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Questions in English

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Basic Questions in English

The following rules apply to forming questions in English. There are a number of other, more advanced, ways to form questions in English, but simple English questions always follow these rules.

Questions in English #1 - Auxiliary Verbs Placed Before Subjects

All tenses in English use auxiliary verbs. Auxiliary verbs are always placed before the subject in questions in English. Place the main form of the verb after the subject.

Auxiliary Verb + Subject + Main Verb

Examples:

Do you study French?
How often did you visit Paris when you lived in France?
How long have you lived here?
etc.

Questions in English: Present Simple / Past Simple

Use the auxiliary verb 'do / does' for present simple questions and 'did' for past simple questions plus the base form of the verb (infinitive without 'to').

Examples - Present Simple

Where do they live?
Do you play tennis?
Does she go to your school?

Examples - Past Simple

When did you have lunch yesterday?
Did they buy a new car last week?
How did she do on the exam last month?

Questions in English: Present Continuous / Past Continuous

Use the auxiliary verb 'is / are' for present continuous questions and 'was / were' for past continuous questions plus the present participle ('ing' form of the verb).

Examples - Present Continuous

What are you doing?
Is she watching TV?
Where are they playing tennis?

Examples - Past Continuous

What were you doing at six p.m.?
What was she cooking when you came home?
Were they studying when you walked into their room?

Questions in English: Present Perfect / Past Perfect

Use the auxiliary verb 'have / has' for present perfect questions and 'had' for past perfect questions plus the past participle (third form of the verb).

Examples - Present Perfect

Where has she gone?
How long have they lived here?
Have you visited France?

Examples - Past Perfect

Had they eaten before he arrived?
What had they done that made him so angry?
Where had you left the briefcase?

Questions in English: Exceptions to the Rule - To Be - Present Simple and Past Simple

The verb 'to be' takes no auxiliary verb in the present simple and past simple question form. In this case, place the verb 'to be' before the subject to ask a question.

Examples - To Be Present Simple

Is she here?
Are you married?
Where am I?

Examples - To Be Past Simple

Were they at school yesterday?
Where were they?
Was she at school?

This is the basic structure of all questions in English. There are, however, exceptions to these rules as well as other forms. Once you understand this basic structure, continue to learn about:

Question Words
Subject and Object Questions
Indirect Questions
Question Tags
Asking Polite Questions

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