English grammar – Questions

Form & meaning

  1. In questions, the first auxiliary verb comes before the subject.
    • Have you ever been to Rome?
      You have ever been to Rome? – incorrect
    • What are you doing?
      What you are doing? – incorrect
    • Can you swim?
      You can swim? – incorrect
    • Who will you see tonight?
      Who you will see tonight? – incorrect
    • Are you going out?
      You are going out? – incorrect
  2. If there is no auxiliary verb we use do (or does, did).
    • Do you play golf?
      You play golf? – incorrect
    • Where does Tim live?
      Where lives Tim? – incorrect

Subject and object questions

  1. If the question word (who, what, which, whose, how…) is the subject or part of the subject, do, does or did are not used.
    • Who (subject) saw Bob (object)?
      Jim (subject) saw Bob (object).
    • What (subject) happened?
      Nothing (subject) happened.
  2. If the question word is an object or adverb, we need do, does or did if there is no auxiliary verb.
    • Who (object) did Jim (subject) see?
      Jim (subject) saw Bob (object).
    • Where (adverb) did you (subject) eat?
      I (subject) ate at home (adverb).

Prepositions

If the question word is the object of the preposition, we usually put the preposition at the end.

  • Who did you eat with? (more formal: with whom did you eat?)
    I ate with Jim.
  • Where did you get that hat from? (more formal: from where did you get that hat?)
    I got it from the shop down the road.

Related grammar points

Indirect Questions
Reported Questions
Tag Questions

2 teaching ideas and comments

  1. Anonymous

    Once you have explained how to make questions you can play a kind of question chain. That is, you start asking something like:

    “What’s this?” Next person answers: “It’s a scarf”.

    That person makes a question with the word scarf, for example, “Whose scarf is it?” or “What colour is it?” and the next person answers and so on.

  2. Anonymous

    Put your students into pairs. Give each pair lots of small pieces of paper. Divide the board into three columns and give each column a heading, depending on what you want to practise, for example:

    Present simple
    Present continuous
    Present perfect

    Tell them that they have 10 minutes to make as many grammatically correct questions as possible for each of the three tenses. One student from each pair is the writer and the other is the runner. The writer writes a question on one of the bits of paper. The runner comes to the board and sticks the piece of paper in the correct column. (you’ll need some sticky tac!) After 10 mins stop them and take each question from the board (make sure they’ve written their names or a team name on the bits of paper). Get feedback as you read the question out and give one point to the pair for a correct question. The pair with the most correct questions wins!!

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