present. This is done when the sentence begins with a negative or limiting adverbial (Never had I met ... Little did I know ... Rarely did I go there ... etc.). It can also be used in conditional sentences (e.g. Had I not left early, I would have missed the train. = If I hadn't left early, I would have missed the train.)

Does that make sense? I hope it helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team